The Bantu People: Migration, Language and Impact

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  • 0:00 The Bantu People
  • 0:51 Migrations
  • 1:53 Development and Kingdoms
  • 2:49 Impact on Africa
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Flint Johnson

Flint has tutored mathematics through precalculus, science, and English and has taught college history. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow

Learn about the ancient Bantu People and their migrations. Examine how they influenced Africa with their language and culture. Then take a quiz and see what you've learned!

The Bantu People

Have you ever wondered about the history of Africa? If so, you're in the right place. Most historians think Africa's history started with the Bantu peoples, A group of African language speakers (Bantu languages) that originally lived in the notch of western Africa.

In around 1500 B.C.E., the Bantu speakers stumbled upon the domestication of yams and bananas. Just like wheat did in Mesopotamia and Egypt and rice did in India and China, having a stable supply of food made dramatic changes for the Bantu. They began domesticating goats around the same time, as well. The way we know this is through the Bantu languages. While there are about 500 Bantu languages, all modern languages have common words for farming and several domesticated animals.

Migrations

The first thing more food did was to expand the population. Before yams and bananas, the Bantu had been like every other group in Africa, surviving off what they could hunt or gather from the world around them. With so little food, people starved and not as many children survived. When the Bantu realized they could grow as many yams and bananas as they wanted, there was suddenly no fear of starvation. Families could be much larger.

We don't know why, but around this same time, the Bantu were soon migrating out from their homeland to the south and east of the Sahara. Much like how the Mesopotamians migrated into Europe as they taught the natives about wheat, it's possible that the Bantu migrated for the same reason, with only a small number of people leaving their homes to trade away the secrets of agriculture. That would explain why their language spread throughout Africa and is still dominant today. It's also possible that they conquered Africa. However, there is no consensus among historians about exactly why they migrated.

Development and Kingdoms

Agriculture meant that large numbers of people could live in a small area. At first, this led to settlements. Their greater numbers might even have led to small kingdoms that scholars haven't found yet. All of the groups must have traded. They also gained more ideas and crops from outside of Africa.

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