African Civilizations – Summary

12 December 2016

Bantu people also stayed in West Africa. For instance, there were certainly people living at Djenne-Djeno, in modern Mali, far up the Niger river in West Africa, around 250 BC. By 300 AD, the men and women of Djenne-Djeno were trading along the Niger river with other West African communities to get iron and good stone to make grindstones. They buried dead people in tall pots that stood in between their houses. By 500 AD, there were about 20,000 people living in Djenne-Djeno in West Africa, more than in most European towns of that time. There were also smaller towns around the main town.

They kept on working iron, and by now were also working copper, which came more than 1000 kilometers (about 600 miles) to get to Djenne-Djeno. They sold their pottery up and down the Niger river as far as 750 kilometers (450 miles) away. Mali began as one of the districts in the Kingdom of Ghana. Around 1230 CE, Ghana collapsed and Mali took over. In time, they grew to be larger than Ghana! The new king, Sundiata, was young and clever. He was a very good king. One of the first things he did, when he became king after Ghana collapsed, was to restore trade with the neighbors. He recognized that trade was critical to Mali’s survival and growth.

African Civilizations – Summary Essay Example

He expanded Mali so that Mali controlled some of the gold mines to the south and some of the salt mines in the north. His son Wali continued his good works, and expanded the borders of the empire even more. His grandson, Mansa Musa, has intrigued people for hundreds of years. His adventures are legendary! Mansa Musa loved knowledge and poetry. Under the direction of Mansa Musa, a university was built at Timbuktu, a city on the Trans-Sahara Trade Route, in ancient Mali. This university became a famous center of learning. People came from all over to study there. The various kingdoms in West Africa made very good trading partners.

They each had something the other wanted. The north had salt. The south had gold. Ghana was in the middle. Ghana handled the trades. Trades were even, ounce for ounce – an ounce of gold for an ounce of salt. Both sides – north and south – paid Ghana a tribute to handle the trades. Although Ghana never owned gold and salt mines, they controlled the trade between the kingdoms to the north and the kingdoms to the south. Ghana Gets Rich: With the arrival of camel trains, the caravans, the Kingdom of Ghana expanded their control to include trade with the foreigners. They traded gold for spices and other uxury goods as well as salt. The King of Ghana was a very wise man. He did three things that he felt would protect his people. #1: Tax: The first thing the king did was charge a tax (a tribute, a tariff) on all people entering and leaving Ghana. This tax was paid in salt, iron, peacock feathers, fine silk, spices, and other luxury goods. In exchange, Ghana warriors kept the trade routes open and protected from raiders. As long as the traders paid the tax, traders could pass in peace. It was the tax that made Ghana rich. | | #2: The System of Silent Barter: The king established a system of silent barter.

Rather than meet and argue a price, gold would be left at a special place for the traders to take. If ample goods were not left in exchange, all trade ceased. The traders of Ghana did not speak the language of many of the new traders who crossed the Sahara via the Trans-Sahara Trade Routes. This system of silent barter worked very well. Traders were afraid to leave too little. They knew Ghana would stop trading. If anything, they left more than they normally would, to keep relations good and trade flowing. #3: A Second City:  The King of Ghana did not wish traders to enter his city on a routine basis or in an uncontrolled manner.

To protect his people, he built a second city for the traders located about 6 miles from the main capital. The capital remained a city for the king and his people. The other, the new part of the city, was reserved for Moslem traders, merchants, and foreigners. This system worked very well. It allowed the people of Ghana to continue to worship in a way that was familiar and comfortable to them. It encouraged the traders to worship in their way, in the many mosques they built in the new city. The people of Ghana had a huge army. But they really didn’t want trouble. They wanted their life to continue as it always had, only more comfortably.

The king wanted to conduct public prayer in the big open plazas of his city. The people in the villages wanted to hear the griots, the storytellers, telling the stories they loved so much about Anansi the Spider. All people, common and noble, wanted to dance at the festivals in the masks they  loved to make and wear, accompanied by the drums for which they were famous. The Gold Coast: As more and more traders braved the Trans-Sahara Trade Routes, bringing spices and silks to Ghana, and taking gold in trade, the Kingdom of Ghana flourished. Ghana and other West African kingdoms soon became known as The Gold Coast. |

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