The history of Africa begins with the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, and continues into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. The recorded history of early civilization arose in Egypt, and later in Nubia, the Sahel, the Maghreb and the Horn of Africa. During the Middle Ages, Islam spread west from Arabia to Egypt, crossing the Maghreb and the Sahel. A major center of Muslim culture was Timbuktu. Some notable pre-colonial states and societies in Africa include the Nok culture, Mali Empire, Ashanti Empire, Kingdom of Mapungubwe, Kingdom of Sine, Kingdom of Sennar, Kingdom of Saloum, Kingdom of Baol, Kingdom of Cayor, Kingdom of Zimbabwe, Kingdom of Kongo, Empire of Kaabu, Ancient Carthage, Numidia, Mauretania, the Aksumite Empire, the Ajuran Sultanate, and the Adal Sultanate.
From the mid 7th century, the Arab slave trade saw Muslim Arabs enslave Africans, along with Asians and Europeans, transporting them across the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, and Sahara desert.
From the late 15th century, Europeans joined Arabs in transporting enslaved West, Central, and South Africans overseas both east and west in the African slave trade.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries European colonization of Africa developed rapidly in the Scramble for Africa. It is widely believed that Africa had up to 10,000 different states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs before it was colonized. Following struggles for independence in many parts of the continent, as well as a weakened Europe after the Second World War, decolonization took place, culminating in the 1960 Year of Africa.
Africa's history has been challenging for researchers in the field of African studies because of the scarcity of written sources in large parts of the continent. Scholarly techniques such as the recording of oral history, historical linguistics, archaeology and genetics have been crucial.
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