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Timelines of World Art: Africa, 300 BC to AD 1000

c. 221 BC

A one-roomed temple is developed in Nubia, presumably to accommodate local rituals. One of the earliest examples is the shrine built by King Arnekhamani and dedicated to the lion-headed god Apedemak. Read more...

c. 221 BC

Nubian sculptors ornament temples, palaces and tombs with relief scenes of the king and his family paying tribute to the deities. Read more...

AD 1–AD 100

Nubian potters of the Meroitic period create ceramic containers that have eggshell-thin bodies, refined finishes and lively painted or stamped decoration. Read more...

c. AD 100–c. AD 120

During the period of Roman rule, mummies in Faiyum, Egypt are capped with highly lifelike painted portraits of the deceased, introducing a new level of realism into Egyptian art. Read more...

c. AD 150–AD 200

The Severan theatre in the Roman town of Sabratha on the Libyan coast is built as the most sophisticated example of its type and remains the best-preserved Roman theatre in North Africa. Read more...

c. AD 200–c. AD 400

Monumental stone obelisks are hewn at the Ethiopian city of Aksum to serve as funerary markers for the uppermost members of society. These stelae, the largest of which is a towering 33.5 metres tall, are carved to resemble the surfaces of buildings. Read more...

AD 500–AD 600

The earliest known clay figures in South Africa, found at Lydenburg, are a series of fired ceramic heads that are thought to have been used as part of initiation rituals. Read more...

c. AD 550

Among the earliest surviving Christian icons is the depiction of the Virgin and Child Enthroned with SS George and Theodore, painted using the encaustic technique. Read more...

c. AD 707

The sensitive painting of St Anne is one of the earliest images painted on the walls of the cathedral of Faras, which is the source of the best-known examples of Byzantine painting in Nubia. Her enormous eyes and simplified features continue Egyptian traditions and are characteristic of the early Faras images. Read more...

AD 836

Expansion begins on the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia. This religious centre in the western part of the Islamic world stands as a model for other mosques in the region. Read more...

c. AD 900

Highly accomplished smiths at Igbo-Ukwu in Nigeria fashion elaborately decorated bronze containers and ritual implements that are among the earliest items made of copper alloy in western Africa. Read more...

c. 989–1013

The mosque of al-Hakim is constructed by the Fatimid caliphate to accommodate the entire population of Cairo for worship and grand ceremonies. Read more...


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