The Rise of West African Empires (300-1324) - Sub-Saharan Africa
Standards: 7.6.1
  • Study the Niger River and the relationship of vegetation zones of forest, savannah, and desert to trade in gold, salt, food, and slaves; and the growth of the Ghana and Mali empires.
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Sub-Saharan Africa

Key Terms and People

sub-Saharan: of the part of Africa that lies south of the Sahara

plateau: highland area of fairly flat land

savannah: broad grassland with scattered trees

natural resource: product of nature that has economic value


Section Notes

The African Landscape

  • Africa is: 2nd-largest continent in the world, more than triple the area of the U.S., is a place of extremes, from sandy desert to lush tropical rain forest.
  • An Unusual Continent: most of Africa is a large plateau, steep drop on the coast made inland boat travel difficult. Africa's coastline is smooth.
  • A Vast Desert: Most of northern Africa is coverd by the world's largest desert, the Sahara.
  • The Sahel: fertile region along the southern edge of the Sahara, can grow crops and raise animals there, subject to droughts.
  • Vegetation Zones (p.129): South of the Sahara lie different vegetation zones, tropical savannah (Sahel), rain forest along the Equator
  • The Niger River: the main river of West Africa, supported civilization becuase it was a reliable source of water in a dry region, route for trade,

Africa's Natural Resources

  • rich in minerals, Gold from west Africa, copper, iron, diamonds, salt, plants (crops), slaves


Summary: The land south of the Sahara features broad grasslands, rain forests, and farmland along the Niger River. The area is rich in natural resources.

Study Guide Questions

What is the Sahel?

What were Africa's valued mineral resources?

What are the three vegetation zones found in West Africa?

How do vegitation and climate in the savannah differ from that in the rain forest?

What types of natural resources were found in West Africa?

How did those resources affect the region's history?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 5 Section 1 (Page 60)
  2. Answer three of the study guide questions using complete sentences.
  3. Draw a picture of something important from this section and summarize this section of the text (three sentences minimum).