The History of the West African Salt Trade

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Kelly Macquire
published on 29 November 2023

Did you know that salt was literally worth its weight in gold in ancient West Africa? This video is all about the lucrative trade of salt in West African history.

Salt from the Sahara desert was one of the major trade goods of ancient West Africa where very little naturally occurring deposits of the mineral could be found. Transported via camel caravans and by boat along such rivers as the Niger and Senegal, salt found its way to trading centres like Koumbi Saleh, Niani, and Timbuktu, where it was either passed further south or exchanged for other goods such as ivory, hides, copper, iron, and cereals. The most common exchange was salt for gold dust that came from the mines of southern West Africa. Indeed, salt was such a precious commodity that it was quite literally worth its weight in gold in some parts of West Africa.

0:00 Intro
0:42 Trade of Salt in West Africa
1:57 History and Transportation
5:22 Outro

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

World History Encyclopedia

#history #africanhistory #africa #salttrade #salt

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2023, November 29). The History of the West African Salt Trade. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The History of the West African Salt Trade." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified November 29, 2023.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "The History of the West African Salt Trade." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 29 Nov 2023. Web. 12 Jul 2024.