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Understanding Africa: 600 – 1450 CE. 15 % of the AP objective questions. AP World History: UNIT 3. First things first… Main Idea. Africa’s earliest people adapted to a wide range of geographic conditions to establish societies based on family ties, religion, iron technology, and trade. ?.

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Understanding Africa: 600 – 1450 CE

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Understanding africa 600 1450 ce

Understanding Africa: 600 – 1450 CE

15 % of the AP objective


AP World History: UNIT 3

First things first main idea

First things first…Main Idea

  • Africa’s earliest people adapted to a wide range of geographic conditions to establish societies based on family ties, religion, iron technology, and trade.

Africa so how big is big


Over 3 x the size of the continental United States

Over 4x the size of Europe

Key equation:


+ geography


= cultural differences

Africa: so how big is big?



However what new force emerges in the 600s will unify much of the continent

HOWEVER, what new force emerges in the 600s & will unify much of the continent?

Guided reading key questions

What areas tended to practice Islam?

Was the entire continent Muslim?

How do you know?

  • Most of North Africa: from Egypt to Morrocco converted rapidly during the 600s – 700s.

  • Under the Abbasid then Ottomans, Islam spread across the Sahara & SubSahara regions by the 1000-1100s – often influenced by Arab Traders.

  • Eventually, West Africa converts as well (via the Berbers!)

  • Africa’s richest & strongest areas were Muslim (“dar-al-Islam”)

  • NO! Pockets of Christianity existed.

  • Copts formed a Christian minority in Egypt, Sudan, & modern day Ethiopia. *Christianity remains the main religion of Ethiopia today – a lasting legacy.

  • Also tribal beliefs – animism – also existed.

Guided Reading: Key Questions

Side note geographers break africa up into 5 regions a look at east africa

Side Note: Geographers break Africa up into 5 regionsA Look at East Africa

  • Based on excavations from Olduvai Gorge & other sites in the Great Rift Valley, anthropologists believe that the first humans lived in East Africa.

  • Over thousands of years, people spread out from that region into other parts of the continent to form distinct cultures & societies.

Background on east africa

Background on East Africa

  • The growth of trade led to the development of wealthy kingdoms and city-states in East Africa.

  • Rise of Axum (Aksum)

  • By AD100, was a wealthy trading kingdom

  • Bordered the Red Sea

  • Became the greatest power

    in East Africa

Christianity factor

Christianity factor

  • Along with trade: goods, people, AND IDEAS

  • Christianity introduced in the 300s CE

  • King Ezana converted & made it the official religion

  • How do we know?

  • The stelea (STEE-lee)… 

Evidence of christianity

Evidence of Christianity….

  • King Ezana recorded he would “rule the people with righteousness and justice will not oppress them, and may they preserve this Throne which I have set up for the Lord of Heaven.”

  • These words were inscribed on a stone monument called a stelae 

So what happened to axum

So what happened to Axum?

Began to decline due to Muslim invaders in the 600s – 700s who conquered parts of East and Northern Africa.

As nearby areas were conquered, Christian Axum became isolated

Muslims took over the port city of Adulis and took over the Red Sea trade.

  • Eventually, with their source of wealth gone, its people retreated inland into the mountains of what is now northern Ethiopia.

  • Although Axum’s kingdom ended, its legacy lived on, shaping Ethiopia’s later history…



  • Region around the kingdom of Aksum

  • Established by the descendents of Aksum in the 1100s

  • Zagwe dynasty gained power in 1150

  • King Lalibela

    • Most famous of the Zagwe kings

    • Ruled during the 1200s

    • Known for building 11 stone Christian churches, many still around today

Lalibela churches

Lalibela Churches

  • Pic here see legacy book test page 290

  • Carved out of solid rock & are impressive works of architecture.

  • Revealed the remarkable technical knowledge & skill of Ethiopians at that time.

  • Church of St. George



  • A rival Muslim kingdom was forming to the east of Ethiopia near the Horn of Africa – this region of Africa juts out into the Indian Ocean south of the Arabian peninsula

  • Arab traders had settled the region and it became known as the kingdom of Adal by the 1300s.

  • Inevitable conflict between: Christian Ethiopian vs. Muslim Adal

  • HOWEVER, Muslim forces never conquered Ethiopia….

South of ethiopia africa s coastal city states

South of ethiopia:Africa’scoastal city-states

East africa 600 1450 ce

East Africa: 600 – 1450 CE

  • Rise of City States

  • Made their wealth from overseas trade (like Axum)

  • Monsoon wind patterns helped travel across the Indian Ocean

  • Trade network soon developed that linked East Africa with Persia, Arabia, India, & even SE Asia

  • Market towns emerged, taking advantage of the trade

  • Arab traders called this East African coastal region: the land of the Zanj

  • By 1100 AD, several of these coastal market towns had grown into wealthy & thriving city-states.

  • Main city-states included Mogadishu, Mombasa, Kilwa, and Sofala.

Picture this

Picture this

  • In what countries are these cities located today?

  • Mogadishu

  • Somalia

  • Mombasa

  • Kenya

  • Kilwa

  • Tanzania

Let s make a deal connecting africa and the middle east south asia the far east

Goods coming INTO Africa…

Goods LEAVING Africa

  • Overseas goods included glassware, East Asian porcelain, silk & cotton from China and India

  • Raw materials from the interior

    • Coconut oil

    • Copper

    • Leopard skins

    • Shells

    • African ivory *highly prized

    • Gold from Southern Africa

  • Enslaved Africans

Let’s make a deal!Connecting Africa and the Middle East, South Asia, & the Far East

Africans enslaving africans


Before the Transatlantic slave trade, enslaved Africans, were exported through the East African ports to Arabia, Persia, and India.

They were then sent across Asia to be domestic servants.

Africans enslaving africans?

East africa trade reached its peak during the 1300s 1400s

East Africa trade:reached its peak during the 1300s – 1400s

Kilwa the wealthiest most powerful of the coastal city states

Power increased in the late 1200s, when it gained control of Sofala, through which much gold was exported.

Kilwathe wealthiest & most powerful of the coastal city states

Taking a closer look at kilwa


















Taking a closer look at Kilwa…

Ibn battutah in kilwa

Who was he?

What did he have to say?

  • An Arab

  • Famous for his extensive travels during the 1300s to Africa, China, and much of the Muslim world

  • From 1330 – 1332, he sailed with a group along the Eastern African coast

  • “Then I set off by sea from the town of Mogadishu for the …Kilwa, … is one of the most beautiful & well constructed towns in the world. The whole of it is elegantly built. …The people are engaged in a holy war, for their country lies beside that of pagan [non Muslim] Zanj. The chief qualities are devotion and piety [goodness].”

IbnBattutah in Kilwa…

Understanding africa 600 1450 ce









Fun fact: term swahili has come to refer to the blended african-arab culture that developed along africa’s east coast.Also refers to a new language – native bantu language infused with arab words

Lecture transition from east africa to west africa

Kingdoms of West Africa: Land of Gold!!!!

Lecture transitionFrom east africato West africa

Understanding africa 600 1450 ce

The expansion of trade across the Sahara led to the development of great empires and other states in West Africa.

Kingdoms of West Africa

What is so special about west africa

What is so special about West Africa?

The land of gold was there really a kingdom of gold

The Land of Gold!Was there really a kingdom of gold?

  • In the 1700s, stories began to reach Europe about a fabulous kingdom of gold in West Africa. One visitor noted that the king wore so much gold jewelry on one hand that he had to support it on the head of a small boy. The kingdom just described was that of the Asante people, who had huge amounts of gold.

  • The Asante were NOT the first West African kingdom known for their golden treasures, however.

Ghana whoa all that glitters is gold

Ghana… Whoa!!!All that glitters IS gold!

  • Centuries before the Asante, the rulers of Ghana surrounded themselves with gold as a sign of their power.

  • A Muslim visitor at that time described the gold displayed by the king’s attendants: golden swords & shields, gold braided into people’s hair, even gold and silver collars for the king’s dogs!

Empire of ghana

Empire of Ghana

Modern day

Mauritania & Mail

NOT to be confused with the modern day country!!!!

*That country named itself in honor of this early kingdom..

Another look

Another look….

Empire of ghana1

Empire of Ghana

  • Unlike East Africa, did NOT have easy access to the sea

  • Sahara Desert –largest in the world – blocked travel/ access to other parts of Africa for centuries

  • Once traders began to cross the Sahara via camel caravans, Ghana became a key player

  • Map of Ghana

The berber factor the salt connection

The Berber factor…The Salt connection…

  • Berber traders from the north went to Ghana in search of gold, for which they traded food, manufactured goods & copper.

  • Berbers also brought salt, which was produced in what is now Morrocco.

  • Ghana then traded salt to the south where it was scarce!!!

Ghana a trading empire

Ghana: a trading empire…

  • By AD 800, it controlled nearly all trade of salt AND gold in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Capital, Koumbi-Saleh, located between Ghana’s gold mines & the desert trade routes

  • Kings made LOTS of money by TAXING the goods brought into their empire’s markets.

  • Majority of these taxes were charged on SALT!!!

With money from gold taxes kings lived lavishly

With money from gold & taxes, kings lived lavishly!

Kings protected the trade routes conquered other peoples sold captives as slaves to muslim traders

Kings…protected the trade routes…conquered other peoples & sold captives as slaves to muslim traders.

Ahh human nature the more you get the more you want well that leads to ghana s decline

Ahh… human nature…the more you get, the more you want.Well… that leads to Ghana’s decline…

  • By the mid-1000s, the empire of Ghana was rich & powerful.

  • When the King tried to expand to the north, conflict arose with the Almoravids, a Muslim Berber kingdom.

  • This resistance led to a long war.

Ghana the almoravids

Ghana & the Almoravids =

for Ghana!!!!

1076 almoravids captured koumbi saleh

1076… Almoravids captured Koumbi-Saleh!

  • Almoravid control of the city did not last BUT it weakened Ghana.

  • When people within the empire started to rebel, Ghana’s king was NOT able to stop them.

  • For about 150 years after Ghana’s decline, no one kingdom controlled the trans-Saharan trade.

  • Then, in the 1230s, a new power emerges!














Rise of mali

Rise of Mali

  • Where?

  • Same area as Ghana PLUS extended westward to the Atlantic Ocean

  • Who?

  • Founded by the Malinke people, had been active in Ghana’s gold trade…

  • Pic of mali

Sundiata soohn jaht ah

Sundiata (soohn-JAHT-ah)

  • Leader of Mali’s rise to power

  • King who ruled for 25 years!

  • Story of his reign & accomplishments is told in a great epic, also called Sundiata

Mansa musa

Mansa Musa

  • Mali reached its height in the 1300s under the reign of a mansa, or king

  • A relative of Sundiata

  • Came to power in 1307

  • Was a devout Muslim

  • Expanded Mali’s territory

  • Ruled during the height “golden age” of Mali

  • Tremendous wealth from the gold –salt trade (like Ghana)

Understanding africa 600 1450 ce









Muslim traders had introduced islam into west africa in ghana but it was embraced by Mali’s ruling class.

Mansa musa1

Mansa Musa

  • 1324: embarks on his hajj

  • Hajj = pilgrimage to Mecca

  • Took a HUGE entourage with him – more than 60,000 people!!!

  • Brought the wealth of Mali to the attention of the Muslim world & even medieval Europe

  • Remember the FIVE PILLARS OF ISLAM

First impressions count en route to mecca

First impressions count!En route to Mecca…

  • Some 500 people in the caravan carried staffs heavily decorated with gold to show Mali’s wealth

  • Baggage included huge amounts of gold to give away as gifts – gold valued at about $100 million today!!!

  • Mansa Musa rode near the front.

  • During his journey, he gained fame for his generosity.

  • Travelled via “ships of the desert” (camels who could go for long periods without water, could withstand heat better than horses & donkeys.)

Too much gold



“There was no person, officer of the [Cairo] court ro holder of any office of the [Cairo] sultanate who did not receive a sum of gold from him….So much gold was current in Cairo that it ruined the value …”

IbnFadi Allah al-Omari,

From Sight-Seeing Journeys, c. 1300s

Too much gold?

Mansa musa after the hajj

Mansa Musa after the hajj…

  • Fulfilled religious obligation

  • Brought BIG changes to Mali

    • Artists, architects

    • Construction of mosques, schools, libraries

  • Timbuktu became West Africa’s chief cultural center

  • Put Mali, literally, on European maps for the first time!!!

  • Europeans are interested in West Africa – in search of Mali and its gold!

Decline of mail

Decline of Mail

  • Mansa Musa dies! (c.1332)

  • Successors/ mansas not as strong as Musa

  • Peoples start breaking away - no central authority existed to keep empire intact

  • Outside invaders take advantage of the situation….

  • Empire falls apart in the 1400s…

Trading empires of west africa quick facts wrap up



  • 800s – 1070s

  • Location: near Niger & Senegal Rivers

  • Key City: Koumbi-Saleh (capital)

  • Trade: controlled gold-salt trade routes

  • Beliefs: local beliefs, some Muslim influencess

  • 1230s – 1430s

  • Location: Along upper Niger River

  • Key Cities: Niani (capital) & Timbuktu (cultural center)

  • Key Rulers: Sundiata; Mansa Musa

  • Trade: Controlled gold-salt routes

  • Beliefs: Islam; local beliefs

Trading Empires of West Africa:Quick Facts / Wrap-up!

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