Complex Society in the Malian Empire
Examples of complex society can be described and referenced in many ways, shapes or forms. However, when defining a certain society as “complex,” one must follow two loose guidelines that should trace the vague foundations of any thriving civilization. Therefore, it is generally agreed upon that the civilization in question must have a large, easily identifiable population (the larger, the more complex), and that it must have a clear division of labor. Every society studied that can be considered “complex”, can vary both in population and it’s division of labor. When looking at a civilization such as the Malian Empire, It is not a question of whether the society was complex or not, that much is known; but instead through specific examples, one must ascertain how complex they were. Specific features from different complex civilizations throughout history vary greatly, some possessing models that have since separated the great empires from the legendary ones. Examples of this range from the complex political rhetoric found in ancient Greece, to intricate diverse philosophical teachings in Chinese civilization. While judging a society, certain aspects of the culture must be looked at without prejudice, as not all societies are identical. In D.T. Niane’s translation of “Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali”, society in 13th century West Africa is observed through the story of one of Africa’s greatest conquerors, Sundiata Keita. It is through this view that the reader is able to see specific societal qualities that lend itself to the complexity of the culture and civilization present at that time and place. Through examples revealed in Niane’s translation; one can be certain that a complex thriving society was present at that time and place, with illustrations of complex cities, extensive trade systems, organized military, as well as a unified religious theology provided as evidence of it’s complexity.
The author, D.T. Niane
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