World History: Journey Across Time

Chapter 13: Medieval Africa

Student Web Activity

"Islam and the Gold Trade"

Traders in Africa began trading gold for salt and other goods long before the arrival of Islam on the continent. In this activity you will see that the gold trade and the spread of Islam became closely linked after Islam first appeared in Africa.

Destination Title: The Trans-Saharan Gold Trade

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Start at the Trans-Saharan Gold Trade Web site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Read the article, taking notes as you go.
  • Click on other links on the page to find out more about Mali, Songhai, and the conversion of Berbers to Islam.

After you have read the material, answer the following questions.

What was the major reason for importing gold to North Africa?
Which writer described caps, saddles, shields, swords, and even dog collars, adorned with gold and silver? In which kingdom did he witness this?
How did many Berber nomads become exposed to Islam?
Why did Mali's rulers not encourage conversion to Islam?
As you have seen, the history of the gold trade and the adoption of Islam in sub-Saharan Africa were closely linked. Starting with the first trans-Saharan trade, create a timeline on a separate piece of paper that includes the major events and developments in this history. Place each event in the correct century. Include the rise and fall of major kingdoms, the adoption of Islam by various rulers, and any developments that were significant for both the gold trade and the spread of Islam.
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