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The Sahara is not a dry and barren desert that just nomadic people roam around aimlessly .From ancient times It has been the home to a few but not to well known civilizations, Relative examples are the Soninke of the Ghana civilization and Sao Civilization. The Ghana civilization has its roots with the Soninke people who are known to have built the most ancient urban cultured hubs in Africa today. They are over a four hundreds settlements that date back to 2000 BCE to 300 BCE. One of the most well known locations are Tachitt Walata,Tagnant Cliffs, Augadouhst, and .Kumbi Saleh.
The “Soninke” people were very skilled artisans, craftsman, workers, agrarian laborers, and even superb wordsmith whose oral griots are mimicked by other local tribes such as the ‘’Mende’’. Soninke are thought to be one of the first people to utilize and capitalize on the use of “ironware” in the “Sahelian West Africa “region. It is believed by most archeologist and scholars that they are the main tribe responsible for the most remarkable settlements in West Africa that date back to the Second millennia bce. The reasons as to why the Soninke people were the first to create a hierarchy system of government within the region of Ghana is not certain but they are definitely elements that can be deduced. What is known is that the Soninke were the first in the Sahelian West Africa, who wielded the use of iron better than most of their near by tribes. They were not only able to conquer the nearby tribes, but they were also able to gain an upper hand due to their use of iron tools used for tilling the soil in agrarian production. Crops such as millet and sorghum are one of the many crops many neighboring tribe purchased from the “Soninke”. The” Soninke” yielded a surplus in these crops which boosted their economic foothold in the region. The Soninke were excellent blacksmith, and the Bamana blacksmith of “Mandinke Tribe ” , which was a subordinated tribe presided over by the Soninke ,are known to be astounded metallurgist who sold their ironware in bustling markets in on the outpost of the Empire of Ghana.
The original name for Soninke is “Serahule” or Serahli, or “Serakole”. The name Soninke is actually a religious meaning for follower of “Sunni Islam”, which is due to their strong influence of Islam in their society today. The Soninke belong to a group of tribes called the “Mande” tribes or Mandinka tribes. “Mandinka “tribes would not only give rise to the Ghana Empire but they also gave rise to the Mali Empire. The Soninke called their land “Wagadu” or “Ghanata”. The name “Ghana “has two meanings “warrior King” or “King of Gold” . An ordinary “Soninke”,family consisted of a man, his wife or wives, their children, and their relatives. A big family was referred to as a clan, each family had a griot who would tell the stories or history of their families if they were wealthy.
The Soninke people believed in a main god that created everything as most African religions do, but they believe in spirits in occupy both living and non-living things, which could be good or evil. But what cannot be missed is the citizens of Ghana including the Soninke and, their kin tribes Mandinke, and other tribes who were subjects ,all believed in their God King. The subjects of “Ghana” , fervently praised their God King. The throne of the King was called Dinga Cisse after one of its first emperors . The Ghana King adorned himself with necklaces around his neck, bracelets, and a cap embedded with gold wrapped in a fine turban. His court consisted of domed pavilion which had ten horses covered with gold embroidered materialism and on his right he had the sons of the vassal kings , wearing splendid garments with their hair plaited with gold .At the door of his pavilion were excellent dogs of a breed that had gold & silver collars. “Ibn Hawkal” wrote the emperor posses great wealth of gold that have been extracted since the early times, the king was so wealth they kept a thousand horses. According to AL Barki the kings palace was made of many dome shaped dwellings, surrounded by enclosures like the defensive wall of city. One of the kings mansions had a gold balcony, and its mansions was filled with numerous sculptures and paintings.
It took large duration of time for the Soninke people to develop dominion over other tribes and retain authority over the surrounding lands. But it is known the Soninke were the first to organize a complex society and social system with hierarchy in Second millennia BCE. This society included laborers, herdsman, craftsman, and a judicial system. A glimpse of the Pre Ghana Era- can be seen throughout Southern Mauritania settlements in Tagant Cliffs and Tichitt Walata . These people had a rather stable and peaceful civilization from 2000 BCE to 300BCE. It was until later that Berber tribes most likely Sanhadja had incursions with the Soninke people which forced them to become displaced and lose their dominion over their lands, but their civil society remained intact, as it always has even until this day.
The Soninke later returned to their original land in 300 A.D. and defeated the Sanhaja Berber tribes, at Akwar and exercised rulership in the land. The contemporary date for the Ghana Empire is 7th century AD, but according to Timbuktu book named “Tarikh as- Sudan”,the Empire of Ghana had 22 kings before the muslim common era ,which brings it back to the 3rd A.D., if we symmetrically round of each kings period of power. The king to defeat the Berbers is “DInga Cisse” or “Dyabe Cisse”.To ensure stability it is said that “Dinge Cisse” married the daughters of 3 kings of Berber Tribes. It is also said by many oralist that Dinge Cisse came from far away land.
The Ghana Empire became very prominent and expanded from the 4th century AD onward. It became prominent for a variety of reasons, one of them was that the Wagadu Emperor and his vassal kings ability to properly moderate the ‘’Trans-Sahara trade’’ booming market . The Ghana Empire was primarily located in the Sahel, which was between the Savannah of Sub-Sahara Africa and the Desert of the Sahara. All traders and merchants who sold goods within in the empire were protected, and ensured security if they sold within the borders, this is why the empire had attracted many journeymen and merchants , it was very dangerous to sell goods in the Sahara due to rogue nomadic tribes who salvaged and plundered any caravan traveling the vast desert. Many were traders were ensured security in the territory of the empire, and so they went. But the traders had to pay taxes to the government, they also had to pay tariffs, to the king. Huge quantities of merchandise were sold within the empire like gold, livestock, Morroccan leather, weavers, and elaborate jewelry. They were many markets within the empire examples are Kumbi Saleh, these cities had shops of local potters, craftsmen, weavers, sandal makers. Kumbi Saleh was also had a huge garden in the middle. There were also shops for ironsmiths and coppersmiths who sold jewelry in these cities.
Ghana’s economy was also based on Gold Trade. There were only a few tribes who were assigned to gold mining. One of them was called the “Wangara “were the primary extractors of gold. They kept their mining locations secret for fear of tough tribes and to lessen competition of other tribes extracting it. They of coursed paid large amounts of gold tributes to the Emperor. They were also the tribes of Sosso and Manlinke in who also participated in gold mining.The king only reserved the gold for himself, if the value of gold would’ve decreased throughout his empire if he chose to make it a public possession. Al-Hamdani describes Ghana as having the richest gold mines on Earth.