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Ch. 11 Medieval Africa. The Geography of Africa. The continent of Africa is divided into several distinct landform regions. 1. The northern area along the Mediterranean Sea is a very fertile area thanks to its mild climate and frequent rains.

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Ch 11 medieval africa
Ch. 11Medieval Africa

The geography of africa
The Geography of Africa

The continent of Africa is divided into several distinct landform regions.

1. The northern area along the Mediterranean Sea is a very fertile area thanks to its mild climate and frequent rains.

2. Just below the northern region is the Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world.

3. Below the Sahara is the Sahel, which is an area of savannas – large, grassy plains suitable for livestock.

4. Below the Sahel (along the equator) is a region of tropical rain forests.

5. Below the tropical rain forests is another region of savannas and deserts.

The berbers
The Berbers

The Berbers were the first known people to

settle in northern Africa.

  • The Berbers were traders who crossed the “death road” – a trade route connecting western Africa with the Mediterranean Sea – to trade with the kingdoms of western Africa.

  • When the Romans conquered northern Africa, they introduced camels, known as the “ships of the desert”, to make this trade easier.

  • They traded salt and cloth from North Africa for gold and ivory from western Africa.

  • This trade lead to the growth of cities in western Africa, which eventually became a series of empires.

Map of arica s medieval trade routes
Map of Arica’s Medieval Trade Routes


Ghana came to power in 400’s A.D.

1. Ghana was located on the crossroads of two trade routes that salt and gold were carried over and Ghana gained its wealth by taxing the goods that were carried through its kingdom.

2. Ghana also had iron weapons and a huge army, so traders had no choice in paying the taxes.

3. Another reason people were willing to pay the taxes was that salt was such a necessary item for survival in Africa that people were willing to pay whatever was necessary to get it.

4. Ghana’s power declined after new gold-mining areas outside of it’s area of control were discovered.


Mali rose to power around 1200 A.D.

1. Mali became even larger than Ghana and extremely wealthy.

2. Mali gained control of the new gold mining regions of Western Africa, allowing them to completely control the salt/gold trade.

3. The most powerful king of Mali was Mansa Musa.

4. Mansa Musa was a Muslim – on his pilgrimage to Mecca, he handed out so much gold that it caused the value of gold to drop world-wide.

5. Mali slowly declined after the death of Mansa Musa.

Songhai sawng hy
Songhai (sawng-hy)

In 1468 A.D., Sunni Ali (sun-ee ah-lee) capture Timbuktu, which was the capital of Mali.

1. Sunni Ali used built war canoes and sailed down the Niger River and conquered the gold mine areas.

2. He then turned westward and conquered the salt-mine areas.

3. By the time of his death, he had built the largest empire in West Africa.

4. Songhai was eventually conquered by invading Arab Muslims who had cannons and guns.

The rain forest kingdoms
The Rain Forest Kingdoms

Benin, along the Niger River delta, and Kongo, which formed in the Congo River basin, were two rain forest kingdoms of Africa.

1. These kingdoms were based on agriculture, which was grown on clearings cleared out from the forest.

2. Surplus food and products made by artisans, such as cloth woven from bark and plant fibers and wood, metal and ivory carvings, were traded for products from other regions.

East africa
East Africa

The earliest kingdoms of Eastern Africa were the Kush (south of Egypt) andthe Aksum Empires (located in Ethiopia).

1. Later, Muslim traders set up small trading communities along Africa’s eastern coast which will become coastal city-states.

2. Another trading community was Zimbabwe, which developed in the interior of Africa and eventually became a large empire.

3. Zimbabwe supplied the coastal communities with gold, copper and ivory, who then traded it with other areas of the world.

African resources
African Resources

Most of Africa’s kingdoms relied on trade for wealth. Some of Africa’s tradable resources were:

1. salt

2. gold

3. copper

4. ebony

5. ivory

6. slaves


In Africa, villages would raid rival villages and enslave their captives.

1. These captives would be made laborers or be freed for a payment by their family.

2. Africans would also enslave criminals or enemies captured during war.

3. Slaves could win gain their freedom through hard work or by marrying a free person.

The muslim slave trade
The Muslim Slave Trade

Slavery grew as Muslim merchants began trading with Africa.

1. The Quran forbid the enslavement of fellow Muslims but it allows the enslavement of non-Muslims.

2. Because of this, Muslim traders took many non-Muslim African slaves back to the Middle East.

The european slave trade
The European Slave Trade

The first Europeans to begin trading for African slaves were the Portuguese.

1. They armed the stronger African tribes with guns, who began raiding villages to seize captives to sell.

2. As the European settlement of the Americas began, the slave trade grew even larger because of the large number of workers needed to farm the new colonies.

3. The spread of slavery also spread the culture of Africa.

4. This spread of the African people and culture around the world has become known as the African Diaspora.