III. The Postclassical Period, 500–1500 > D. Africa, 500–1500 > 2. Regions, 500–1000 > e. West Central Africa
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
e. West Central Africa
This was a period marked by a change from hunting and gathering to food production and a transition from Stone Age to Iron Age technology, as well as a rapid expansion of Bantu languages and an increase in population. Bantu speakers were present on the north margins of the Congo forest, from where they began to spread throughout the region. On the northern edge, Bantu speakers were raising cereals and livestock, while those in the forest practiced fishing and forest agriculture. Cereal agriculture and cattle keeping were made more efficient by the coming of Iron Age technology, which facilitated Bantu expansion into the east and southeast, displacing the hunters who preceded them by pushing them into more remote and less hospitable regions. The spread of Iron Age Bantu speakers was also associated with a rapid expansion of population and by the establishment of local and regional trade links involving salt, iron, and copper.  1
By the 8th century, a relatively advanced metalworking culture had developed in the Katanga (Shaba) region of southeastern Congo. The culture grew up as a result of important deposits of minerals in the region, especially copper and iron, and it may have been an important center of independent invention of metallurgy. In any case, the wealth developed from exploitation of mineral resources encouraged the emergence of differentiated “big men” among the proto-Luba and proto-Lunda cultures.  2
Bantu expansion was complete. Bantu ascendancy had been established by Iron Age farmers who were adaptable to a variety of environments. Cattle-keeping farmers augmented the economic diversity among expanding Bantu communities. (See West Central Africa)  3
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.