oa Africa Insight - Old Ghana

Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-2804



Between 1000 BC and 1500 AD a great era of civilization unfolded in west Africa. Dozens of small states grew slowly into empires, producing great works of art and sophisticated political organizations. Some of these wealthy empires covered vast territories and lasted for centuries. The greatest of these civilizations - Ghana, Mali, Songhai and Kanem-Bornu - were glowing achievements of a black African civilization that covered more than half the continent. By about 500 BC the Sahara had already become a desert. This resulted in the migration of the Negroes from the area to the border areas and the oases. Contact between these Negroes and the Berbers of the north was therefore only sporadic. But once the camel was introduced as transport in north Africa in the second century BC, contact between the two groups became more regular. The caravans of the Tuareg and Berber traders carried salt from the northern cities of Cairo, Tripoli, Tunis, Tlemcen and Fez to centres such as Marrakesh, Sijilmasa, Toeat, Ghat, Moerzoek, Taghaza and Taodeni in the Sahara and Awdaghost, Walata, Timbuktu, Jenne and Kano in West Africa. Their salt was traded for the gold of the south, ivory, manufactures in bronze, silver and wood, woven materials, agricultural products and slaves.

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