West African Kingdoms

West African Kingdoms
Ghana, Mali, & Songhai
Early Influences
• Bantu people are the root of most kingdoms
in Africa (excluding Egypt)
– Originally lived in the savanna south of the
Sahara (now part of Nigeria)
– They were a group of different peoples who
shared cultural characteristics
– They were farmers, nomadic herders, and were
skilled at ironworking
Bantu Migration
Bantu Migration, cont.
• Bantu Migration: 2000+ years ago, small
groups of Bantu speakers began moving to
the southern and eastern regions of Africa
• Migration: a permanent move from one
country or region to another
• Slash & Burn farming: a farming method in
which people clear fields by cutting and
burning trees, the ashes of which serve to
fertilize the soil
Slash and Burn Farming
Importance of Bantu Migration
Causes of Bantu Migration
Effects of Bantu Migration
-increased food production
-other peoples pushed out
-increased population density
-territorial wars
-lack of sufficient land
-ideas and languages exchanged &
ethnic groups intermingled
• The Bantu Migration strongly influenced the
development of African culture!
– Migration created many tribes, some of which
turned into powerful kingdoms
Terms in Traditional African Societies
• Extended family: more than the nuclear family (mom, dad,
kids)… grandparents or other relatives living in the home
• Clan: a group of related extended families who descended
from a common ancestor
• Tribe: a group of related clans
• Lineage: the line of descendents of a particular ancestor; feel
strong sense of loyalty to each other
• Patrilineal: ancestors are traced through father’s side
(inheritance passes from father to son)
• Matrilineal: ancestors are traced through mother’s side
(inheritance passes from mother’s family to son)
West African Kingdoms
• The Main Idea:
– West Africa contained several rich and
powerful kingdoms: Ghana, Mali, and Songhai.
For the next 1000 years, these kingdoms
dominated West Africa and led to an exchange
of ideas, the rise of cities, and increased
• Why It Matters Now:
– These civilizations demonstrate the richness of
African culture before European colonization
West African Kingdoms: Overview
Time Period:
Goods Traded:
Key facts:
A.D. 400-1200
A.D. 1250-1450
A.D. 1464-1600
Iron products,
animal products,
gold, salt
Gold and salt
Gold and salt
Ghana traded
gold for salt
from the
Saharan salt
Mansa Musa doubled
Songhai gained
the size of the
control of trade in
kingdom and created West Africa with the
a Muslim center for conquest of Timbuktu
Importance of Gold & Salt
• Gold & salt = two most important trade items!
• Gold was luxurious and salt was necessary to live!
• Salt was not found in Ghana, but was found to
the north in the Sahara desert
• Ghana became VERY rich by controlling trade
routes and taxing all traders (Gold-Salt Trade)
• Trade increased when traders started using camel
caravans loaded down with salt
Camel Caravan
Kingdom of Ghana, 400-1200
• 400: Ghana unites an area between the Niger and
Senegal Rivers
• Gained control of West Africa’s main trade routes
• King taxed all trade passing through the region, especially
salt and gold
• Tax money financed strong armies and a cavalry
• Made iron swords, spears, and lances
• 1076: invaded by Muslims from North Africa
• Lasted until 1200
Kingdom of Mali, 1240-1400
• 1240: people of Mali conquer the old capital of Ghana and
founded a new empire
• Rulers took control of the gold and salt mines
• Most famous ruler is Mansa Musa, who converts to Islam,
makes a hajj to Mecca, and brings many Muslim scholars &
architects to back Mali
• Timbuktu became a trading & educational center (attracted
students from Europe, Asia, and other parts of Africa)
• Many West Africans learned to read and write
• Arab traveler Ibn Battuta impressed by Mali’s wealth &
organization; writes about Mali & makes it famous
• Kingdom collapses in the 1400’s
Kingdom of Songhai, 1464-1600
• 1464: Sunni Ali, ruler of Songhai people, captured Timbuktu and
took control of the Niger River
• He expands the kingdom and it becomes the largest trading area of
West Africa
• Established an elaborate system of taxation and communication to
govern the large kingdom
• Timbuktu remained a Muslim center for learning
• 1591: Morocco’s ruler heard of Songhai’s riches and invaded the
• Moroccans had gunpowder and muskets to defeat the Songhai who
only had spears and arrows
• Morocco cannot control the large territory and it breaks up into
smaller, independent areas