The Rise of West African Empires (300-1324) - Ghana
Standards: 7.4.2
  • Analyze the importance of family, labor specialization, and regional commerce in the development of states and cities in West Africa.

Key Terms and People

oral history: account of something passed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next

labor specialization: division of jobs and skills

revenue: income earned by the government from taxes or other sources

Section Notes

The Rise of Ghana

  • Ironworking Technology: Iron weapons and tools were sharper and stronger, made farming easier. Populations and food supplies increased this lead to a need for organized government.
  • Ancient Ghana was founded by the Soninke people around A.D. 300. Their superior steel weapons allowed them to take power over their nighbors; their nighbors still used wooden clubs. Labor specialization took place since less people had to work to grow food. The Sisse clan focused on government, other clans specialized in fishing, cloth making, or cattle raising.

The Gold and Salt Trade (p.134)

  • Trans-Sahara Trade: Based on gold and salt (salt makes food taste better and it's needed for good health). North Africa had salt, steel swards, copper, silks, (Islam); West Africa had gold, ivory, local crafts, precious woods, enslaved people. Islam spread along trade routes.
  • Silent Barter: Trading without talking. One group placed their goods in a trading area and left. Then, the next group would come and leave gold to trade with the first group. This would continue until both sides were happy. Finally, they would leave with the other group's goods.
  • Wealthy Rulers: The kings of Ghana grew rich from the trade. They received revenue from two sources, taxes on trade, and a rule that only made it possible for the king to own gold nuggets. This rule limited the gold supply which kept gold's price high.
  • Islam in Ghana: in 1076 the Almoravids, from North Africa, invaded Ghana and captured the capitol. The leaders of Ghana converted to Islam.

Summary: The developement of ironworking in West Africa helped give rise to the empire of Ghana. Trade in gold and salt contributed to the wealth of the empire.

Study Guide Questions

How did increased food supplies benefit Ghana?

Why did the ruler of Ghana limit the gold supply?

Why was ironworking an important skill in ancient times?

How did ironworking help the Soninke establish their empire?

Why was salt so important to West Africa?

How did the various resources and needs of people in different zones influence trade in Africa?

Practice Test

Homework: Choose one
  1. Workbook Chapter 5 Section 2 (Page 63)
  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).