Ancient and Medieval Gold Trade in West Africa

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Kelly Macquire
published on 07 February 2024

Did you know that the Ghana king would automatically keep any gold nugget extracted that weighed between 25 grams and half a kilo? This video is all about the lucrative gold trade of ancient and medieval West Africa.

West Africa was one of the world's greatest producers of gold in the Middle Ages. Trade in the metal went back to antiquity but when the camel caravans of the Sahara linked North Africa to the savannah interior, the trade really took off. A succession of great African empires rose off the back of the gold trade as salt, ivory, and slaves were just some of the commodities exchanged for the precious metal that eventually found its way into most of southern Europe's gold coinage. Gold attracted unwanted attention and competition, too, with the Portuguese the first to exploit West Africa's coastal resources from the 15th century CE, and in their wake followed others. The discovery of the Americas and the gold of the Aztecs and Incas only gave West Africa a temporary respite as European colonial powers then returned to the continent as their chief source of slaves to work on the plantations of the New World.

0:00 Intro
0:45 Gold Trade in West African Antiquity
2:18 Gold in Medieval West Africa
3:12 Gold and the Ghana Empire
4:52 The Mali Empire and Mansa Musa
6:06 The Songhai Empire
7:55 Outro

The Gold Trade of Ancient & Medieval West Africa–medieval-west-africa/
The Salt Trade of Ancient West Africa
Mali Empire
Songhai Empire

The History of the West African Salt Trade
The Poet and Scholar Callimachus of Cyrene
The Wars of the Roses: Causes and Consequences
The Life and Death of Mary Queen of Scots



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 #goldtrading #salt #gold

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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. (2024, February 07). Ancient and Medieval Gold Trade in West Africa. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Ancient and Medieval Gold Trade in West Africa." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified February 07, 2024.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Ancient and Medieval Gold Trade in West Africa." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 07 Feb 2024. Web. 21 Jul 2024.