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Copy of Medieval West African Trading Empires
Transcript of Copy of Medieval West African Trading Empires
West Africa Sub-Saharan Africa is the part of Africa that is south of the Sahara Desert. The Sahel The Savannah The Niger provided water for farming,
fishing, trade, and travel. West African civilizations grew up along the Niger River. For thousands of years, many African trade products have come from its natural resources, or products of nature that have economic value. The peoples who settled Africa's desert (salt), savannah, (crops), and rainforest (gold) had different resources. The most important trans-Sahara trade, though,
included gold and salt. By 350 BC, West Africans were working
with iron in a place called Nok. By the 700s, North Africans were crossing
the Sahara to trade with West Africa. North Africans sought gold and West Africans needed salt. Gold and salt were exchanged through a process known as silent barter. For centuries, Ghana's rulers welcomed North African traders but, for the most part, did not adopt their religion, Islam. Mali's most famous Muslim ruler was the great-grandson
of Sundiata, Mansa Musa. "Mansa" means king. "Musa"
is Arabic for "Moses". Roughly translated, Mansa Musa means "King Moses". During Musa's reign, Timbuktu became the center for Islamic scholarship, or formal study and learning. Unlike Ghana, however, Mali adopted the religion of Islam. This conversion led to closer ties and more trans-Saharan trade with Muslim North Africa. It also influenced the culture and customs
of Mali. Arabic now became the language of both trade and worship. In the 1400s, the Empire of Mali eventually weakened as
a result of revolts by kingdoms seeking their independence.
In 1464, the Muslim leader Sunni Ali Ber became
ruler of the Songhai Empire. For centuries, Islam influenced life in West Africa. In West Africa, people shared a strong sense of kinship, or connections based on family relationships. West African families lived clustered in towns and villages. In the rural villages, families spoke the languages
of their ancestors and worshiped ancient gods. Until the arrival Arab traders, West Africa had no written language. Families also shared folk tales at home. West Africans created unique music, dance, and art. Music filled West African's lives. The most widely used instruments were drums. African drummers created polyrhythmic drum music, in which
two or more rhythms were played
at the same time. Another important art form was dance. The legacy of the empires
of Ghana, Mali, Songhai is
still evident in Africa. The trans-Saharan caravan trade with Muslim North Africa changed West Africa forever. The Rainforest Niger River The sahel is a fairly fertile land with limited rainfall located on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert The savannah is a broad grassland with scattered trees and wet and dry seasons. It has large herds of animals and is located to the south of the sahel. The rainforest has towering trees, dense leaves, and clinging vines.
It is hot and wet year round. This steamy jungle is located south
of the savannah Sahara Desert As the main river in West Africa, it was a reliable source of water in an otherwise dry land. Africa is rich in minerals. Agricultural products (crops) and enslaved people were other valuable resources that were traded. Other valuable minerals that were traded included copper, iron, diamonds, and salt. The most prized West African mineral is gold. Having different resources and different needs encouraged trade among these regions. They also had different needs. Whoever controlled the trans-Sahara gold-salt trade would become rich and powerful. North Africans brought large blocks of salt from mines in the Sahara to West Africa to exchange
for gold. North Africans needed gold. It was the basis of their currency. West Africans were rich in gold, but they needed salt. With increased food production developed from iron tools and increased military power developed from iron weapons, the Soninke eventually founded a kingdom
there which grew into the
Empire of Ghana. When Ghana gained control of the gold-salt trade, Ghana's kings grew rich from its exchange. Also, tax on trade created revenue,
or money to run the government. However, a Muslim religious
group in North Africa known
as the Almoravids, invaded Ghana and captured the capital. The leaders of Ghana were pressured to convert to Islam. In 1324, Musa made a hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.
Along the way, he so impressed others with the
wealth of Mali that its trade increased considerably. Meanwhile, the Songhai kingdom to the east was gaining strength and eventually became the power in the region. In 1493, a devout Muslim, Askia Muhammad, took power.
He set out to conquer new lands & spread Islam even farther. In the busy markets of the cities, where the economy was based on trade, people spoke Arabic and bought and sold goods, often from distant lands, using cowrie shells or sometimes, gold. In urban centers - towns
and cities - Arabic was the
main language of trade
and worship (Islam). Village economies were based on producing food Instead, West Africans used oral history, poetry, folk tales, and proverbs to teach and entertain. Griots, professional storytellers
and oral historians, used their
talents to encourage rulers to
rule justly, but their main job
was to pass on the history of
their people. Others, such as the popular tales of
Anansi the Spider, used animals to
teach young people right from wrong. Some involved heroes and hunters. They often acted out stories of gods and ancestors. Dancers performed at festivals and celebrated births and marriages. They also performed at funerals. Dancers worked out complex movements
to match the drummers' polyrhythms. This was due, mostly, to the fact that many West Africans were sold into slavery around the world. The rich traditions they brought with them took root wherever they went. The introduction of the religion of Islam and the language of Arabic affected so many aspects of West African civilization. Their effects can be seen in the culture of West Africa even today. Cities Villages religion: Islam local religions language: Arabic local languages economy: based on trade based on farming Because ancient West Africans had no written records, historians had to rely mainly on oral history and archeology for information about the first West African trading empire, the Empire of Ghana. Oral history is an account
of something passed down
by word of mouth from one
generation to another. Chapter 5 Section 2 Africa, the second largest continent, is a highland area of fairly flat land called a plateau. As food supplies increased in Ghana, not everyone needed to grow crops. Their arrival would change West African civilization greatly. The North African traders were Muslims who spoke Arabic. Although many foods and goods were traded, trans-Saharan trade was based on two main products:
gold and salt Ghana never reestablished its prosperity after the fierce Almoravid invasion.
The Empire of Ghana was ending. After the empire of Ghana fell,
the kingdoms that made up the
empire competed for power.
In about 1203, a leader named
Sumanguru, the "Sorcerer King,"
took over what was left of Ghana. Sumanguru was said to
have been a cruel ruler,
and in 1235, a Malinke
leader and his forces
rose up to challenge him. With the many bags of gold that he brought for the trip he spent and gave away so much in Cairo that two things happened. He had to borrow money to finish his hajj, and his spending upset the economy of Egypt for years. When the supply of gold suddenly increased in Cairo, gold lost most of its value. The result was inflation, or a general rise in prices. Mansa Musa also spent his money at home. Much of it went to encourage Islamic learning. Mansa Musa ruled Mali for 25 years.
During his reign, Mali prospered
and its territory extended north
and westward to the Atlantic Ocean. Timbuktu, in Mali, became the center for Islamic scholarship, or formal study and learning. From his hajj, he brought back Muslim scholars, artists, architects, and teachers to Mali. He had mosques, schools, and palaces built. Along the southern edge of the Sahara is a fairly fertile region called the Sahel. Few people live in this region due to the limited rainfall and occasional droughts, or long periods of time with little or no rain. Most of northern Africa is covered by the Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world. Apart from the desert, West Africa is divided into three vegetation zones: Rainforest Savannah Sahel The river itself provides water for fishing. It also offers a reliable route for trade and travel across West Africa. The soil along its banks provides fertile land for farming. The division of jobs and skills in a society is known as labor specialization. Some people began to specialize in other kinds of jobs. Their religion and language
would eventually be adopted
by many West Africans. This leader was Sundiata,
the "Hungering Lion." Sundiata's forces defeated
Sumanguru's and the new
Empire of Mali was born. Sundiata reestablished control over the gold-salt trade, and he encouraged his people to clear more land for farming. By the 1300s, Mali covered an area about the size of Western Europe. Like Ghana, Mali controlled the gold-salt trade. Unlike Ghana, however, Mali adopted the religion of Islam. As time went on, Islam's
influence in West Africa
grew. Mali's conversion to Islam led to closer ties
and more trans-Saharan trade with Muslim
North Africa. Arabic now became
the language of both
trade and worship. Mali had become a world
power that traded with
North Africa and
southern Europe. North Africa In the 1350s, Ibn Battuta visited Mali and described it as a peaceful and prosperous
empire. He was impressed by the positive
impact that Islam had on the empire. He extended Songhai's reach along the Great Bend of the Niger River. When he conquered the cities of Timbuktu and Djenne, Songhai dominated the trans-Saharan trading routes. Later rulers conquered more territory, making Songhai the largest of the West African trading empires. Although some described him as a tyrant, a cruel ruler who uses his powers without limits, others praised his leadership abilities. Being a devout Muslim, he made a pilgrimage
to Mecca. On his return, he attacked the Mossi
who lived south of Songhai. His efforts to convert
them to Islam failed and they remained independent
of Songhai. Other efforts to expand the empire,
however, were more successful. Within Songhai, Askia Muhammad spent money to support Islamic studies. Timbuktu, once again, became the leading center for Islamic learning in West Africa. Chapter 6 Section 2 Large families formed lineages, or groups of people who are related to a common ancestor. Beyond that level, several villages united into larger ethnic groups, or groups that shared a distinct culture, language, & identity. Several closely related clans lived together in a village. In turn, each lineage was part of a clan, or larger group of related families. Ethnic Group Clan Lineage Family The basic social unit of West African society was the family. Village The Emperor was the highest ranked person in the social structure. Nobles, some of whom helped the emperor govern the country and lead armies, came next. Because they played valuable roles in West African society, Traders and free townspeople were next. They ran the businesses and farms of the empire. Next, came Skilled Workers who specialized in certain jobs. At the bottom of the caste system were Enslaved People. West Africa's Caste System Emperor Nobles Traders and free townspeople Slaves Skilled Workers Slaves came from groups defeated in wars,
and others were born into slavery. In West Africa, a person's caste, or social rank, was fixed at birth. They did have some rights, however:
They were protected from
harsh punishment They traded the things they produced for things
they needed at local markets. West African rulers supported trade in many ways. A system of standard weights
and measures was used
to make trading fair. Chapter 6 Section 3 Another way they use to transmit wisdom was the proverb, or wise saying. One example is: "It takes a village to raise a child." West African art took many forms. Art provided a way for emperors to show off their wealth and power and for artists to record events and people. Sculptures and masks were
the favored forms of art.
in religious ceremonies. Masks of gods & ancestors
were often worn by dancers. West African culture has spread to other nations around the world. Millions still speak the languages of Mali and Songhai, as well as, Arabic. Islam is still a major influence
along with traditional religions. The sense of kinship is still important, and the market and farming are still key parts of the West African economy. Griots still sing about kings,
and musicians still play
complex rhythms. Chapter 5 Section 3 Chapter 6 Section 1 Chapter 5 Section 1 Arabic had now, more than ever,
become the language of both
trade and worship. Songhai's laws were based on Islamic law (the Sharia), so naturally, they were written in Arabic. Songhai's scholars learned Arabic, copied old
manuscripts, and wrote new books in Arabic. In 1591, Moroccan soldiers equipped with guns began invasions of Timbuktu and other Songhai cities. The empire of Songhai
collapsed and its cities
fell to ruins. Musa's procession was reported to have included 60,000 men, including 12,000 slaves who all carried 4-lb. gold bars.
He also had servants dressed in silks
who carried gold staffs, organized
the horses, and the handled bags. Also in the train were 80 camels, which varying reports claim carried between 50 and 300 pounds of gold dust each. He gave away the gold to the poor he met along his route. Musa not only gave to the cities he passed on the way to Mecca, including Cairo and Medina, but also traded gold for souvenirs. Furthermore, it has been recorded that he built a mosque each and every Friday. All this was accomplished because Mansa Musa is the richest man in history. He is said to have amassed a fortune of just over $400 billion. And, they could earn money
to buy their freedom. Families could not be
separated. They could marry. Officials inspected the markets
to guarantee honest trading. Songhai used its army to protect trade routes. "Anansi Tries to Steal all the Wisdom of the World." Search: Musa provided all necessities for the procession, feeding the entire company
of men and animals.