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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.

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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.


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.Iron was the most important import. We know the Iron Age began around 550 B.C.

E. because the different languages have different names for it. Therefore, the Iron Age had to occur after migration. However, when the tribes did discover it, they had an advantage over the other tribes. For example, it was because of iron that empires like the kingdom of Zimbabwe and the Mali empire were created. Iron would also help stimulate trade.

West African trees burn hotter than any others, which meant that West African iron was more pure than anywhere else and made for better edges.

Impact on Africa

Whether the spread of agriculture was peaceful or not, it brought a single culture group from one side of the continent to the other (150 B.C.E.) and would eventually bring them to the southern coast (300 C.

E.). The Bantu dominated every area they came to and forced other cultures to live on land that wasn’t farmable.In the long term, Bantu dominance has made the Bantu language family the most spoken in Africa. Most often, A Bantu language is the official language in an African country. Other languages are often considered inferior.

Lesson Summary

In about 1500 B.C.E., a group of Bantu language speakers discovered that they could domesticate yams and bananas.

They used their new food to increase their population and then spread their knowledge to all of Africa. This would be the first event in a chain reaction. More food meant bigger populations, which led to cities. Cities meant trade, which would lead to different foods and iron.

Iron would make West Africa part of the trade routes and would bring it wealth and power.

Learning Outcomes

When you finish the video lesson on the Bantu people, you might set a goal to:

  • Tell who the Bantu peoples were
  • Discuss the purpose behind their migration and where they went
  • Analyze the ways in which they developed
  • Recognize the impact of iron on and agriculture on Africa

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