Guess the Test #17

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Guess the Test #17 Name: _______________
The Sahara Desert
The Berbers
Tsetse fly
Great Zimbabwe
The Empire of Ghana
Mansa Musa

Explaining Questions:

1. Describe 5 geographical regions in Africa. Say where each is located.

2. Describe elements of early African society:

3. Describe the development of the East African coast.

4. Describe the empires and important kings of Western Africa:


Africa is more than three times the size of the United States, and is home to a wide variety of climates and vegetation. Each region has its own terrain and natural resources that have led to distinct cultures and ways of life. Africa also has a varied landscape which causes problems for people trying to move from place to place. Around the rim of Africa are several mountain ranges that prevent travel and shipping from the coastal areas into the interior. In the north, the world’s largest desert, the Sahara, stretches over 3,000 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Rain is rare and temperatures can climb very high. In the first centuries AD, North African traders such as the Berbers learned to cross the Sahara in large caravans, using camels to carry supplies across this wide sweep of inhospitable land.

Just south of the Sahara is the Sahel, a very dry land that has mostly sparse semi-desert vegetation, such as turf grasses, shrubs, and low-growing trees. The Sahel is inhabited by nomadic herders who raise cattle, sheep, and goats. In the southern Sahel, sparse thorn forests, groves of palms and baobabs grow. Communities of farmers raise millet and peanuts there. The Sahel is a fragile region that suffers greatly in times of drought. Scarce rainfall in the 1970s and 80s allowed the Sahara Desert to move south and claim 60 miles of the northern Sahel.

Mighty rivers flow across the plains of central Africa, which have enough vegetation to support grazing animals. Farther south is a band of tropical savanna, or open grassland, which is home to a variety of wild herd animals,

such as gazelles, wildebeest and zebras. The majority of Africa’s people live on the savannas.

Near the equator and on the island of Madagascar are tropical rainforests. The hot, humid climate and year-round rainfall support a large variety of plant and animal life. People and livestock cannot live in certain areas here because of insects, such as the tsetse fly and mosquitoes that spread sleeping sickness and malaria.

Farther south, a region of hilly grasslands, deserts, and a high coastal strip of land experience a more Mediterranean climate.


Anthropologists think the first humans on Earth lived in East Africa and were hunter-gatherers. About 7,000 years ago, some Africans began to grow crops such as sorghum, cotton, and yams, while nomadic tribes domesticated and tended herd animals.

About 8,000 years ago, we know that people farmed and raised animals in the Sahara. However, when the climate changed and the Sahara became drier, they moved to other areas.

Many African societies developed village-based cultures. A typical West African family included the mother, father, children, and close relatives, all living in one household. Families with common ancestors formed clans. In some areas, people formed “age-sets:” groups of people born within the same two or three years who had a duty to help each other.

In the village-based cultures, African society was set

up pretty much the same as everywhere else in the world. The men hunted and farmed. Women cared for children, farmed, collected firewood, ground grain, and carried water. Children had their own tasks. The elders, or old people, taught traditions to younger generations.

As in early Chinese history, early Africans honored the spirits of their ancestors, hoping that they would protect them. Like the early Romans, West Africans also practiced animism—the belief that all natural objects (bodies of water, animals, trees, etc.) have spirits that must be respected and appeased.

Oral tradition, not systems of writing, helped many early African societies maintain their identity and remember the past. Like the ancient Greeks who listened to Homer share tales of might heroes, African cultures had their own storytellers. These men were called griots (GREE­ohz) and kept village history alive by remembering and sharing stories, poems, songs, and proverbs. Music, dance, and elaborate masks were part of many rituals.


The East African coast attracted foreign traders who crossed the Indian Ocean on monsoon winds. Muslim Arabs and Persians settled on the coast of mainland Africa, while Indonesians settled on the island of Madagascar. A trade network soon linked East Africa with Persia, Arabia, India, and Southeast Asia. By 1100 AD, several towns, such as Mogadishu, Mombasa, Kilwa, and Sofala, had grown into wealthy city-states. In their markets, merchants sold luxury goods from China and India as well as African coconut oil,

copper, frankincense, leopard skins, shells, ivory, and gold. In addition, enslaved Africans captured in the interior were exported to slave markets in Arabia, Persia, and India.

Trade led to a blending of African, Arab, and Asian cultures. A new language called Swahili developed from a blend of the local Bantu language and Arabic. The term also refers to the blended African-Arab culture that developed along East Africa’s coast. Although Ethiopia remained Christian, other African rulers adopted Islam and built mosques in many cities and towns.


In Africa’s interior, the Shona people built their kingdom of Great Zimbabwe by the 1300s AD. The kingdom was located along an important trade route and served as a middleman between gold miners and ivory hunters in southern Africa and traders on the Eastern coast.

Sometime in the 1400s, the people abandoned Great Zimbabwe for unknown reasons. All that remains of Great Zimbabwe today are stone ruins. A circular wall about 35 feet high surrounds a structure called the Great Enclosure. It was built with stones so perfectly fitted that no mortar was used.


By about 800 AD, the rulers of Ghana created a huge, powerful empire. Ghana did not have an easy access route to the sea and the Sahara Desert blocked travel to the north. Eventually, camel caravans found routes across this vast obstacle. Because Ghana’s capital, Koumbi-Saleh, was located between the gold mines to the south and the desert trade routes to the north, Ghana soon controlled nearly all of the area’s gold and salt trade.

Taxing goods such as salt brought the kingdom great wealth. Gold was not taxed the same way, but kings kept gold prices high by keeping supply low. They issued a law that said only kings could own large gold nuggets. They also kept the mines’ locations secret. Ghana’s kings enjoyed a lavish lifestyle. They built up huge armies to conquer other peoples and to capture people who could be sold as slaves to Muslim traders.


In the 1230s, a new empire, Mali, rose to power where Ghana had been, then expanded to the Atlantic Ocean. A king named Sundiata (soon-JAHT-ah) led Mali’s conquest of neighboring people. He ruled for 25 years. Mali reached its height in the 1300s, when it was led by Mansa Musa. During Mansa Musa’s reign, Mali’s territory expanded. The kingdom grew wealthy controlling the gold and salt trade.

Like many of Mali’s leaders after Sundiata, Mansa Musa was a Muslim. His pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324 made him well-known for his wealth and generosity. When he returned home, Musa brought with him artists and architects who designed beautiful mosques, some of which still stand today. He also built schools and libraries. Many of these were built in Timbuktu, which became West Africa’s center for education, religion, and culture. After Mansa Musa, the Tuareg of North Africa captured Timbuktu in 1433. Several groups broke away and set up independent kingdoms and Mali fell into decline.

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