century of africa

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Centrefire Semi-Automatic Pistol with Stock from Germany dated about 1899 on display at the Royal Armouries in Leeds

The Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” had become very fashionable and the Mauser was most advanced and expensive. Such weapons were used by the Boers in South Africa, this one being seized by the Royal Scots Fusiliers.  The wooden holster-stock has been carved with ’R.S. Fusiliers, Boer War, 1899-1900-01-02’ set around a South African Republic coin.

The coin is the Krugerrand named after the man on it, Paul Kruger the third President of the South African Republic and famous for his opposition to the British Empire during the Second Boer War. He was a controversial figure not just for fighting the Empire but also for his treatment of Black Africans in the Republic

Beaded elephant mask of the Bamileke people, Cameroon, worn by members of the Kuosi masking society (an elite society made up of royalty and other men of high rank).  Artist unknown; 20th century.  Now in the Brooklyn Museum.  Photo credit Brooklyn Museum.

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Detail of a Mural from the tomb of Nebamun, New Kingdom, ca. 1500 BCE (no exact source location or date of the painting available)
today at British Museum, London

Photo:  Hans Ollermann

Linguist Staff (Okyeame), turn of the century Ghana. Magnificent gold-covered staffs like this one are carried by high-ranking officials within the courts of Akan chiefs in an area of West Africa once known as the Gold Coast. The spoken word, in the form of axioms and stories, is the repository of Akan custom and values, and a complete mastery of proverbial lore, combined with an eloquent and insightful way of conveying it, is considered the mark of intellect of highly esteemed individuals. Those who possess this knowledge and an articulate command of language may be appointed as court linguists, the most important nonroyal court officials.

This staff is surmounted by two human figures flanking a large web, with a spider positioned at its center. The finial refers to the saying, “No one goes to the house of the spider Ananse to teach him wisdom.” Ananse the spider, who brought wisdom and taught weaving to the Akan, is the originator of folk tales and proverbs and is thus linked to linguists.

Compared to other hyenas, the spotted hyena shows a greater relative amount of frontal cortex which is involved in the mediation of social behavior. Studies strongly suggest convergent evolution in spotted hyena and primate intelligence. A study done by evolutionary anthropologists demonstrated that spotted hyenas outperform chimpanzees on cooperative problem-solving tests; captive pairs of spotted hyenas were challenged to tug two ropes in unison to earn a food reward, successfully cooperating and learning the maneuvers quickly without prior training. Experienced hyenas even helped inexperienced clan-mates to solve the problem. In contrast, chimps and other primates often require extensive training, and cooperation between individuals is not always as easy for them.

 The intelligence of the spotted hyena was attested to by Dutch colonists in 19th-century South Africa, who noted that hyenas were exceedingly cunning and suspicious, particularly after successfully escaping from traps. Spotted hyenas seem to plan on hunting specific species in advance; hyenas have been observed to indulge in activities such as scent marking before setting off to hunt zebras, a behaviour which does not occur when they target other prey species. Also, spotted hyenas have been recorded to utilise deceptive behaviour, including giving alarm calls during feeding when no enemies are present, thus frightening off other hyenas and allowing them to temporarily eat in peace. Similarly, mothers will emit alarm calls in attempting to interrupt attacks on their cubs by other hyenas.