A lost city reveals the grandeur of medieval African civilization, and provides a bit of food for thought for anyone creating a psuedo-medieval RPG setting
Some of the world’s greatest cities during the Middle Ages were on the eastern coast of Africa. Their ornate stone domes and soaring walls, made with ocean corals and painted a brilliant white, were wonders to the traders that visited them from Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. They were the superpowers of the Swahili Coast, and they’ve long been misunderstood by archaeologists. It’s only recently that researchers outside Africa are beginning to appreciate their importance.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that in medieval times northern Europe was a backwater, and the real civilisations of the world were going on elsewhere. So any would-be game designer creating yet another Generic Fantasy setting based solely on medieval Europe is missing out.
The whole thing is worth reading, especially the way Songo Mnara had been wrongly assumed to have been a Arab outpost rather than an indiginous African civilisation. It’s true that it was Islamic, but it practiced an African version of Islam with far greater equality between the sexes.
At a time when game designers are being encouraged to be more inclusive, we should remember that medieval Africa wasn’t all primitive tribes, but contained sophisticated civilisations equal to those of Europe.