E. Napp Objective: To identify and explain the reasons for Ghana’s prosperity and power

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The West African Kingdom of Ghana

E. Napp

Objective: To identify and explain the reasons for Ghana’s prosperity and power
Do Now: Multiple-choice questions from previous lessons

1. Which practice is most closely associated with a person of the Islamic faith?

(1) refraining from eating meat on Fridays

(2) praying five times a day

(3) following the Eightfold Path

(4) worshipping many gods
2. One similarity between the Nile River valley and savanna lands in Africa is that they both

(1) served as major barriers to the movement of people and goods

(2) provided necessary resources for settlement

(3) are located on the western side of the continent

(4) had little effect on the lives of the people who lived in these regions
3. Where does the archaeological evidence gathered by Louis and Mary Leakey suggest the earliest humans developed?

(1) Great Rift Valley

(2) Amazon rain forest

(3) Himalaya Mountains

(4) Philippine archipelago

4 . . . . “One theory is that there were waves of migration, one moving through the east of Africa and another making its way through the centre of the continent. In Zambia, there is evidence of at least three routes of migration – from the great lakes, from the Congo forest and from Angola.” . . . Source: BBC, The Story of Africa: Early History

This passage about the early history of Africa describes migrations associated with which group of people?

(1) Phoenicians

(2) Bantu

(3) Moors

(4) Babylonians
5. One similarity between animism and Shinto is that people who follow these belief systems

(1) practice filial piety

(2) worship spirits in nature

(3) are monotheistic

(4) are required to make pilgrimages


List the great West African trading kingdoms: ________________________________

What did all three kingdoms maintain? ________________________________

What was the main export of the kingdoms?

What belief system influenced the kingdoms?


Who was Mansa Musa?


What did Mansa Musa do?


The African Trading Kingdoms consist of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai, all located in West Africa.  All three kingdoms maintained vast trading networks across the Sahara desert and into North Africa and the Middle East.  The main export was gold, which made each kingdom wealthy and strong, and provided them with the conditions necessary for cultural and intellectual achievement.

Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were all influenced by Islam to different degrees.  The kings of Ghana often had Islamic advisors, while Mali and Songhai established Islamic Empires after converting.  In Mali, the emperor Mansa Musa was famous for his pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the Five Pillars of Islam

~Adapted from regentsprep.org

Cornell Notes Outline: The West African Kingdom of Ghana (Add Key Words and Summaries)

The Key Words:

The Notes:

  1. The Sahara Desert

  1. Separates Africa into two parts

  1. North Africa

  2. Sub-Saharan Africa (south of the Sahara)

  1. Difficult to cross

  1. Europeans did not cross it

  2. North African nomads did

  1. Nomads exchanged salt for gold

  1. The West African Kingdom of Ghana

  1. 400 A.D. – 1076 A.D.

  2. Controlled important trade routes

  1. Trans-Saharan Trade

  1. Nomads crossed desert and exchanged salt for gold

  1. West Africans lacked salt

  2. Essential for survival

  1. Taxed traders entering and exiting Ghana

  1. Never owned gold fields

  2. Controlled trade routes

  1. Called the “Land of Gold”

  1. Wealth and power

  1. 200,000 soldiers in army

  2. Created peace in West Africa
  3. Did not conquer neighbors

  1. Collected tribute

  1. Collapse

  1. Muslim invaders from North Africa in 1076 A.D.

The Summaries:

Please read the passage below and answer the questions:

Much of North Africa is occupied by the Sahara Desert. Below the desert is savanna or grasslands. The Sahara acted as a barrier that separated the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa from the Mediterranean world and the rest of Eurasia. This isolation led sub-Saharan African tribes or ethnic groups to develop their own customs and beliefs. However, despite this separation, trade across the desert was never cut off completely. Merchants, traveling on camels able to go several days without water, crossed the Sahara.

While North Africa had abundant supplies of salt, West Africa lacked salt. Salt is vital for human survival. Merchants, moving in caravans across the desert, picked up large blocks of salt on their journey to exchange for gold. West Africa had abundant supplies of gold. A thriving trade developed that was based on this salt for gold trade.

  1. How did the Sahara desert affect the people of Africa? ________________________________________________________________________

  2. Why were sub-Saharan African tribes or ethnic groups somewhat isolated? ________________________________________________________________________

  3. Though the Sahara desert was a barrier, it was not a complete barrier. Why was the Sahara desert not a complete barrier? ________________________________________________________________________

  4. What did North African nomads have that greatly benefited them? How did it benefit them? ________________________________________________________________________

  5. What did West Africans lack? Why did they need it this commodity? ________________________________________________________________________

  6. Describe the Trans-Saharan trade. ________________________________________________________________________

While the West African kingdom of Ghana was founded around 400 A.D., it did not become an important center of trade until around 750 A.D. Ghana controlled all the important trade routes from the Sudan to North Africa. Early stories about Ghana called it “the land of gold”. However, Ghana never owned any gold fields. But Ghana did control the salt for gold trade. The gold actually came from a region near the Senegal River. People there had much gold but no salt and they needed salt to live. North African traders on camels carried salt and other goods to the people near the Senegal River. However, on traveling to the river and away from it, they had to pass through Kumbi, the largest city in Ghana. The government of Ghana taxed the traders each way. Both the North African and West African traders paid tribute or forced payments to the king of Ghana. With all of the money from trade, Ghana became one of the most powerful empires in the world. Taxes from trade filled the king’s treasury. With all this money, the king could keep as many as 200,000 soldiers. Ghana’s large army gave it great power. With this power, Ghana created peace in West Africa and made trade safe. Yet, in 1076 A.D., Ghana was invaded by Muslims from North Africa. In time, Ghana defeated the Almoravids, the Muslim invaders, but never fully recovered from the invasion.
  1. Why was Ghana called the “land of gold” if it had no gold?


  1. How did Ghana maintain power and how did Ghana lose power?


Word Bank:












For years, the Sahara was an obstacle for Europeans while Africans used the desert as a highway. Which conclusion is supported by this statement?

(1) Trade between Africa and Europe decreased.

(2) African empires generally avoided contact with Europeans.

(3) Desertification reduced the amount of arable land.

(4) Initially, Europeans lacked the knowledge and skills needed to travel in the desert.

Which economic activity was the basis for most of the wealth and power of the West African empires of Ghana and Mali?

(1) hunting and gathering

(2) farming and cattle ranching

(3) trading in salt and gold

(4) working in bronze and brass

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