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The 2nd Edition
An Introduction by
Robin Walker

Study Guide

africa5.jpg50 Greatest Africans - Pharaoh Djoser & Mai Dunama ibn Salma


19. Pharaoh Djoser of Egypt (5018-4989 BC)
Builder of the highly celebrated Saqqara Complex

Pharaoh DjoserWith the Negro Third Egyptian Dynasty (5046-4872 BC) there was a change in public administration. The Prime Minister now led the bureaucratic structure. The great ruler of this dynasty was Pharaoh Djoser. During his 29 years, Egyptian power was felt in Lower Nubia and in the Sinai region. In the latter region, Egyptian miners worked the copper and turquoise mines. There were developments in art. Statues for the first time were made life-sized. Some stone statues were carved for private persons. There were other developments in relief sculpture. As an example of this, the wooden plaques recovered from the tomb of Hezyre were distinguished and show this artistic development.

The city of Saqqara was originally south of the Memphis necropolis. Here Djoser built a complex that replaced an older temple of wood, brick and woven mats. Imhotep, his Prime Minister, designed the building. This structure contained Egypt's first pyramid. The Step Pyramid and its surrounding complex represent major developments in technological achievement and artistic sensibility. The Step Pyramid was built of six steps. Its shape represents the primeval mound of creation. It contained chapels of blue tiles that depict the Heb-Sed festivals. There was also a life-sized statue of the king, which Mr Rice feels "deserves to be recognized as one of the wonders of the world." The symbolic meaning behind the construction is that the pharaoh was continually having his vitality renewed and has thus become immortal. Mr Rice further notes that: "The Djoser complex is unique. Once again, it is totally without precedent, not merely in Egypt but in the entire world. For centuries its high white limestone curtain walls and the elegant, superbly proportioned kiosks, magazines, and shrines which were built within the walls made it the most remarkable building in the world: perhaps indeed it remains the most remarkable ever built."

This period was not always tranquil and positive, however. There is a famous document called the Famine Stela associated with Pharaoh Djoser. It describes a famine that lasted seven years caused by low Nile floods. At the end of the famine the king offered land to the priests of Khnum of Nubia. They helped to end the famine.
All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE




20. Mai Dunama ibn Salma of Kanem (ruled 1210-1248 AD)
Presided over the first golden Age in the central African kingdom of Kanem

Mai Dunama ibn Salma (Dunama II) ruled from 1210 to 1248. He built Kanem into a great regional power. Commanding 30,000 cavalry and an even larger number of infantry, he conducted warfare in the desert. With camels instead of horses, his war machine campaigned against the entire Fezzan region of southern Libya. Crushed were the Bulala of the east. Pillaged were the Hausa cities of northern Nigeria. This latter group were compelled to pay tribute. Dr Davidson reconstructs a scene of: "Swinging tassels in the dust, harness brasses that glitter against quilted armour long spears pennoned and pointed, brilliant cavaliers, all the creak and swing and clatter and pomp of an aristocratic army saddled for sack and loot: with the footsore plebs in goat-skin, armed with clubs and spears and small hope, trailing out behind - such were the warrior columns of the old Sudan [i.e. Africa], the feudal fire and challenge that were thrown, times without number, against the easy marts and watered villages of one imperial region after another, now with one side winning, now with the other."

Mastery of the trade routes and the spoils of war built large state revenues. Kanemi Muslims established a school in Cairo that gained a considerable reputation. The institution had hostel facilities used by Kanem pilgrims going to or from Mecca or studying at Cairo's Al-Azhar University. Regularly they sent money for its upkeep. In 1246 Dunama II exchanged embassies with Al-Mustansir, the king of Tunis. He sent the North African court a costly present, which apparently included a giraffe. An old chronicle noted that the rare animal "created a sensation in Tunis".

Professor Ronald Cohen penned a good summary of the achievements of this early period in his important study on Kanem-Borno culture: "[B]y the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Kanem became a well-known state in the Islamic world. Trans-Saharan commerce was completely controlled, garrisons were built to protect the trade routes, and treaty relations were established with the Hafsid rulers of Tunis … [A] travel[l]er's house … was constructed in Cairo … At the other extreme of the Islamic world, in Spain, a poet from Kanem was renowned … for his praise songs … This was a great period of Islamic civilization and Kanem played its part in that florescence." Sir Richmond Palmer, the pioneering and erudite authority on Kanem-Borno, seemed equally impressed. In his own words: "[T]he degree of civilisation achieved by its early [rulers] would appear to compare favourably with that of European monarchs of that day." Especially when it is understood that "the Christian West had remained ignorant, rude, and barbarous".
All of this information is extracted from When We Ruled. To find out more about this book CLICK HERE



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Creation date : 17/04/2006 @ 20:55
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Category : 50 Greatest Africans


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African Rulers
50 Greatest Africans

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