I. Prehistoric Times > M. Later Old World Prehistory (3000 B.C.E. and Afterward) > 3. Later African Prehistory > b. West African States
  PREVIOUS NEXT  
CONTENTS · SUBJECT INDEX · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
b. West African States
 
The Roman colonies in North Africa were in constant conflict with the Berber nomads of the desert. But they never opened regular trading routes across the Sahara with the black people who lived on its southern margins. By the time the Arabs conquered North Africa in the 7th century C.E., camel caravans were crossing the desert regularly, bringing West African gold to the north in exchange for cake salt, mined in the heart of the Sahara. Salt was so prized by the salt-starved West Africans that they sometimes paid for it in its equivalent weight of gold.  1
In the 7th century C.E., small towns devoted to the gold and salt trade ruled by entrepreneurial African chiefs dotted the southern margins of the western Sahara. The most important was the Kingdom of Ghana, which flourished well before the 8th century C.E. Ghana started as a network of smaller chiefdoms and rose to prominence because it controlled gold sources near the Senegal River. This state, and its successors, came into being as a result of both indigenous cultural developments and because of links with the growing web of relations that was drawing the western Sudan into a much wider commercial and political world.  2
West Africa came into contact with Islamic merchants and religious reformists in the 11th century C.E. Islamic forces captured Ghana in 1076, and the kingdom soon dissolved into its constituent parts. From this time onward, the savanna regions south of the Sahara were part of the vast caravan routes that linked the Islamic world. Later, West African states such as Mali and Songhay were ruled by Islamic kings and were familiar to Arab geographers.  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.

CONTENTS · SUBJECT INDEX · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUS NEXT