African History 2: Decentralized Society Jenne-Jeno
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Today we're going to learn about decentralized societies like Jenne-Jeno who lived without any power hierarchy in their city. Je-no kings, Je-no problems, right? We'll see ourselves out.
|World History||African History|
a lot like European history and…sorta make sense to us.
Like, does it even count as a civilization if there aren't ginormous buildings and stuff
written in stone?
Are those people even worth studying?
Throughout ancient Africa’s history there were other types of societies that did things…
a little differently.
They were …
Ready for some vocab…?
“decentralized or stateless political societies.”
Rather than having rigid societal structures where the powerful ruled the weak, things
were a lot more loosey-goosey…and actually equal for all.
The closest thing to a government in some of these societies was a council of elders,
made up of the old people in town.
Some have called these societies democracies of age.
…which would probably go over well in most nursing homes.
Sometimes, if there was a chief, he was nominated by the elders because he seemed like the best
dude for the job.
In these kinds of societies, chiefs didn’t pass down the title to their kids, so you
don’t hear stories about some dynasty ruthlessly holding onto its power.
A famous example of decentralized society is the ancient city of Jenne-Jeno [JEN-ay
Located in modern day Mali, Jenne-Jeno was a thriving center of trade.
In particular, the folks there knew their way around some iron ore.
They were great blacksmiths, and the city exported iron and iron products, along with
smoked meat, fish, and fish oils.
Stop making us hungry.
Jenne-Jenno was also located on the Niger River floodplain, making the land around it
So there’s a good chance they would’ve also been able to grow rice and millet, adding
that to their trading power.
There’s evidence they imported all kinds of stuff: copper, salt, beads, stone grinders,
and even iron ore for blacksmithing.
Covering 83 acres, this walled city was at one time one of the largest trading centers
in all of West Africa.
Talk about a success story, right?
And the thing that blows the minds of modern scholars is that the folks of Jenne-Jenno
did it all without a king, ruling priesthood, or governing body.
To date, all the evidence points to the idea that they lived a completely communal lifestyle,
with no person having more power than another.
Hm, maybe Karl Marx was an African at heart…