Trans-Saharan trade, between Mediterranean countries and West Africa, was an important trade route from the eighth century until the late sixteenth century.
Trade between these two regions was a natural consequence of the different environments and way of life enjoyed by the Berbers and the West African peoples who inhabited the two regions.
Out of the contacts between the West African pastoralists with the Berber neighbors to the north whose nomadic life moved them seasonally towards and away from the zone of Mediterranean agriculture and civilization, grew a long distance trade across the desert that linked the subsequent histories of these two regions of Africa.
Although there were relatively few necessities of life which the early West African descent groups could not provide for themselves in their own environment, a significant exception was salt which could not easily be obtained except by the peoples living near the Influence of trans saharan trade on west.
Since it was not possible with the technology of this time to transport sea salt in any quantity for long distances through the forest, the peoples of West Africa, north of the forest, secured the bulk of their salt from the deposits of rock salt in the Sahara. This early trade in salt and gold was to serve as the foundation for a more elaborate and flourishing trade between the two regions that was to have far reaching effects on the political and social histories of the peoples who inhabited the two regions Origins of the Trans-Saharan contacts The regular commercial and cultural exchange between Western Africa and the Mediterranean world did not start properly until the 8th century AD.
Yet the beginning of trans-Saharan trade was not such a sudden and dramatic event but it had a long history of sporadic encounters for more than Archaeologists have, for example, found in southern Mauritania some copper objects of Hispano-Moroccan style, which are dated to the 11th century BC.
Establishment of the early trans-Saharan contacts is customarily attributed to the Libyan tribe of Garamantes. This account has been associated with the rock paintings depicting horse-pulled chariots, the first of which were found in Fezzan in the early s. Afterwards more paintings were discovered in Tassili and southern Morocco, and they seem to form two tracks leading to the direction of the Niger Bend.
Subsequently, a theory was created, according to which the Garamantes or alternatively some other Saharan people had carried West African gold and ivory to the markets of Carthage and Rome.
There is also some archaeological evidence of the early contacts of West Africans with the classical world. In spite of the fearless Garamantes with their galloping horses, the real initiators of trans-Saharan trade were the Berber nomads who frequently crossed the desert with their camel flocks.
As the nomads learned to know the great value of gold in Roman world, they perhaps started bartering it from the peoples of West Africa for salt and copper. The gold was carried to the north, where it was probably used for payment of dates, corn and such handicrafts which the nomads could not produce themselves.
The nomads may have bought also some luxury objects made in the Roman world, which they bartered for gold in the south. This trade could have started only after the adoption of dromedary by the Saharan peoples, for horses do not survive in the harsh conditions of the desert.
By the early sixteenth century, European bases were being established on the coast and trade with the wealthier Europeans became of prime importance to West Africa.
North Africa had declined in both political and economic importance, while the Saharan crossing remained long and treacherous.
However, the major blow to trans-Saharan trade was the battle of Tondibi of Morocco sent troops across the Sahara and attacked Timbuktu, Gao and some other important trading centres, destroying buildings and property and exiling prominent citizens. This disruption to trade led to a dramatic decline in the importance of these cities and resulting animosity reduced trade considerably.
Although much reduced, trans-Saharan trade continued. But trade routes to the West African coast became increasingly easy, particularly after the French invasion of the Sahel in the s and subsequent construction of railways to the interior. A railway line from Dakar to Algiers via the Niger bend was planned but never constructed.
With the independence of nations in the region in the s, the north—south routes were severed by national boundaries.
National governments were hostile to Tuareg nationalism and so made few efforts to maintain or support trans-Saharan trade, and the Tuareg Rebellion of the s and Algerian Civil War further disrupted routes, with many roads closed.
This trade was conducted between the North African traders and their counterparts in West Africa.A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of water.
Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries, which may further be connected to smaller networks of commercial and noncommercial transportation routes.
West Africa’s first kingdom, Ghana, became wealthy and powerful because it controlled the trade routes and commercial activities in its region. The spread of Islam across North Africa in the 7th century dramatically increased trans-Saharan trade.
Trade between West Africa and the Mediterranean predated Islam, however, North African Muslims intensified the Trans-Saharan trade. North African traders were major actors in introducing Islam into West Africa. Trans-Saharan trade requires travel across the Sahara (north and south) to reach sub-Saharan Africa from the North African coast, Europe, to the Levant.
While existing from prehistoric times, the peak of trade extended from the 8th century until the early 17th century. The Sahara once had a very different environment.
The trans-Saharan trade enriched the sub-Saharan African kingdoms beyond what would have been possible without it. For example, the Soninke Empire of Ghana's rise during the 8th century C.E.
is thought to be directly connected to . Trans-Saharan trade, between Mediterranean countries and West Africa, was an important trade route from the eighth century until the late sixteenth century. Before inquiring about the locations of caravan routes and the ebb-and-flow of trade volume, it is essential to ask how such trade existed at all.