Empire of Mali: Geography and Physical Characteristics (3.4)
One of the wealthiest and most powerful African empires was Mali. The empire of Mali was located in the western part of Africa.
The empire of Mali consisted of several regions with a variety of different physical characteristics. Physical characteristics are the traits of the land. The northern part of the empire included the Sahara Desert and the Sahel, a dry, flat grassland. In the south, most of the land was savanna, a grassy plateau with some trees and rivers. The southern part even had tropical rainforests!
The different regions of Mali had different types of resources. There were busy salt mines in the desert areas and important gold mines in the rain forests. The savanna had water and soil for farming.
Day 2 Empire of Mali: Human Characteristics (3.4) The people of Mali had to adapt to the different environments in the empire. Because they lived near sources of salt, people in the desert were salt miners. The people of the savanna were farmers since they had water and good soil. Others worked as gold miners. Because of Mali’s location along trade routes, many citizens of Mali were traders.
Salt was a critical resource for the people of the desert. Salt is important for health and for preserving food. The people of the desert could trade salt for gold to get the things they needed.
The biggest trading centers of Mali were located between the salt mines of the desert and the gold mines of south. Traders in Timbuktu, the biggest trading center in Mali, and other cities often exchanged salt for gold.
Empire of Mali: Government (3.2) The empire of Mali was ruled by rich and powerful kings. The kings of Mali ruled over one of the largest and wealthiest empires in Africa.
Since Mali was located at the crossroads of busy trade routes, the kings controlled trade all over West Africa. They had power over who, when, and where trading took place.
Day 3 continued
The kings of Mali used some of their wealth to improve their empire. They built a famous library and a university in Timbuktu. Scholars traveled from around the world to learn in the legendary city of Timbuktu. Kings also supported skilled craftsmen and artists in Mali.
Empire of Mali: Oral Tradition (3.2) Mali has a rich oral history. Oral history is a set of stories, poems, and songs told aloud and passed down from generation to generation. The stories tell about kings, events, laws, traditions, and beliefs of the people of Mali. The oral history of Mali preserves information about the past.
Skilled storytellers called griots (gree-ohz) had the important job of remembering and re-telling their people’s history. Griots memorized stories, songs, and poems. They also knew laws and facts about the empire. Because of their great knowledge, griots often gave advice to kings and other powerful citizens. Griots also had to pass their knowledge on to the next generation. Thanks to griots, we know the history of the wealthy, powerful African empire of Mali.