How Much Do You Know About Ancient and Medieval Africa?

Africa Map from 1502

Test your knowledge and see if you can guess these sites of ancient and medieval Africa

Why Did Valarte Die? Death of a Danish Knight during Expedition to West Africa in mid-15th Century

Africa Map from 1502

‘The fame of their affair having spread through the different parts of the world, it arrived at the Court of the King of Denmark and Sweden and Norway; and as you see how noble men venture themselves with the desire to see and know such things’

The Papacy and Christian Mercenaries of Thirteenth-Century North Africa

Condottiero drawing by Leonardo da Vinci

Could one be a good mercenary and a good Christian at the same time?

Emperor Zar’a Ya’eqob (1434-68) And The Christianization Of Medieval Ethiopia

Virgin Mary Ethiopia - photo by A. Davey

One of the most important figures in Ethiopian Christianity was the 15th century Emperor Zar’a Ya’eqob.

Medieval Morocco comes to the Louvre

medieval morocco  © Musée du Louvre

The Louvre opened its Medieval Morocco: An Empire from Africa to Spain exhibition today, which will feature over 300 artefacts covering the North African kingdom’s history during the later Middle Ages.

Two Rabbinic Views of Christianity in the Middle Ages

Picture of Medieval Jews

In the sessions of our section over the past decade, I introduced a significant distinction between two rabbinic attitudes in the Mediterranean countries during the Middle Ages of 12th and 13th centuries as to their view of Christianity.

Western relation with Ethiopia during the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period


By Hailu Kifle-Egzi

A Crisis of the Middle Ages? Deconstructing and Constructing European Identities in a Globalised World


In a globalizing world the Middle Ages run the risk of losing their position in the order of history.

Dead and famous, or unknown but alive? Heroism and common sense in medieval Scandinavian and African tradition


Although some scholars see heroism as a characteristic of the whole Germanic tradition, a careful study of Scandinavian literature reveals that this is not the case

Did medieval sailors reach Australia?


Archaeologists hope to unravel the mystery of how coins dating back to the 10th century were found off the shores of Australia.

Black in Camelot (Africans in Arthurian Legend)

Imaginary encounter between Richard I and Saladin, 13th century manuscript

Examining depictions of Africans in medieval and contemporary Arthurian literature, television and film.

Kongo Ambassadors, Papal Politics, and Italian Images of Black Africans in the Early 1600s

Cherubino Alberti

While the political and economic power of Italian states was declining in the Seventeenth Century, Italy’s cultural authority remained influential, especially in the visual arts and, of course, religion, even though Europe had been split into faith-based fragments by the Protestant Reformation after 1517.

The European Reconquest of North Africa

Africa - medieval map

The chief structural features of Africa Minor are simple. The territory consists of a long strip of land bounded on the north by the Mediterranean,on the south by the Sahara, on the east by the Gulf of Tripoli and the Libyan Desert, on the west by the Atlantic.

The Death Toll of Justinian’s Plague and Its Effects on the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the First

In 541 a plague arrived in Egypt and rapidly began to spread. The following account of the beginning of the plague, while clearly an exaggeration still shows the impact of the disease.

Archeological and Historical Approaches to Complex Societies: The Islamic States of Medieval Morocco

17th century map of Morocco

We postulate that during the Medieval period two widely different sociopolitical contexts existed, giving rise to diverse urban patterns. Most importantly, we argue that the second of these patterns represents a widespread situation that is inadequately treated in the literature.

The Cone of Africa . . . Took Shape in Lisbon

Africa - medieval map

The year that Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic and Isabel and Ferdinand expelled the Jews from Spain, an unheralded event took place. A cartographer in Lisbon, Portugal, drew an amazing map detailing the coasts of Europe, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and western Africa.

The Trebuchet

Byzantine Trebuchet - 11th century

Recent reconstructions and computer simulations reveal the operating principles of the most powerful weapon of its time

Rebaptism as a Ritual of Cultural Integration in Vandal Africa

Shifting Cultural Frontiers in Late Antiquity

Midway through the first book of his History of the Vandal Persecution, Victor of Vita narrates the story of a Vandal master who deemed it appropriate to allow his two Roman slaves, Martinianus and Maxima, to marry.

Conversion and Empire: Byzantine Missionaries, Foreign Rulers, and Christian Narratives (ca. 300-900)

Early Byzantine Art

For a broader modern audience today, if taken somewhat journalistically, Pusicius’ story is an example that cuts along cultural and religious lines that presumably originate in ancient, political divisions and confirm a “clash of civilizations” thesis.

Avorio d’ogni ragione: the supply of elephant ivory to northern Europe in the Gothic era

Medieval Elephants

Why, after a scarcity of elephant ivory in northern Europe during the twelfth century, was there sudden access to such large tusks around 1240?

Light through the dark ages: The Arabist contribution to Western ophthalmology


Because blindness was a major cause of morbidity in the medieval Arab world, as is the case in the developing world today, Arabist physicians developed much exposure to ophthalmological conditions, and nearly every major medical work written at the time had a chapter on diseases of the eye.

Mandeville’s Intolerance: The Contest for Souls and Sacred Sites in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Full-page portrait of Sir John Mandeville. Created 1459.

While Chaucer‟s knight has traveled to and fought in Spain, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia Minor, Sir John claims to have visited the entire known world from Constantinople and the Holy Land to the farthest reaches of Asia.

Singers, advisers, and servants: role of eunuchs from a historical context

Zheng He - eunuchs

According to the Book of Matthew, Jesus said that there were eunuchs made of men, who had made them- selves by their fathers to be that way for heaven’s sake, and if they have received such a procedure, then let them keep it. Jesus referred to castration as an infallible way to achieve celibacy. And records of Christian history indicate that many Christian religious figures were castrated.

The Black Road – Trade and State-building in Medieval Sub-Saharan Africa

Medieval Africa

By the early fourteenth century, the Mediterranean was approaching maturity as a commercial structure. Various arteries of exchange brought into its scope the full range of European, African and Asian commodities.

Ancient DNA analysis indicates the first English lions originated from North Africa

Tower of London - Royal Menagerie

Although the Royal Menagerie and its animals are known from documentary records, few physical re- mains survive (O’Regan et al., 2005). Amongst the rare exceptions are two lion skulls that were recovered from the moat of the Tower of London during excava- tions in 1936-1937. These skulls were recently radio- carbon-dated to AD1280-1385 and AD1420-1480.

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