The Kingdom of Ghana

By: Caroline Dail, Maddy Shamburger, Kyle Schaefers

Topography of Ghana

Ghana is located in the upper Niger River valley, a grassland region between the sahara and the tropical forest along the east african coast. Ghana is in the so-called “hump” of africa that juts into the Atlantic. Here the Sahara gradually gives way to the grasslands in the interior and to the tropical jungles along the coast. The heartland of the state was located near one of the richest gold-producing areas in all of Africa.

Economic Activity

Began as fortified villages and slowly grew into larger communities. They were government and trade centers, with markets filled with goods from faraway regions. First great trading state with West Africa, emerged in 500 AD. Most people in the area were farmers living in villages under th authority of a local ruler. People lived off the land for centuries. Prospered from their abundant supply iron ore and gold. So the blacksmiths of Ghana were valued because of their ability to make weapons out of the abundant amount of iron. The gold made it the center of an enormous trade empire. Villages make up the kingdom. They had plenty to eat. The Niger River ran through ancient Ghana. The river provided water for bathing and washing. There were ample fish and waterfowl to eat. The people also farmed. They grew sweet potatoes and other vegetables. No one went hungry in ancient Ghana. They were creative people. Their artists wove cotton fabrics. They designed these fabrics by painting wet mud on woven cloth, and then placing the fabric in the sun to dry. This created a permanent design in the cloth. It was very clever and very unique.

Trade

They exported ivory, hides, and slaves to Mediterranean markets. They traded their abundant gold for products for metal goods, textiles, horses, and salt. Trade was transported by camels, Berbers, nomadic people whose camel caravans became known as the “fleets of the desert” carried much of the trade across the desert.

Government

Kings of Ghana were strong rulers who governed without written laws. It played active roles in running the kingdom, and their wealth was vast. They relied on a well-trained regular army of thousands of men. Kings prospered because he imposed tazes on goods that entered or left the kingdom.

Climate of Ghana

The climate of Ghana is a tropical climate because it hovers over the equator and is near both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. Depending on what part of Ghana you are in, the rain fall varies from 43 inches to 83 inches a year.

Political Boundaries

The Empire of Ghana organized scattered people and territories into a confederation of kingdoms that was led by a warrior tribe and a dominant royal clan. At the height of its power in the eleventh century, the Empire of Ghana controlled lands from west of the Sénégal River to the Atlantic Ocean, south and east to the Niger River, and north to the empire's natural boundary with the Sahara.

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Culture of Ghana

The languages spoken in ancient Ghana were Soninke and Mande. There were traditional religions that were practiced but Islam greatly spread throughout Ghana and influenced the culture of ancient Ghana. Muslim merchants from the Sahara brought their faith to Ghana. Islam spread very slowly at first. The king incorporated Muslims into his court and appointed them as counselors, officials, and treasurers. In this way, the king gradually absorbed Muslim military technology and government ideals. Muslims also introduced many aspects of their culture in ancient Ghana including their written language, coinage, business methods, and styles of architecture. At this time, some people adopted and embraced Islam, but the Soninke people continued to follow their own traditional religions.

In about 1050, the Almoravids, Muslims from North Africa, initiated a campaign to spread their form of Islam. Ghana was eventually overwhelmed by the Almoravids, but they were unable to control and maintain such a distant land. Due to this, Ghana was taken by the West African Kingdom of Mali.