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government and military. Then you’ll learn how Ghana’s people acquired wealth by serving as middlemen in trans-Saharan trade. You’ll look at how traders did business with one another. Finally, you’ll find out how Ghana declined and a new empire, Mali, arose in West Africa.

Use this illustration as a graphic organizer to help you understand how trade enabled the West African kingdom of Ghana to become powerful and wealthy.
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13.2 Ghana’s Government and Military

Arab scholars described Ghana as a fabled “land of gold.” Their accounts paint a picture of a rich kingdom with a strong government and a large and powerful army.

The King and His Government Ghana was ruled by a powerful king. The king was the head of the army and had the final say in matters of justice. He also led the people in religious worship.

Ghana’s king acquired great wealth through control of the gold trade. Gold was especially plentiful in areas to the south of Ghana. As you will see, Ghana collected taxes on gold that passed through the kingdom.

To preserve his wealth, the king tightly controlled the supply of gold. All of the gold nuggets, or chunks, found in the kingdom had to be given to the king. Other people could have only gold dust. One of the king’s gold nuggets is said to have weighed almost 40 pounds. According to legend, another was large enough to be used as a hitching post for his horse.

Each day, the king held court with his people. The king arrived at court to the beating of royal drums. He was splendidly dressed in colorful robes, gold jewelry, and a cap decorated with gold. His people showed their respect for him by kneeling and throwing dust on their heads as he approached.

Once at court, the king conducted the business of his empire and heard the people’s concerns. One Arab historian described the scene at the court like this:
Behind the king stand ten pages [young servants] holding shields and swords decorated with gold and on his right are the sons of the

The king of Ghana usually wore beautiful clothes and fine jewelry when he held court.
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vassal kings of his empire wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited [braided] with gold. The governor of the city sits on the ground before the king and around are ministers seated likewise. At the door...are dogs of excellent pedigree [ancestry] who hardly ever leave the place where the king is, guarding him. Round their necks, they wear collars of gold and silver.
A large group of officials were paid from the kingdom’s wealth to help the king govern. These officials were probably in charge of different parts of Ghana’s society, such as the armed forces, industry, taxes, and foreigners. The king appointed governors to rule some parts of his empire, such as the capital city and some conquered areas.

When the king died, his son did not inherit the throne. The royal inheritance was matrilineal, which means that it was traced through women’s bloodlines rather than men’s. In Ghana, the son of the king’s sister took over the throne.

Ghana’s Military Ghana’s military included a regular army, reserve forces, and elite soldiers. The regular army was made up of several thousand career soldiers. They kept the borders secure, put down minor revolts, and maintained peace and order. These soldiers wore knee-length cotton pants, sleeveless tunics (long shirts), sandals, and headdresses decorated with feathers. The color of a soldier’s tunic and the number of feathers in his headdress indicated his rank. The soldiers used weapons such as spears, daggers, swords, battle clubs, and bows and arrows. They were well paid and well respected.

During wartime, the king called up additional reserve forces and the troops of other governors under his rule. Every man in the empire was required to complete military training so that he would be ready to serve when called. Stories tell of a king who could call up an army of 200,000 warriors. This number no doubt grew as stories were passed on, but the king certainly could summon a sizable army.

An elite group of soldiers were selected for their courage, honesty, and intelligence. These soldiers served the king as bodyguards, escorts, and military advisors.

matrilineal based on a woman’s family line

headdress a decorative covering worn on the head, often as a sign of rank
(Map Title)

Kingdom of Ghana, About 1000 C.E.
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13.3 Trade: The Source of Ghana’s Wealth

Ghana was located between two areas that wanted to trade—North Africa and the southern forests of West Africa. Traders from the north crossed the Sahara with salt, copper, and cowrie shells (the shells were used as money). They traded these and other goods for kola nuts, hides, leather goods, ivory, slaves, and gold from the southern forests. Then they returned to North Africa, bringing the goods from the south to merchants there.

Ghana’s location allowed it to control this trans-Saharan trade. Traders going to and from the south had to pass through Ghana. Each time, they paid heavy taxes on their goods. These taxes helped make Ghana rich.

The History of Trans-Saharan Trade Trans-Saharan trade has a long history. Archeologists have found evidence that North Africans brought back gold from the southern forests as long ago as 400 to 500 B.C.E. Travel across the Sahara, however, was very difficult.

Centuries later, two factors spurred the growth of trans-Saharan trade. The first was the introduction of the camel to the Sahara. The second was the spread of Islam.

Camels were first brought to the Sahara around 300 C.E. These animals are well suited for desert travel. A camel can drink up to 25 gallons of water at a time. As a result, it can travel several days in the desert without stopping. Also, camels have double rows of eyelashes and hairy ear openings that help keep out blowing sand.

The introduction of camels allowed traders to establish caravan routes across the Sahara. By the fourth century, large amounts of gold were being minted into Roman coins in North Africa. It is likely that the gold came from West Africa.

Trade expanded even more because of the spread of Islam. In the seventh century, Muslims invaded Ghana’s empire. Besides wanting to convert West Africans to Islam, Muslims hoped to control trade in West Africa.

Camels were especially suited to transport goods across the Sahara.
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Ghana turned back the invaders, but many Muslims settled in West African towns and became merchants.

Control of the trans-Saharan trade made Ghana wealthy and powerful. By the year 1000, Ghana’s empire dominated the trade routes between North and West Africa.

The Journey South The traders who traveled to West Africa faced a long, difficult journey. The trans-Saharan caravan routes began in North Africa along the northwestern border of the Sahara. From there they stretched across the desert, crossed through Ghana, and continued south to the Gulf of Guinea and east to present-day Chad.

In 1352, a Muslim historian and traveler named Ibn Battuta crossed the Sahara with a trade caravan. Battuta’s account of his trip shows what the traders’ journeys were like.

Battuta’s caravan began at the oasis city of Sijilmasa, on the northern edge of the Sahara in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Donkeys carried goods from Europe, Arabia, and Egypt to Sijilmasa from the Mediterranean coast. Then camel caravans took the goods south.

Battuta and his caravan stayed in Sijilmasa for a few months, waiting for the rainy season to end. When the watering places were full and there was grass for the animals to eat, the traders set out. The caravan traveled from oasis to oasis. Each day, the traders walked until the afternoon, when the sun was high in the sky. Then they rested until the sun went down.

Walking across the Sahara was difficult and dangerous. Caravans sometimes lost their way, and some traders died in the desert. During one stretch of Battuta’s trip, the travelers could not find water, so they slaughtered some of their camels and drank the water stored in the animals’ stomachs.

On its way through the desert, the caravan stopped at Taghaza, a village where salt mines were located. There it took on a load of salt. When the traders reached the town of Walata at the edge of the desert, they transferred their salt and other goods from the camels to donkeys and porters. Then they continued south, passing through Ghana on their way to markets on the Gulf of Guinea, near the southern forests. The entire journey took about two months.

porter a person who is hired to carry loads
(Map Title)

Two North African Trade Routes, 400-1200 C.E.
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13.4 The Gold-Salt Trade

Many items were traded between North Africa and the southern forests, but the two that were most in demand were gold and salt. The North Africans wanted gold, which came from the forest region south of Ghana. The people in the forests wanted salt, which came from the Sahara. Ghana made most of its money from the taxes it charged on the gold-salt trade that passed through its lands.

Wangara: The Secret Source of Gold Gold has long been a symbol of wealth in much of the world. In the time of Ghana’s empire, people in Muslim lands and Italy made coins from gold. Muslims also needed gold to purchase silk and porcelain from China, which would accept only gold in exchange.

In an area known as Wangara, gold was plentiful. Wangara was located near the forests south of Ghana, but no one except the people of Wangara knew exactly where. The Wangarans kept the locations of their gold mines secret. According to ancient stories, merchants occasionally captured a gold miner and tried to force him to reveal the location of Wangara. The miners would give up their lives rather than reveal the secret.

In one story, after the capture of a miner, the Wangarans stopped trading for three years. They wanted to make sure no one had discovered where Wangara was. To this day, no one knows for certain exactly where Wangara’s mines were located.

Taghaza: A Village Built with Salt To West Africans, salt was more precious than gold. Their culture had little use for gold, except as an item for trade. But they craved salt, and for good reason. Salt is an important part of a person’s diet. When people and animals perspire (sweat), they lose salt in their perspiration. People who live in areas with hot climates, like West Africa, perspire a lot and must replace the salt they lose. West Africans also needed salt to keep their food from spoiling and to give to their cattle. In addition, they liked the taste.

West Africans had no local source of salt. They had to obtain it from Taghaza and other places in the Sahara Desert.

Salt was produced in two ways in the Sahara. One method was through evaporation. Water was poured into holes in the salty earth. The water slowly drew out the salt and then evaporated in the sun. The salt that remained was scooped out and packed into blocks. The second way to get salt was through mining. At Taghaza, salt deposits were

People in Italy and in Muslim lands used West African gold to make coins.

deposit a layer or mass of a material found in rock or in the ground
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found about three feet below the surface of the earth. Miners, who were slaves owned by Arab merchants, reached the salt by digging trenches and tunnels. Then they dug it out in large blocks.

If it weren’t for salt, Taghaza would not have existed. It was a dismal place, without crops or vegetation. People lived there for one purpose: to mine and sell salt. Even the houses and mosque were built with salt blocks. Trade caravans passed through Taghaza on their way through the Sahara. There they picked up salt to sell in Ghana and the southern forests. Because no food was produced in Taghaza, the miners had to rely on caravans to bring food, such as millet, camel steaks, and dates. If the caravans didn’t come, the miners starved.

Ghana’s System of Taxes Traders paid taxes to Ghana on all the goods they carried through the empire. Goods were taxed both when traders entered Ghana and when they left. Ghana charged one-sixth of an ounce of gold for each load of salt that came into the kingdom from the north. It then charged one-third of an ounce of gold for each load the traders took out of the kingdom to the south. The traders also paid taxes for carrying other types of goods. For every load of copper, they were charged five-eighths of an ounce of gold. They paid a little more than one ounce of gold per load of general merchandise.

The taxes enriched Ghana’s treasury. They also helped pay for armies that protected the kingdom and allowed the king to conquer other territories. Traders benefited as well because Ghana protected the trade routes from bandits who might rob the caravans.

In West Africa, salt is made by the evaporation of water in areas called salt flats. The salt is mined by digging it out in large blocks.
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13.5 The Exchange of Goods

When trade caravans entered Ghana, they brought their goods to the great marketplace in the capital city of Kumbi. From there, they headed to the southern forests to trade with the Wangarans.

Kumbi had the busiest market in West Africa. Many local craftspeople sold their goods there. Ironsmiths sold weapons and tools. Goldsmiths and coppersmiths sold jewelry. Weavers sold cloth, and leatherworkers sold leather goods. There were blue blouses from Spain and robes from Morocco. People could also buy cattle, sheep, honey, wheat, raisins, dried fruit, ivory, pearls, and slaves. All goods, including slaves, were paid for with gold dust.

Kumbi had one of the largest slave markets in West Africa. The slaves came from the southern border of Ghana. They were captured by raiders and brought to Kumbi to be sold. Many were bought by Arab merchants, who took them across the Sahara and sold them to North Africans or Europeans.

Trade with the Wangarans took place along a river in the southern forests. The traders carried out their business using a system of silent barter, or trade. The caravans arrived bringing wool, silk, cotton, dates, figs, grains, leather, and salt. They spread out their goods along the river. The traders beat on a drum to announce that they were making an offer to trade. Then they walked several miles away from the site.

When the Wangarans heard the drum, they traveled to the site by boat. They put some gold dust next to the goods, beat a drum, and left. Later, the traders returned. If the amount of gold dust was acceptable, they took it and left. If not, they went away again and waited for the Wangarans to return and leave more gold dust. The groups bargained back and forth this way without ever meeting in person until the trade was complete.

This system of silent barter had two advantages. First, it allowed people who spoke different languages to conduct trades. Second, it allowed the Wangarans to guard the secret of where their gold mines were located.

Even today, salt is an important trade item in West Africa.
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13.6 The Decline of Ghana and the Rise of Mali

Ghana’s empire reached its height around 1000 C.E. War and the loss of natural resources led to its downfall.

In the second half of the 11th century, Muslim warriors called Almoravids began attacking Ghana’s empire. In 1076, they captured the capital city of Kumbi. Ghana’s king regained power in 1087, but the old empire had broken apart.

The loss of natural resources further weakened Ghana. A growing population had put great stress on scarce resources like trees and water. Trees were cut down to provide charcoal for iron-smelting furnaces. Water became so scarce that farmers could no longer grow crops. People were forced to leave in search of better conditions. The empire came to an end in 1203 when a rival kingdom took over Kumbi.

The disappearance of Ghana opened the way to the rise of a new power, Mali. Around 1240, a group of West Africans called the Mande conquered Kumbi. Their homeland of Mali was south of Kumbi, closer to the Niger River. The Mande built an empire that reached from the Atlantic Ocean to beyond the Niger River, and from the southern forest to the salt and copper mines of the Sahara.

Like Ghana, Mali gained much of its wealth from the control of trade, particularly in gold. Its leaders had accepted Islam, and under their rule the Muslim faith became even more influential in West Africa. You will learn more about the impact of Islam on West African culture in the next chapter.
13.7 Chapter Summary

Trade played a key role in the growth of kingdoms and empires in West Africa. The first of these was Ghana.

Ghana had a powerful government and a strong army. It was ideally located to control the trans-Saharan trade between North Africa and the southern forests of West Africa.

Ghana became wealthy by charging taxes on the goods that passed through its lands, especially gold and salt. Years of war and the loss of natural resources led to Ghana’s downfall in the 13th century.

The next great West African empire, Mali, also built its wealth on trade. In the next chapter, you will learn about the impact of Islam on Mali and the rest of West Africa.

Natural resources such as water and trees are scarce in areas like the Sahel.
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Chapter 14

The Influence of Islam on West Africa

The Grande Mosque in Mopti, Mali, was built of bricks and mud.
14.1 Introduction

In the last chapter, you learned about the role of trade in the rise of Ghana and other West Africana kingdoms. Now you will explore how the Islamic faith influenced West African culture.

During the seventh century, Islam spread quickly through the Middle East and North Africa. In the eighth century, trans-Saharan trade brought Muslim merchants and traders to West Africa. Over the next few hundred years, Islam spread among West Africans. As you will see, both Mali and Songhai eventually accepted Islam. The new faith left a lasting mark on the culture of West Africa.

West Africans often blended Islamic culture with their own traditions. For example, West Africans who became Muslims began praying to God in Arabic. They built mosques as places of worship. Yet they also continued to pray to the spirits of their ancestors, as they had done for centuries.

Islamic beliefs and customs affected many areas of life besides religious faith. In this chapter, you will learn about the spread of Islam in West Africa. Then you will look at Islam’s influence on several aspects of West African culture. You’ll explore changes in religious practices, government and law, education, language, architecture, and decorative arts. You can still see the effects of these changes in West Africa today.

Use this spoke diagram as a graphic organizer to help you explore how Islam influenced the culture of West Africa.
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14.2 The Spread of Islam in West Africa

Trans-Saharan trade brought Islam to West Africa in the eighth century. At first, Muslim traders and merchants lived side by side with the non-Muslims of West Africa. Over time, however, Islam played a growing role in West African society.

Traders Bring Islam to Ghana Between 639 and 708 C.E., Arab Muslims conquered North Africa. Before long, they wanted to bring West Africa into the Islamic world. But sending armies to conquer Ghana was not practical. Ghana was too far away, and it was protected by the Sahara Desert.

Islam first reached Ghana through Muslim traders and missionaries. The king of Ghana did not convert to Islam. Nor did the majority of the people. But the king did allow Muslims to build settlements within his empire.

Many Muslim merchants and traders settled in Kumbi, the great marketplace of Ghana. Over time, a thriving Muslim community developed around the trans-Saharan trade with North Africa. The Muslims in Kumbi had 12 mosques and their own imam (spiritual leader). Scholars studied the Qur’an.

In the 11th century, Muslims from the north called the Almoravids waged jihad (holy war) in West Africa. In 1076, they captured Kumbi. The Almoravids did not stay in power long, but under their rule Islam became more widespread in Ghana.

Islam in Mali To the south of Ghana, the Mande also accepted Islam. The tolerance shown by Muslims toward traditional religious practices helped Islam to spread. For example, West Africans continued to pray to the spirits of their ancestors.

In about 1240, the Mande conquered Kumbi. They took control of the trade routes to North Africa and built the empire of Mali.

The early leaders of Mali accepted Islam, but they did not follow all of its teachings. In 1312, a new leader, Mansa Musa, took over in Mali. He became the first West African ruler to practice Islam devoutly.

Traders and the missionaries who accompanied them spread Islam to Ghana.
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Under his rule, Mali became a major crossroad of the Islamic world. Muslim merchants, traders, and scholars from Egypt and North Africa came to Mali to do business or to settle.

Like other Muslims, Musa made a hajj, or pilgrimage, to the sacred city of Makkah in Arabia. The hajj was an enormous undertaking. The trip would cover some 3,000 miles. Officials and servants started preparing for the trip months before Musa left. As many as 80,000 people may have accompanied Musa on the hajj.

Musa reached Cairo, Egypt, in July 1324, after eight months of travel. A writer from Cairo described Musa’s caravan as “a lavish display of power, wealth, and unprecedented by its size and pageantry.” Ahead of Musa arrived 500 slaves, each carrying a six-pound staff of gold. He was followed by a caravan of 200 camels carrying 30,000 pounds of gold along with food, clothing, and supplies.

In Cairo, Musa met the local sultan, or ruler. When he was asked to kneel before the sultan, Musa felt insulted. He was very proud of being the ruler of Mali. After Musa finally agreed to kneel, the sultan invited him to sit beside him as his equal.

After leaving Cairo, Musa traveled to Arabia to visit Makkah and Madinah. When word spread that the king of Mali was visiting, people lined the streets to see him. Musa’s wealth impressed the people and rulers of Arabia. He paid in gold for all the goods and services he received. He also gave expensive gifts to his hosts.

Because of Musa’s hajj, Mali gained acceptance as an important empire. By 1375, Mali appeared on a European map of West Africa.

Islam in Songhai One of the groups within Mali’s empire was the Songhai people. In the 1460s, the great warrior Sunni Ali became the new ruler of Songhai. He built a powerful army that enabled Songhai to break away from Mali and eventually conquer it.

The early rulers of Songhai did not seriously practice Islam. In the 1490s, Muslims in Songhai rebelled. They placed Askia Mohammed Toure, a devout Muslim, on the throne. Toure set up rigid controls to be sure Islam was practiced properly. He also led a series of wars to convert non-Muslims to Islam. Under his rule, Songhai’s empire covered a territory as large as western Europe.

The pilgrimage of Mansa Musa to Makkah was so impressive that European mapmakers produced this map of West Africa with his image prominently displayed.
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14.3 New Religious Practices

As Islam spread in West Africa, people adopted new religious practices and ethical values. African Muslims learned Islam’s Five Pillars of Faith. They prayed in Arabic, fasted, worshiped in mosques, went on pilgrimages, and gave alms. They were taught to regard all Muslims as part of a single community.

West Africans also began to celebrate Muslim religious festivals. The festival of Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Eid al-Adha commemorates a key event in the story of the prophet Abraham. As a test of faith, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. God spared the boy after Abraham proved his faith by being willing to offer his son to God.

Alongside these new customs, West Africans kept some of their old religious practices. Muslim leaders allowed them to continue religious traditions as long as they did not contradict the Five Pillars of Faith. So, for example, West African Muslims continued to show respect for the spirits of dead ancestors. They kept their belief in spirits who could help those who prayed to them or made sacrifices to them. They used

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