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The tools of history

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The tools of history

The tools of history

One difficulty of historians who wish to know more
about the truth of our past is that the clues are not
always easy to find. Unlike many other peoples, West Africans did not know about writing for a long time.
This does not mean that before the discovery of writing
there was no history. The historian has to find other
ways or tools for gathering his facts and building up
the story of the past.

One way is to listen to the traditional tales of our
peoples which have often been handed down from
father to son for a very long time. These are called
oral traditions. But the historian must be very careful
to check as carefully as possible what is true in these
stories since the story-teller will often change or add
to the traditional tale to make it more interesting for
his listeners. Another clue is to study the different
languages that we all speak. Some of these languages
are very similar and the historian may want to discover
how and when peoples who speak the similar languages
were connected or related to each other. The historian
will also look for old ruins of houses and compounds,
carvings and pottery, weapons and cooking utensils,
all of which help him to understand how our ancestors
lived. Every day, historians are finding more and more
clues that will build up the true story of
our past.

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