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Created with Fabric.js 1.4.5 Manon De VosGlobal ThemesRogers Period 6 The Trade Routes The traders swapped gold for salt and other goods without ever meeting face to face. Thetraders from the North would pile their saltalong the Niger river for the gold traders ofthe Wangara (forest region of Africa) to inspect.The trading could begin when the sound ofdrumbeats was heard, and the traders would runaway and disappear from sight several milesaway. The secretive traders of the Wangarawould come quietly, inspect the salt, and placebags of gold dust next to each pile of salt beforeleaving again. Later, the Northern traders wouldreturn and if the amount of gold was acceptable,they would take the gold and leave. If it was notacceptable, this process would continue untileach side was satisfied. Throughout this wholeprocess, the traders of each side never saw eachother, hence the name of the "silent" barter. The Journey of Salt in West Africa Many early trade routes and many of the first roadswere establised in order to transport salt. Salt wasvery valuable because of its many uses. Salt is usedto flavor and preserve food. It was an important dietarysupplement in hot, dry climates because it preventeddehydration in humans and animals. Many ancientcivilizations, such as the Kingdom of Ghana, imposedheavy taxes on salt. Salt was so valuable that it wastraded ounce for ounce for gold. Coins made of saltwere found in ancient China. Also, in the Mediterranean regions, salt cakes were used as a form of money. Rise of the Mali Empire As the Islam religion spread across North Africain the 7th century, Trans-Saharan trade was dramatically increased. Strategically sited towns became major centers of commerce as the market expanded and merchants from different lands were welcomed. In the 8th and 9th centuries, Arab merchants bought gold from the Berbers in southern Moroccan towns such as Sijilmasa and they financed more caravans. As a result of this, trade was increased and these commercial transactions encouraged the conversion of the Berbers to the Islam religion. Also, during the12th and 13th centuries, Timbuktu became acenter of great wealth and for Islamic Study, in which scholars from Persia would travel to the oasis of Timbuktu. The rock-salt of the Sahara is what remains from the inland seas, which were once in the region.Two main salt mines in West Africa includes the Taghaza salt mine and the Taoudenni salt mine.In the salt mines several hundred men worked,chipping away at the ground underneath theEarth in what was known as musty, salt-chokedcaves. These men were usually indenturedslaves and it was hard work to extract theselarge blocks of salt under the blazing sun. Oncethe salt was cut from the mine, slabs would beloaded onto the camel caravans. Spread of Islam Religion The Silent Barter The Salt Mines The camel trade routes that were establishedthroughout West Africa and the Sahara Desertlinked African cities with Europe and the Middle East. There were several major trade routes for salt,one of which includes Timbuktu, a resting pointfor those emerging from the desert, or heading into it.The trade route containing Timbuktu connected Timbuktu with Europe, southern Africa, and Europe.Along the trade routes, experienced guides, or highly paid Berbers, who knew the desert and could ensure safe passage would lead the caravans. The averagesize per caravan was 1,000 camels and the goods,which sometimes traveled 1,200 miles from one endof the trade route, rarely went in a single caravan forthe whole distance. The goods are unloaded andpacked onto new transport along the way. Along theroute travelers had to endure the heat and sands ofthe desert. For some, the journey, which was sometimes nearly 2 weeks, seemed endless, but for some Muslims, the journey was seen as a spiritual journey, in which one can grow spiritually closer to God. The Value of Salt Rise of the Ghana Empire Ghana controlled the trade between the kingdomsto the north and the kingdoms to the south. Whenall of the camel trains and caravans arrived in theKingdom of Ghana, the kingdom expanded theircontrol to include trade with the foreigners. Theytraded gold for spices and other luxury goods, inaddition to salt. Traders knew that once they wereinside the territory of ancient Ghana, the traderoutes would be well guarded and they could travelsafely. The King of Ghana controlled the tradingthrough taxation, especially the trade concerningthe import of salt from north of the Sahara for theexport of gold from Ghana. As more traders traveledthrough the Trans-Saharan Trade Routes, the Kingdom of Ghana flourished, allowing Ghana andother West African kindoms to be known as TheGold Coast because of their newly acquired wealth. Salt played a key role in the history of West Africa,especially from the 13th through 16th centuries in thetrading empire of Mali. This famous city was thekey-trading center for the gold-salt trade untilPortuguese trading ships proved that they were betterto use for the economy. Ghana continued to have a lotof power until the mid 1200s. It started losing powerwhen Muslim raiders began to attack several areasacross the empire to try to convert as many peopleto Islam as possible and to gain control of thegold-salt trade. The fight against the Muslims wenton for more than 30 years and the empire began tocrumble as smaller provinces were created. However,unlike Ghana, Mali was a Muslim kingdom, so despitethe political challenges, the trade of salt and goldcontinued. Mali controlled the gold and salt trade from1200 to 1500 AD. At its height during the 14th century,Mali was a larger kingdom than all of Europe. Under Mansa Musa's rule, Mali expanded over major citiesalong the trade routes, such as Timbuktu, Gao, andDjenne, which became important trading centers andfabled centers of wealth, culture, and learning. As early as 300 CE, because of the availability of camels,Berber-speaking people began crossing the Sahara Desert.Starting in the 8th century, annual trade caravans startedto follow these desert trade routes. When the salt that wasbrought from different mines in the Sahara Desert arrives inTimbuktu, it is passed onto local merchants and distributedto trading centers along the Niger River. The salt that wasbrought down from the Sahara was usually traded for gold,which was mined in the forests of Guinea and carrieddownstream to the markets along the Niger River indugout canoes. The largest salt market in West Africa isthe river town of Mopti. There the salt blocks are cut intosmaller slabs and sold throughout West Africa.
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