Skip to Content

TL. Salt Transport. TR. Baule& Lagom goldwork. B. Tuareg Traders.

Showing 1 of 1


TL. Salt Transport. TR. Baule& Lagom goldwork. B. Tuareg Traders.
20th c African (West) Tuareg People

BAULE PEOPLE Anonymous (aka Baoulé Anonymous) (active Before 18th c - present) Primary
BAULE PEOPLE Anonymous (aka Baoulé Anonymous) (active Before 18th c - present)
BAULE PEOPLE Anonymous (aka Baoulé Anonymous) (active Before 18th c - present)
20th c
Mopti. Mali.
TR New York. Metropolitain Museum.
Our knowledge of the ancient empire of Ghana comes from two sources: the oral tradition passed down by the griots (poets, historians and counselors of the kings) and the written accounts of Arab historians. Modern historians think that Ghana became a commercial center by the 3rd century, a center based upon trade. The reason that date was selected was because North African coins made in the 3rd century were found in Ghana. The great caravan routes across the Sahara that were to link North Africa with sub-Saharan Africa were being established, routes based upon the exchange of salt for gold. The salt was mined in Taghaza, which lay in the middle of the desert on the main caravan route between Morocco and Timbuktu, and the gold was collected and then mined along the alluvial river plains. An Arab trader who passed through Taghaza in the 14th century described it as "an unattractive village, ...its house and mosques are built out of blacks of salt, roofed with camel skins. There are no trees there, nothing but sand. In the sand is the salt mine; they dig for the salt and find it in thick slabs, lying one on top of the other." The inhabitants of this god-forsaken place were slaves, for the slave trade flourished along the caravan routes, with blacks selling prisoners taken in tribal wars to the Arab traders who took them north. Salt is vital to human as well as animal life, for not only must we have it to maintain appropriate blood composition, but salt is also an important preservative. The Africans had a great liking for salt, and the trade still continues, as you see in the image in the upper left. The northern appetite for gold was powerful as well, and we have seen frescos of the gold collars that the Egyptians imported. North African traders like the Berbers were just as interested. Although they and later the Europeans tried to find the gold fields, the Africans kept their location a dark secret. Ancient records tell of trades that took place between the Arab traders and the Wangara, the group who gathered and mined the gold. They were described as "coming up out of holes in the ground" when they heard the traders announce their presence.The traders would put a certain amount of salt and other trade goods on the ground and then retreat, beating a drum to announce that the market was open. The miners would then emerge with their gold and put down a certain amount before they in turn retreated (it was said that they traded gold pound for pound with salt). The traders would come out and examine the amount which they would either accept or reject. The bargaining went back and forth at a distance until a trade was agreed upon. When the traders managed to capture one of the miners, they tortured him to find the location of the mines, but ne never spoke and just wasted away. His subsequent death brought a three year halt to the gold trade. The Soninke people, who were powerful warriors, imposed heavy taxes on the merchants traveling the route. The ruler held a monopoly on the taxation and thus became extremely wealthy. One of the Arab chroniclers described the court of the divine Ghana, as the king was called: he held court in splendid robes with gold ornaments, his horses' hooves were worked in gold, ivory and silver, and his retinue carried shields and swords embossed with gold. Others described the thriving cities, with the capital or Kumbi, and huge armies of well equipped soldiers, referring to the divine Ghana as "the richest king in the world." The chronicler Al-Idrisi said that the king had a gold nugget, a symbol of his majesty, that weighed 30 pounds, and that the king used to tether his horse to it. In the 8th century the Arab Muslims followed the trade routes with the goal of conquering the land of inexhaustible gold. Much to their surprised they were faced by an army of 200,000 soldiers which included 40,000 archers as well as 40,000 horseman, all equipped with spears, lances, bows and arrows and chain mail armor. Although they failed to conquer Ghana many settled there, and thus we have the intermingling of Arabs and black Africans that still continues. The Semitic TUAREG people pictured here are semi-nomads in Mali,who lead their caravans and control the salt trade.

Caption: COHEN Kathleen | TL. Salt Transport. TR. Baule& Lagom goldwork. B. Tuareg Traders. | 1999 | African | Tuareg

Portfolio List Click a portfolio name to view all the objects in that portfolio
This object is a member of the following portfolios:

Your current search criteria is: Object is "TL. Salt Transport. TR. Baule& Lagom goldwork. B. Tuareg Traders. ".

View current selection of records as: