Salt from the Sahara desert was among the major trade goods of prehistoric West Africa wbelow very little bit normally arising deposits of the mineral could be found. Transported using camel caravans and also by watercraft alengthy such rivers as the Niger and Senegal, salt uncovered its way to trading centres like Koumbi Saleh, Niani, and Timbuktu, wright here it was either passed even more southern or exadjusted for other goods such as cream color, hides, copper, iron, and cereals. The most common exchange was salt for gold dust that came from the mines of southerly West Africa. Indeed, salt was such a valuable commodity that it was fairly literally worth its weight in gold in some components of West Africa.

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The Salt Mines of the Sahara

The requirement for salt in ancient West Africa is below summarised in an extract from the UNESCO General History of Africa:

Salt is a mineral that was in great demand also particularly with the beginning of an farming mode of life. Hunters and food-gatherers probably derived a large amount of their salt intake from the pets they pursued and from fresh plant food. Salt only becomes a critical additive where fresh foods are unobtainable in vey dry locations, wright here body perspiration is also usually too much. It becomes incredibly desirable, however, amongst societies with reasonably limited diets, as was the situation with arable agriculturalists. (Vol II, 384-5)

In enhancement, salt was always in excellent demand also in order to much better keep dried meat and to provide included taste to food. The savannah region south of the western Sahara desert (well-known as the Sudan region) and the woodlands of southern West Africa were negative in salt. Those locations near the Atlantic coastline might acquire the mineral from evaporation pans or boiling sea water, yet sea salt did not take a trip or keep well. A third alternate was salt obtained from the ashes of burnt plants favor millet and palms, but again these were not so affluent in sodium chloride. Consequently, for the majority of of the Sudan area, salt had to come from the north. The unwelcoming Sahara desert was the chief herbal resource of rock salt, either gained from surchallenge deposits led to by the desiccation procedure such as uncovered in old lake beds or extracted from fairly shpermit mines wbelow the salt is normally created right into slabs. This salt, which was a creamy-grey colour, was much exceptional to the other resources of salt from the sea or certain plants.


When precisely salt became a trade commodity is unwell-known, yet the exadjust of salt for cereals dates earlier to prebackground once desert and also savannah individuals each looked to gain what they could not develop themselves. On a bigger range, camel caravans were likely crossing the Sahara from at leastern the initially centuries of the 1st millennium CE. These caravans would certainly be run by the Berbers who acted as middle-guys between the North African says and West Africa. Salt was their significant trade excellent yet they likewise brought high-end items prefer glassware, fine cloth, and also manufactured items. In addition, with these profession items came the Islamic religion, principles in art and also design, and social methods.

Whoever managed the salt trade also regulated the gold trade, & both were the major financial pillars of assorted West Afrihave the right to realms.

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Salt, both its production and profession, would conquer West Afrihave the right to economic climates throughout the second millennium CE, through sources and profession centres constantly changing hands as empires increased and also dropped. The salt mines of Idjil in the Sahara were a well known resource of the precious commodity for the Ghana Empire (6-13th century CE) and also were still going solid in the 15th century CE. In the 10th century CE the Sanhaja Berbers, who regulated the salt mines at Awlil and Taghaza and also transport with trade cities like Audagorganize, began to difficulty the Ghana Empire"s monopoly of the trade. In the 11th century CE the Awlil mines were in the hands of Takrur, however it would be the Mali Realm (1240-1645 CE), via its funding at Niani, that dominated the sub-Saharan salt profession adhering to the collapse of the Ghana Empire. However before, semi-independent river "ports" choose Timbuktu started to steal trade avenues from the Mali queens better west. The next kingdom to conquer the area and also the activity of salt was the Songhai Realm (15-16th century CE) through its great trading capital at Gao.

Salt may have been a rarity in the savannah however at desert mining communities choose Taghaza (the primary Sudan resource of salt up to the 16th century CE) and Taoudenni, the commodity was still so plentiful slabs of rock salt were supplied to develop residences. Naturally, such an useful money-spinner as a salt mine attracted competition for ownership, as when the Morocdeserve to leader Muhammad al-Mahdi attempted to muscle in on the industry by arvarying for several significant Tuareg salt traders to be murdered at Taghaza in the mid-16th century CE. Quite literally, whoever managed the salt profession likewise managed the gold trade, and both were the primary financial pillars of the various realms of West Africa"s background.