old empire of Ghana is not located in the same place as the
modern country of Ghana in West Africa. Two different places!
Ancient Ghana was located about 400 miles northwest of the modern
day country of the same name. When the modern country of Ghana
won their independence, they took the name of a famous (and nearby)
ancient kingdom - the kingdom of Ghana.
The king, ably assisted by his
council of elders, headed the government. The kingdom was divided
into districts. A district leader gently guided each district. They
had laws that people mostly obeyed.
Ghana was a great military power. Legend says the king could order
200,000 warriors and 40,000 more with bows and arrows. That's a lot
of manpower. It might even be true.
Life: The people were farmers and
miners and artists. They made the most wonderful fabrics. Using mud
to make designs on dyed cloth and set in the sun made mud cloth. The
sun baked the mud and created a design in the cloth. They had fresh
fruit and sweet potatoes. They had the Niger River, which provided
water for farming, washing, and bathing, and fish and waterfowl to
eat. They worked very hard, but their life was good. They had ample
food. They were protected. They sang. They laughed.
The griots were the storytellers.
Kids did not go to school, as we know school. Rather, people
collected in the evening to hear the wonderful stories of the griots
who were responsible for passing on stories and traditions from one
generation to another. They loved to hear any
stories, but they especially loved stories about Anansi
Through Trade: Thanks
to the cleverness of their king, the people of
ancient Ghana were rich! Ghana never owned gold or salt mines. Salt
came from the salt mines controlled by kingdoms to the north of
Ghana, kingdoms in the north Sahara Desert. Gold came from the gold
mines controlled by kingdoms to the south of Ghana. What Ghana
controlled was the trade route between the salt mines and the gold
Ghana offered the traders a deal. Ghana's large
army assured the traders of safe passage. In return, Ghana
restricted trade to gold dust only. They kept the gold nuggets for
themselves. Ghana became the guardians and the negotiators.
As more and more traders braved the Trans-Sahara
Trade Route, bringing spices and silks to Ghana, and
taking gold in trade, the Kingdom of Ghana flourished. Ghana and
other West African kingdoms soon became collectively known as The