West African Empires

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The empire of Mali began as a small Malinke kingdom in Western Africa. The empire flourished from 1240 to 1500 AD but the empire did not become very important until after 1235 AD. The investigation of cultures and exploring each of these African empires are crucial for understanding the past.

The Malian empire was located in Sub-Saharan Western Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to present-day Niger. The caliphate traded salt, gold, limestone, granite and other items, all of which are very common to find in this region of Africa. The empire was located near rivers and oasis towns were built so its economy was stable along with trading the items listed. The culture of Mali included involved art like jewelry and carvings, oral traditions, and the religion became Islamic due to numerous amount of trade.

The Ghana Empire came to be between 830 and 1235 AD. A leader of the clans of Soninke by the name of Dinga Cisse founded the empire. The location of this caliphate gave Ghana a great advantage in terms of economy. It was positioned in the middle of the Mali and Songhay Empires. Because of this, Ghana was the center of trade. The people were also interested in music. Instruments like drums that were made with animal skins and gourds were used to entertain people. Although the empire required having an annual sacrifice of a virgin due to its culture, the decline of Ghana was devastating. Not only did the king of Ghana lose the trade monopoly, but invasions of Muslims and a catastrophic drought, which caused the inability to sustain cattle and crops, ended the existence of the empire.

The Songhay Empire existed from 1340 to 1591 AD. Because of strong military, trade with Muslims, and the rise to power, this caliphate survived for a long period of time. The rise to power was taken place because of a great military leader named Sonni Ali. This person was known to have “magic powers” and expanded the Songhay territory across the Niger Valley, west to Senegal and east to...
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