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Unformatted text preview: Overview Africa is a vast continent comprising more than one-fifth of the world’s land mass and many distinct topographical and ecological zones. Parched deserts occupy northern and southern regions, high mountains rise in the east, and three great rivers – the Niger, the Congo, and the Nile – and their lush valleys support agriculture and large settled populations. It is not yet possible to present a coherent, continent-wide history of early African art. A few areas have been fairly well surveyed archaeologically, but most of the continent remains little known in periods prior to European contact, which began along the seacoasts in the late 15 th century. Many inland areas were virtually unknown to outsiders between 1850 and 1900. Hundreds of distinct ethnic, cultural, and linguistic groups, often but inaccurately called “tribes,” long have inhabited this enormous continent. Currently comprising more than 52 nations, such population groups historically have ranged in size from a few hundred, in hunting and gathering bands, to several million, in kingdoms and empires. Councils of elders often governed smaller groups, whereas larger populations sometimes have joined with other ethnic groups within a centralized state under a king. Kingdoms and empires headed by sacred rulers are known from several parts of Africa from about 1000 CE onward. Within this great variety of African peoples are many shared core beliefs and practices. These include honoring ancestors and worshipping nature deities, often with blood sacrifices, and a tendency to elevate rulers to sacred status. Most peoples also blood sacrifices, and a tendency to elevate rulers to sacred status....
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This note was uploaded on 04/15/2010 for the course BIOLOGY 11 taught by Professor Quail,p during the Spring '10 term at University of California, Berkeley.
- Spring '10