Archaeological studies at Mejiro Cave have found that early human settlers, probably related to the Pygmies, had arrived in West Africa around 12,000 B.C.E. Microlithic stone industries have been found primarily in the region of the Savannah where fairly advanced pastoral tribes existed using chiseled stone blades and spears. The tribesmen of Guinea and the forested regions of the coast were without microliths for thousands of years, but prospered using bone tools and other means. In the fifth millennium, as the ancestors of modern West Africans began entering the area, the development of sedentary farming began to take place in West Africa, with evidences of domesticated cattle having been found for this period, along with limited cereal crops. Around 3,000 B.C.E., a major change began to take place in West African society, with microliths becoming more common in the Sahel region, with the invention of primitive harpoons and fish-hooks.
A major migration of Sahel cattle farmers took place in the third millennium B.C.E., and the pastoralists encountered the developed hunter-gatherers of the Guinea region. Flint was considerably more available there and made the use of microliths in hunting far easier. The migration of the Sahel farmers was likely caused by the final desiccation of the Sahara desert in this millennium, which contributed greatly to West Africa's isolation from cultural and technological phenomena in Europe and the Mediterranean Coast of Africa. Nevertheless, the increased use of iron and the spread of ironworking technology led to improved weaponry and enabled farmers to expand agricultural productivity and produce surplus crops, which together supported the growth of urban city-states into empires.
By 400 B.C.E., contact had been made with the Mediterranean civilizations, including that of Carthage, and a regular trade in gold being conducted with the Sahara Berbers, as noted by Herodotus. The trade was fairly small until the camel was introduced, with Mediterranean goods being found in pits as far south as Northern Nigeria. A profitable trade had developed by which West Africans exported gold, cotton cloth, metal ornaments, and leather goods north across the trans-Saharan trade routes, in exchange for copper, horses, salt, textiles, and beads. Later, ivory, slaves, and kola nuts were added to the trade.
A notably tall building in West Africa is the 2 Fevrier Sofitel Hotel in Lomé, Togo.
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