By Basil Davidson
This article is designed for college students getting ready for O point background, delivering an exam of a few of the most important developments and occasions in West African historical past from advert 1000-1800.
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Additional resources for A History of West Africa, 1000-1800 (The growth of African civilization)
It was considered undying; among humans ― 30 ― it remained intact after the moment of death, leaving the body but retaining full awareness of its own identity and surroundings. Collectively, these ancestral spirits were believed to resemble the living in several ways. They were said to look like normal humans, with each spirit retaining the age and physical characteristics of his or her body at the moment of death. They resided near the living, where they could pass continually and invisibly among their descendants and observe their development and growth.
Males were also forced to "gather" ivory—whether from their existing stocks or by hunting is unclear—and carry it across the channel to a separate group of Nguo Ntuni on the mainland. The invaders also brought certain innovations that were considered blessings. One was a type of plow that replaced the islanders' simple digging stick. More significant, the newcomers introduced an iron fish trap, one large enough to entrap the fish that had previously broken their wooden hooks. Finally, a new kind of cow ("like a buffalo, without a hump") was brought onto the island, and the defeated were set to tending what were now their masters' herds.
Anyone could place a curse. Children could do so only against others in their age groups, women only against their own sex. Men, however, could curse anyone, and as they aged (thus growing closer to the ancestors) the power of their curses intensified. That power could be further increased by collective action. Thus in serious conflicts an entire elders' council might assemble to chant somber maledictions against a single individual, whose transgression against some aspect of tradition threatened them all.