But many Bantu people also stayed in West Africa. For instance, there were certainly people living at Djenne-Djeno, in modern Mali, far up the Niger river in West Africa, around 250 BC. By 300 AD, the men and women of Djenne-Djeno were trading along the Niger river with other West African communities to get iron and good stone to make grindstones. They buried dead people in tall pots that stood in between their houses. By 500 AD, there were about 20,000 people living in Djenne-Djeno in West Africa, more than in most European towns of that time. There were also smaller towns around the main town. They kept on working iron, and by now were also working copper, which came more than 1000 kilometers (about 600 miles) to get to Djenne-Djeno. They sold their pottery up and down the Niger river as far as 750 kilometers (450 miles) away. Mali began as one of the districts in the Kingdom of Ghana. Around 1230 CE, Ghana collapsed and Mali took over. In time, they grew to be larger than Ghana! The new king, Sundiata, was young and clever. He was a very good king. One of the first things he did, when he became king after Ghana collapsed, was to restore trade with the neighbors. He recognized that trade was critical to Mali's survival and growth. He expanded Mali so that Mali controlled some of the gold mines to the south and some of the salt mines in the north. His son Wali continued his good works, and expanded the borders of the empire even more. His grandson, Mansa Musa, has intrigued people for hundreds of years. His adventures are legendary! Mansa Musa loved knowledge and poetry. Under the direction of Mansa Musa, a university was built at Timbuktu, a city on the Trans-Sahara Trade Route, in ancient Mali. This university became a famous center of learning. People came from all over to study there. The various kingdoms in West Africa made very good trading partners. They each had something the other wanted. The north had salt. The south had...
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