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UNIT 9: Connections Across Land

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VIDEO SEGMENT: The Gold Roads

This segment explores a set of trade routes that came to link western and northern Africa through a thriving trade in gold. Eventually, these routes were connected through North Africa to the Silk Roads, uniting much of Afro-Eurasia in a vast system of trade. Although archaeological evidence suggests that people had already begun to cross the harsh Saharan desert to reach West Africa centuries before the Common Era, by 500 CE this difficult journey was greatly eased when camels became the primary means of desert transport. With the coming of Arab conquerors, merchants, and Islamic clerics to North Africa, the trans-Saharan trade increased dramatically.

By the late eighth century CE, Islamic merchants had established highly structured trade relations with a variety of West African peoples. In return for gold, ivory, and — later — slaves, West Africans traded for horses, cloth, and manufactured goods from the north.

Increased trade also encouraged the growth of well-placed states in West Africa, such as the ancient kingdom of Ghana. For several centuries, Ghana grew in wealth and military strength as a result of the trans-Saharan trade. The lucrative nature of trade, however, also led to conflicts in the region, and after the late eleventh century Ghana was replaced by competing states such as Mali and Songhay.

As was the case with the Silk Roads, the expansion of trade across the Gold Roads was accompanied by the spread of religion. In this case, North African merchants brought Islam, as well as Islamic scholarship in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, MOSQUE, AGADIZ (NIGER) (n.d.) Copyright 2003 Oregon Public Broadcasting and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Abraham Cresques, CATALAN ATLAS (14th century). Courtesy of the Biblioteque Nationale


Anonymous, AFRICA, 1200-1500 (2001). Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Anonymous, SAND RIPPLES, ALGERIA (n.d.). Copyright 2003 Oregon Public Broadcasting and its licensors. All rights reserved.



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