Salt from the Sahara desert was among the significant profession items of old West Africa where extremely little normally happening down payments of the mineral can be located. Carried using camel campers and also by watercraft along such rivers as the Niger as well as Senegal, salt discovered its means to trading centres like Koumbi Saleh, Niani, and also Timbuktu, where it was either passed additionally southern or traded for various other items such as cream color, conceals, copper, iron, as well as grains. One of the most typical exchange was salt for gold dirt that originated from the mines of southerly West Africa. Certainly, salt was such a valuable product that it was rather essentially worth its weight in gold in some components of West Africa.

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The Salt Mines of the Sahara

The need for salt in old West Africa is below summed up in a remove from the UNESCO General Background of Africa :


Salt is a mineral that remained in excellent need especially with the start of a farming setting of life. Food-gatherers and also seekers possibly got a big quantity of their salt consumption from the pets they pursued as well as from fresh plant food. Salt just comes to be a necessary additive where fresh foods are impossible in vey completely dry locations, where body sweat is additionally generally too much. It ends up being very preferable, nevertheless, among cultures with reasonably limited diet plans, as held true with cultivable farmers. (Vol II, 384-5)

On top of that, salt was constantly in terrific need in order to much better protect dried out meat and also to offer included preference to food. The savannah area south of the western Sahara desert (referred to as the Sudan area) and also the woodlands of southerly West Africa were bad in salt. Those locations near the Atlantic coastline might get the mineral from dissipation frying pans or boiling sea water, yet sea salt did not take a trip or maintain well. A 3rd option was salt originated from the ashes of charred plants like millet and also hands, however once more these were not so abundant in salt chloride. As a result, for the majority of the Sudan area, salt needed to originate from the north. The unwelcoming Sahara desert was the primary all-natural resource of rock salt, either obtained from surface area down payments triggered by the desiccation procedure such as discovered in old lake beds or drawn out from fairly superficial mines where the salt is normally developed right into pieces. This salt, which was a creamy-grey colour, was much above the various other resources of salt from the sea or specific plants.

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When precisely salt came to be a profession asset is unidentified, yet the exchange of salt for grains go back to prehistory when desert as well as savannah individuals each aimed to obtain what they might not create themselves. On a bigger range, camel campers were most likely going across the Sahara from at the very least the very first centuries of the first millennium CE. These campers would certainly be run by the Berbers that functioned as middle-men in between the North African states as well as West Africa. Salt was their significant profession great however they likewise brought deluxe things like glass wares, great towel, as well as made products. On top of that, with these profession products came the Islamic religious beliefs, concepts in art and also style, and also social methods.


Whoever managed the salt profession likewise managed the gold profession, & both were the major financial columns of different West African realms.

Salt, both its manufacturing and also profession, would certainly control West African economic climates throughout the second millennium CE, with resources as well as profession centres continuously altering hands as realms dropped and also increased. The salt mines of Idjil in the Sahara were a well-known resource of the valuable product for the Ghana Realm (6-13th century CE) as well as were still going solid in the 15th century CE. In the 10th century CE the Sanhaja Berbers, that regulated the salt mines at Awlil as well as Taghaza as well as transport via profession cities like Audaghost, started to test the Ghana Realm"s syndicate of the profession. In the 11th century CE the Awlil mines remained in the hands of Takrur, yet it would certainly be the Mali Realm (1240-1645 CE), with its funding at Niani, that controlled the sub-Saharan salt profession complying with the collapse of the Ghana Realm. Nonetheless, semi-independent river "ports" like Timbuktu started to swipe profession possibilities from the Mali kings more west. The following kingdom to control the area and also the motion of salt was the Songhai Realm (15-16th century CE) with its excellent trading funding at Gao.

Salt might have been a rarity in the savannah yet at desert mining communities like Taghaza (the major Sudan resource of salt as much as the 16th century CE) as well as Taoudenni, the asset was still so plentiful pieces of rock salt were utilized to construct residences. Normally, such an important money-spinner as a salt mine drew in competitors for possession, as when the Moroccan leader Muhammad al-Mahdi tried to muscle mass in on the marketplace by scheduling a number of famous Tuareg salt investors to be killed at Taghaza in the mid-16th century CE. Fairly actually, whoever managed the salt profession additionally managed the gold profession, and also both were the primary financial columns of the numerous realms of West Africa"s background.