Early Societies in West Africa


In this unit you will be learning about West African cultures between 500 and 1600 C.E.. During this period the kingdoms in West African are Ghana, Songhai and Mali. In this chapter you will explore how these kingdoms grew. Muslim scholars first began witting about Ghana in the 800's by then Ghana was 300 years old. Historians and archaeologists study many kinds and clues. Look closely at the geography natural features such as rivers and vegetations. In this chapter you will explore current thinking about the origins of West African kingdoms.


    In West Africa the geograply begins in the Sahara desert. To the west and south region is the Atlantic Ocean. To the east, in the country called Cameroon by the mountains. West Africa also includes  different plants and trees zones of desert, Savanna, Semid desert, and forest.
    The Sahara desert spreads across about 3.5million square miles. They also have rocky plains and even mountains. If you can imagine the Sahara is not a nice place for large towns.
    In the south of the Sahara there is an area called Sahel. Sahel is not as dry as the Sahara. It has water for animals, plants, and small trees.
    To the south of the Sahel there is an area called the Savana. The Savana has a rainy season. The people who live there can grow stuff like millet and rice. Grasses give the animals food some animals are sheep, goats, camels, and cattle.
    The Savana also has a river called Niger river which gives fish as food for the people or animals to eat. The Niger river is in a forest zone to the south of the West Africa. This zone has more trees and bushes. All of the things grow there like Oil palms, Yams, and Kola trees. In the southern part there is a forest zone called lush rain forest. There rain falls year round. All kinds of trees grow even on the swamp and lagoons like mahogony and teak.
           Sahara Desert

      Cities were not large like Modern cities and the villages grew up in West Africa because first the growth of ironworking and the expansion of trade.


      Long time ago the Hittites of present-day of Turkey used to be good to ironworking and then slowly, knowledge of ironworking spread and it started to go to west Africa. The traders who crossed the Sahara thought that the people in the northern part of West Africa started the ironworking and trade instead of the Hittites.


     Then some people called NOK were making iron tools and they lived in Central Nigeria. Some Archeologists have found some iron tools and iron melting furnaces. Then they would melt ore. NOK use charcoal to fuel their iron smelting furnaces. The red-hot iron hammered and they bent it in shape and NOK black smiths made like weapon, hoes, axes and spears. Now farmers could clear land grow crops more easily than with stone tools and they had bigger land and there were more free people to work at trade like metalworking, weaving and pottery making. And they had more food. Then they become important trading sites and they got rich charging fees for trading activity. And made more people have new jobs like supervising trade, learning crafts, and helping. Villages grew in to town and cities.
  The rise of kingdom and empires

The most important places in West Africa were Ghana, Mali and Songhai. The important foctor was the rise of West African kingdoms. The Ghana, Mali and Songhai were all ruling big places. Empires were like kingdoms.

The trade brings some cities good money by collecting taxes. They used money for making big armies. The armies could make good or protect other business places. Then the ruler could take over more money. The payment of taxes was a sign that the people were conquered.

The West Africa king’s were the main person of religious of their kingdom. People followed or believe that they had special power given to them by their gods. The king began religious parts given to please the gods. Some, allowed conquered peoples to rule themselves.

Another was that men had to be in the king’s army. King gets or brings protection. The army made sure that the way for traveling was safe. And they kept out surprise and foreign armies. Fighting between small cities end.