Q:

What was the gold-salt trade?

A:

Quick Answer

The gold-salt trade was an exchange of salt for gold between Mediterranean economies and West African countries during the Middle Ages. West African kingdoms, such as the Soninke empire of Ghana and the empire of Mali that succeeded it, were rich in gold but lacked salt, a commodity that countries around the Mediterranean had in plenty. Salt was important for replacing fluids and preserving food in the tropical climate south of the Sahara.

Know More
What was the gold-salt trade?
Credit: SPANI Arnaud / hemis.fr hemis.fr Getty Images

Full Answer

The Soninke empire of Ghana, named the "Land of Gold" by Islamic scholars, is linked with the rise of the trans-Saharan gold trade that began around the fifth century. Countries in North Africa needed gold for coinage, and they got their supply from Berbers who traveled across the Sahara in camel caravans carrying blocks of desert salt. The trade lasted for centuries, and was partially responsible for the introduction of Islam to the Berbers, and consequently West Africa.

The Soninke maintained exclusive control over the gold trade by keeping the location of gold mines a secret. In the 11th century, the empire was strong enough to take over the Berber town of Audaghost, an important terminus along the trade route. However, a century later, new routes bypassed Audoghost and moved toward newer goldfields. The Soninke empire soon lost its domination of the gold trade.

The Mali empire that followed, and the Songhai empire that rose later, continued relying heavily on the gold-salt trade.

Learn More

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is a feudal contract?

    A:

    During the Middle Ages, a lord granted a vassal land rights, and in return, a vassal committed to provide military and other honorable services via a feudal contract. They sealed the contract with an oath of homage and fealty.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Who are the Moors?

    A:

    The Moors, who were ascendant during much of the Middle Ages, were northwestern African Muslims of Berber and Arab descent. They successfully invaded and conquered most of the then-Visigothic Iberian peninsula in the 8th century but were driven out by the Christian Asturians in the 15th century.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What did peasants eat in medieval times?

    A:

    Peasants ate primarily food made from grains and vegetables in the Middle Ages. They also drank mostly ale, since water was unsafe, and wine was too expensive.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Who were nobles in the Middle Ages?

    A:

    Nobles in the Middle Ages ranked second on the hierarchical social ladder: kings and queens filled the top spots, while knights, clergy, tradesmen and peasants formed the ladder below nobles. Social mobility in the Middle Ages rarely occurred; nobles, peasants and others generally spent their lives confined to the respective classes of their births. Nobles lived distinct lifestyles, complete with specific tasks, expected behaviors and even styles of dress.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore