Although we mostly hear about the vast riches of the kings of Ancient Africa, the daily life of the average person was much different. The commoners in Ancient Africa were typically very poor and had to work hard all their lives.
- Farmers - Most people in Ancient Africa were farmers. They spent much of their day working the land growing crops such as yams, sorghum, barley, and wheat. Some people fished for food or took care of herds of livestock such as cattle and sheep.
- Traders - Traders played an important role in the economy of Ancient Africa. They moved goods across the Sahara Desert using caravans of camels. Some traders became wealthy and held high positions in society.
- Artisans -Artisans included blacksmiths, weavers, tailors, jewelers, and tool makers. In some Ancient African societies, artisans were thought to have magical powers.
- Warriors - Warriors were important in the large empires of Ancient Africa such as the Mali and the Songhai Empires. Professional warriors kept the peace and maintained power for the emperor. During times of major wars, farmers were required to join the army and help fight.
- Slaves - There were also many slaves in Ancient Africa. Slaves were often people captured from enemy tribes during war or were born into slavery. Sometimes criminals were forced into slavery for their punishment.
Most people of Ancient Africa lived in thatched huts with walls made from clay and straw. Generally these huts were round and had a single room. The homes of royalty and the kings were often made of wood and stone.
What did they eat?
Depending on where in Africa people lived, they ate different foods. Each region had a major staple crop that formed the majority of their food. They would then supplement this crop with fish, meat, and vegetables that they were able to grow or hunt where they lived. Staple foods that were grown by farmers included wheat, yams, maize, and rice.
What did they wear?
Because it is so hot in Africa, the people of Ancient Africa didn't wear a lot of clothes. Most of the time, they went around naked. However, for special ceremonies and meetings, they would sometimes wear loincloths or tunics. As Islam became a more popular religion in Africa, people began to wear more clothing. Typical materials included animal skins, fur, cotton, and some regions even made clothing from the bark of trees.
The people of Ancient Africa also wore jewelry and makeup. Jewelry was made from different items depending on where the people lived including gold, seashells, feathers, and gemstones.
Interesting Facts about the Daily Life in Ancient Africa
- Yams were used in West Africa to make a staple food called "fufu." Fufu would be rolled into a ball and then dipped into soup for flavor.
- Children were often considered adults at around the age of 12.
- The musicians and storytellers of Africa are called "griots."
- Girls usually married around 12 or 13 years old. Their fathers chose the husband.
- The farmers of the Mali Empire were part of a respected caste of society called the horonnu. Farmers also fought in the military and participated in the local government.
To learn more about Ancient Africa:
History >> Ancient Africa