The Proud History Behind the Kingdom of Ghana, Africa

The Proud History Behind the Kingdom of Ghana, Africa

Photo Credit/Wikimedia Commons

The Kingdom of Ghana was an extremely wealthy, resource-rich, kingdom of prosperity. It was at its peak between the 9th and 11th centuries, but evidence of its presence can be found as far back as the 4th century. Located in what is now Mauritania, Mali, and Senegal, it had access to some of the best resources on the continent. The ground Ghana sat on was full of gold. They were able to become one of the richest kingdoms of their time by trading that gold. They became so prosperous that their dogs wore collars made of gold, and their horses were treated even better. There are accounts of their horses wearing halters (a piece of equipment worn around the horses head) made of silken rope, and that they slept on plush carpets. 

The proper name of this kingdom is Wagadou. Ghana is actually the title of their rulers. It means warrior or war chief. Ghana is what modern scholars call the kingdom. Most of the information we have regarding Ghana is from Arabic historians. They referred to the empire as Ghana.

The most prevalent of these historians being Al-Bakri. He wrote that merchants had to pay one gold dinar (dollar) tax on imports of salt, and two on exports of salt. Other products paid fixed dues. Ghana must have had an extremely advanced accounting system to keep track of the taxes due and paid. Ghana also created fine leather goods. Evidence being that many of the hand-crafted leather goods found in old Morocco have their origins in the empire of Ghana. 

Islamic writers often commented on the social-political stability of the empire. This stability seems to be based on the just actions and grandeur of the king. Al-Bakri interviewed merchants who visited Ghana in the 11th century and wrote of the king: “He sits in audience or to hear grievances against officials in a domed pavilion around which stand ten horses covered with gold-embroidered materials. Behind the king stand ten pages holding shields and swords decorated with gold, and on his right are the sons of the kings of his country wearing splendid garments and their hair plaited with gold. The governor of the city sits on the ground before the king and around him are ministers seated likewise. At the door of the pavilion are dogs of excellent pedigree that hardly ever leave the place where the king is, guarding him. Around their necks they wear collars of gold and silver studded with a number of balls of the same metals.”

From the information historians have, Ghana appears to have had a central region and surrounding vassal states under the king’s rule. These vassal states would have paid taxes, provided soldiers, and given tribute to their king.

The kingdom came to “an end” in the 13th century. Their fall proceeded with years of drought, civil wars, trade competition, and the rise of other kingdoms. It was after this disastrous time that Ghana was absorbed into, what would be the next great superpower of west Africa, the Mali empire. Even over the course of some 800 years, the culture of Ghana is still thriving in west Africa to this day. This empire is a source of pride for the people of Africa, so much so that when gaining their independence the modern country of Ghana chose to adopt the name from the ancient kingdom. In this sense, Ghana is still a mighty force in Africa.