Urbanization and State Formation in African Civilizations

1271 words 6 pages
Denielle Barcelona
December 10, 2010

Urbanization and State Formation in African Civilizations:

When it comes to talking about the ancient African civilizations, both Africans and those who spent their lives studying Africa are aware of how complex and diverse the
African precolonial societies really were. However, some still surmise that complex societies failed to develop there, and if there are some that did, they were merely secondary states.1 In the book African Civilizations: An Archaeological Perspective, author Graham Connah endeavors to disprove them and asserts that the tropical
Africans established (non-secondary) complex states on their own and not because of external factors, that “neither
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In the case of Nubia, he seems to believe that both internal and external factors led to the emergence of states saying that, “emergence of social complexity...[can] be seen as the result of a complex interaction between local and exotic factors.”9 So at least in the case of Nubia, Connah seems to think that external factors were also originators of state formation. In the case of the East African coast and inlands, although he was able to expel the theory that external stimuli was the sole factor for state formation and urbanization, he was unable to isolate internal trade and land control as originators of social complexity, saying that they “subsequently
[incorporated] substantial foreign elements.”10 Here, just like in Nubia, Connah attributes the emergence of states to a combination of internal and external factors.
Although there existed evidence before that external trade was an originator in the formation of African states, according to Connah, recent archaeological research has suggested that extensive internal, rather than external, trade and land control were the sole factors responsible for the formation of African complex societies.11 Why it is hard for me to take Connah’s hypothesis seriously is the fact that even him, acknowledges that his theories are merely based on very limited archaeological evidence. Maybe he would gain more understanding if he also looked at the ideology of


Connah, Graham. African