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Ancient Africa: first recorded contacts with premedieval Europe

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Ancient Africa: first recorded contacts with premedieval Europe

Post  Admin on Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:56 pm


It would appear that the Phoenicians acted as commercial agents for Egypt, for it was by the orders of Necho, then King of Egypt, that Phoenician sailors, about 612 B.C., started from the Red Sea to explore the Southern Ocean, and according to Herodotus proved that Africa was surrounded by water on all sides with the exception of the strip of land which joined it to Asia. They returned three years after their departure via the Straits of Gibraltar. Documentary evidence (two scarabs engraved for King Necho II.), lately produced before the French Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, confirms this and puts the date of the return at 599 B.C. It seems, therefore, evident that the Gambia and other countries were first discovered at that time.

Herodotus received the accounts from Egyptian priests. The navigators related that in the course of that very long voyage they had repeatedly landed, sown grain in favourable places and seasons, and waited for the harvests before they continued their progress.

Herodotus tells another story of adventure which we may fairly accept as essentially true. Ten days’ journey west of the shrine of Ammon, which lay to the west of Egypt, was the country of Aegila, occupied by the Nassamones, a numerous people, who in winter fed their flocks on the sea coast and in summer repaired to collect their oats, which grew in extensive forests of palm tress. This district lay to the south of what is now Barca. “According to Herodotus, then, five young Nassamonians of distinction formed themselves into an African association, personally to explore what was still unknown in the vast interior of this continent. They passed first the region inhabited by man; then that which was tenanted by wild beasts; lastly they reached the immeasurable sandy waste. Having laid in a good stock of water and provisions, they travelled many days partly in a western direction, and attained at length one of the oases or verdant islands which bespangle the desert. Here they saw trees laden with agreeable fruit, and had begun to pluck, when there suddenly appeared a band of little black men, who seized and carried them off as captives. They were led along vast lakes and


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