Great African Kingdoms


Joshua J. Mark
published on 02 February 2024

This collection presents a small sampling of the many great African kingdoms that rose and fell from the ancient period when Punt traded with Egypt up through the common era. Each kingdom developed a distinct culture and corresponding art and religious belief that continues to influence people around the world in the present day.

Although many people are under the impression that ancient Egypt was the only great political entity of Africa in antiquity, there were actually many other kingdoms, at that time and later, that developed equally rich cultures and religious systems. Included in this collection is the archaeologist John Wesley Gilbert – known as the first black archaeologist – who worked in the Congo region, and the supernatural entities known as the Orisha who formed the basis of West African religion.

This, as noted, is only a small sample of the many great African kingdoms. Carthage is omitted in the interests of space allowed for others, as is Meroe and great rulers such as Ergamenes, though the Candaces of Meroe are included. The Empires of West Africa collection offers other great kingdoms while A Gallery of Ancient African Art collection presents the artwork of these diverse cultures.

Articles & Definitions



Questions & Answers

What does "Great Zimbabwe" mean?

"Great Zimbabwe" is the Shona name for the site and means "large houses of stone."

What is the Djenne-Djenno culture famous for?

The Djenne-Djenno culture is best-known for its terracotta figures which may have been crafted for use in household shrines.

What does the name "Axum" mean?

The Kingdom of Axum (Akshum) takes it name from the Agew (Agaw) culture and means "water official" referencing the rock cisterns at the site.

What is an Orisha?

An Orisha is a supernatural entity of the Yoruba religion of West Africa and is often referred to and worshipped as a deity.
Subscribe to this author

About the Author

Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark is World History Encyclopedia's co-founder and Content Director. He was previously a professor at Marist College (NY) where he taught history, philosophy, literature, and writing. He has traveled extensively and lived in Greece and Germany.

Free for the World, Supported by You

World History Encyclopedia is a non-profit organization. For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide.

Become a Member