Monday, September 25, 2023

The Architectural Splendour of Ancient Africa

Ancient African architecture features a mystical charm that reveals the true nature of the continent that’s steeped in tradition and culture. While we sleep in times with beautiful modern buildings, it’s the ancient structures that burst with ageless allure and fascination. From Mali to Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Egypt, if the subsequent structures and sites could speak, they might tell endless tales of their contributions to civilization on the continent.

Aksum and Lalibela Ethiopia
Aksum and Lalibela Ethiopia

Aksum is an ancient city in northern Ethiopia that flourished between the first and 13th centuries. This Iron Age kingdom was a thriving trade center, trading in ivory, spices, ebony, and hides with Egypt, Greece, Rome, and lands as distant as Persia and India.

Aksum is renowned for its giant stelae and expertly carved obelisks that were erected at the tombs of Ethiopia’s ancient kings when the town was the center of a vast empire. The most crucial standing pillar is quite 1, 700 years old, weighs quite 160 tonnes, and stands 24 meters above the bottom – the equivalent of a nine-story building. It features two false doors at the bottom and decorations that resemble windows along all sides. Aksum boasts quite 120 stelae, each made up of single pieces of granite, and standing as high as 25 meters.


In Ethiopia, awe-inspiring art and construction don’t end with Aksum. The mountain town of Lalibela, home to a cluster of rock-hewn churches, is equally mesmerizing.
The 11 spectacular churches of Lalibela weren’t constructed – they were excavated. Carved out of volcanic tuff rock quite 900 years ago, the famous churches were created during a range of designs. A number of them were chiseled into the face of the stone while others stand as isolated blocks. The extent of architecture displayed at Aksum and Lalibela may be a work of consummate skill and speaks volumes about Ethiopia’s ancient civilization and society.

Great Zimbabwe

Great Zimbabwe
Great Zimbabwe

Built and occupied between the 11th and 15th centuries, Great Zimbabwe was the capital and central power of 1 of the best civilizations in Africa. The Shona empire spread across present-day Zimbabwe and even reached as far as eastern Botswana and South-eastern Mozambique. In its heyday, it had been home to about 18 000 people.

This 900-year old African city is a testament to a culture of great wealth and architecture skills. The high level of expertise that was employed within the construction of the location is astounding.

The ruins’ most enduring and striking remains are the granite stone walls, which were constructed without the utilization of mortar, employing a method called dry stonewalling. This involved gingerly placing stones one on top of the opposite, each layer slightly more recessed than the last to supply a stabilizing inward slope.

Great Zimbabwe’s method of construction is exclusive in Africa’s architecture. Although there are instances of comparable work elsewhere, none are as grand and memorable as Great Zimbabwe. As Zimbabwean archaeologist and historian Peter Garlake puts it, the walls display “an architecture that’s unparalleled elsewhere in Africa or beyond.”

Djenné – Mali

Djenné Mali
Djenné Mali

Located on a bend of the mighty Niger, the medieval town of Djenné in Mali has been known for its striking mud-based architecture since the 14th century. The town’s nearly 2,000 flat-roofed houses are built entirely of mud.

Djenné has, for hundreds of years, been a crucial Islamic center, renowned for its monumental mosque that stands imposingly within the middle of the town, dwarfing everything else in view. Constructed entirely of sun-dried mud bricks coated with clay, the good Mosque of Djenné is taken into account, one among the best creations of the Sahelian architecture. Standing four stories high, the mosque is the world’s largest mud-brick building.

The giant walls studded with wooden beams protruding through to the surface. Though the building is steady, it’s still susceptible to forces like rain, which erodes the barriers. The original mosque fell into disrepair within the 19th century. It had been only in 1907 that a replacement mosque was built on the location of the primary one. In an annual week-long festival, the villagers begin in numbers to repair the building and keep it from falling apart.

Ancient Egypt

Great Pyramid of Giza
Great Pyramid of Giza

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the mention of 1 of the oldest civilizations within the world, Egypt.

While Egypt is legendary for significant cultural advances in every area of human knowledge – from the humanities to science, technology and religion – it’s perhaps best known for its incredible monumental architecture characterized by the pyramids.

The Egyptian pyramids are a number of the foremost spectacular human-made structures in history. The right Pyramid of Giza, the oldest and largest of the three pyramids within the Giza pyramid complex, is that the only surviving architecture out of the Seven Wonders of the traditional World.


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