As you have already learned, the first humans appeared in the Great Rift Valley in eastern Africa.
Great Rift Valley
These first Africans moved a lot as hunter-gatherers. Eventually the Africans domesticated cattle, goats,
and sheep and became herders who migrated from place to place for water and pastures. The Sahara,
which had once been fertile farmland, began to dry up, so people moved east towards the Nile River and
into Western and Southern Africa to find savannahs that would support agriculture and herding. Once
agriculture developed, Africans settled down around 6000 B.C.E. and created settlements that sometimes
evolved into complex societies.
Early African societies shared the concepts of:
1) clans made up of families with a common ancestor,
2) animism, or a religion used to explain daily life, and
3) oral histories told by griots (storytellers).
Two of the earliest West African societies (from 500 B.C.E. and on), the Nok and people of Djenne-Djeno,
learned to smelt iron and develop tools used for farming, weapons, and trade.
Migration is a permanent move from one region or country to another. Three reasons for migration are:
environmental, economic, and political. Push-pull factors include what pushes people out of a place and
what pulls people into a new place.
Push Factors Migration Factors Pull Factors
Lack of resources, climate Environmental More/new resources, good
changes, natural disasters climate, abundant land
Lack of employment and lack of Economic Trade and employment
future opportunities opportunities
War and political, ethnic, and Political Freedom of religion and politics
Migration affects areas in many ways, including: changes in population, cultural blending, new ideas and
technologies shared, changes in quality of life, clashes between groups, changes in the environment, and
changes in employment opportunities.
Historians can trace migration as people bring language with them when they travel and/or relocate. As
migration occurs, languages evolve and adapt or adopt characteristics of other languages. For example,
the Bantu language spread across Africa through migration. You can actually trace the migration route
based on where the Bantu language is spoken (1/3 of all Africans speak Bantu)!
As you can see, Bantu migrations started southwest of the Sahara and spread to Eastern and Southern
Africa. The Bantu moved because of the overproduction of land in one area due to population increases
so they moved looking for farmland and iron ore deposits, adopting herding and domesticated animals
along the way. Their migration caused problems in occupied lands but they prevailed because of
superior weapons. Bantus spread their language, technology, and customs to created new cultures.