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c. 1-1067 AD

Ancient Ghana, 400 miles (644 km) north of modern-day Ghana, becomes a major trading empire, deriving its power and wealth from gold.


Sundiata Keita comes to power and rules over the Empire of Mali. The city of Timbuktu is transformed into a major city of trade and scholarship. The gold and salt trades formed the economic basis of the Empire.


Mansa Musa, a successor of Sundiata, rules Mali at its height and makes a famous pilgrimage to Mecca, bringing a huge entourage and so much gold that it plummets on the world market.

1464- c. 1550

With the decline of Mali, the Songhay Empire rises to prominence. King Sunni Ali Ber comes to power and he and his successor, Askia Mohammed Toure, extend their rule over an area more vast than Mali or Ghana. Songhay reaches its peak in the 15th and 16th centuries.

c. 1200-1500

The state of Great Zimbabwe flourishes in southern Africa. Its people build the largest medieval stone structure south of the Sahara Desert. It is the centre of a vast international commercial system and covers a huge area between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers.


The European slave trade begins.


Portuguese explorers enslave 50 Amerindian men and women in Labrador or Newfoundland.

17th century

18th century

19th century

20th century

21st century