The trading routes
In the 1,ooo's C.E there were three major black trading states. The Mail empire the Songhai empire and the Ghana empire. All of these empires connected one part of Africa two another. One of the main reasons why the three empires prospered was because of there controls over the gold fields. During the Mali's empires golden age there ruler Mansa Musa brought over 15 tons of gold along his pilgrimage. He handed out so much gold in Cairo that he inflated there economy for a decade. This is a example of supply and demand at that time.There were also towns that popped up because of the trading routes. The remote town of Timbuktu became a learning center for the religion Islam . One important trade route went from Timbuktu across the Sahara to Sijilmasa. Once the goods reached Sijilmasa they might be moved to places including the port cities of Marrakesh or Tunis. Other trade routes included Gao to Tunis and Cairo to Agadez.
You can see the many branches of their trading routes.
Look at this map and compare it to the gold symbols on the map above and you will see that at any time they will have access to at least one gold field.
The geography along the trading routes
The geography along the trade routes was mostly desert and few oasis along the Niger river. The Sahara desert was the main obstacle If you fallowed the Niger river you would see a lot of farming towns. This influenced cultural diffusion just like it did with the spread of Buddhism along the silk road. As people traveled along their trading routes they ran into priests that tough Islam and slowly the religion spread in most of west Africa. The trading routes also helped with the spread of religion and ideas. During the Time of the Songhia empire Timbuktu was at its peak and had at least 25,000 students . That is one of the reasons why Timbuktu became a learning center was because it was by one of the less traveled paths of the trading routes.
In one of the first maps of west Africa they but Mansa musa Holding a gold nugget
The west African trading routes are also a great example of supply and demand, Essentially supply and demand is where there is little of something so the asking price is higher. If there is more of something then the price will be lower. This is what happened in Cairo when Mansa Musa came to town. Up until that point the price of gold was normal, but when he left he handed out so much gold that the economy had inflated. That meant that the supply of gold was so big that the value went down and it stayed down for almost a decade. Supply and demand also effected the spread of salt. Salt was a rare commodity in the dessert sense there were not many places to keep there food and or to farm the salt let them keep meat for longer than they would have normally. It was especially rare in towns that were off the beaten path like Timbuktu. In fact salt was called the white gold at its time because it would often be traded for gold. Sense the supply of salt was low the demand was high. This unlike gold stayed rock solid through out the time of the three empires. On the website Duckster It says "The main items traded were gold and salt. The gold mines of West Africa provided great wealth to West African Empires such as Ghana and Mali. Other items that were commonly traded included ivory, kola nuts, cloth, slaves, metal goods, and beads.
The main transportation of goods along the trading routes
Jarus, Owen. "Timbuktu: History of Fabled Center of Learning." Live Sciennce. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2016.
"Ancient Africa." Ancient Africa for Kids: Trade Routes. N.p., Dec. 2016. Web. 12 Dec. <
Photos and other facts
The first evidence of trading was in the early 15th century
Sunni Ali Ruler of the Songhia Empire
Sundial Keita Ruler of the Ghana empire.