Medieval African Kingdoms


You are applying for a new position with, a travel agency that can transport people to all corners of the world as well as to any era in the past.  Time is looking for a team that can promote travel to the Medieval kingdoms of the Kongo, Ghana, Mali,Songhay, the Great Zimbabwe and Kilwa. Will you be part of the winning team? 

Your Mission 

Your mission is to develop a winning promotional campaign for one of the medieval kingdoms of western Africa.  You will use the resources listed on the materials page to discover all you can about these kingdoms. You will need to learn about all three kingdoms because you will be judging the materials created by the other groups, not only for appearance, but also for accuracy and completeness.

Getting Started

Begin by using a KWHL chart to record what you know about each of these Medieval African Kingdoms. You need to make one chart for each kingdom.  You may also want to make a brainstorm web showing your ideas for information that a travel promotion might contain.  For instance, you may want to highlight  major cities, political leaders, religion, education, the economy, or climate. 

Once you have decided what information you need, you may wish to divide up your tasks depending on how many people are on your team. For example, one person might be the historian who records information about the other two kingdoms. Another person might be in charge of collecting graphics, pictures, and other visual material for use in the project. Or you may choose to divide your team into "experts" on the various aspects of the culture, such as religion, economy, and government. 

One suggested division of labor would be to have each team member select one or two topics to cover from the first section below (traveler's guide) and three to five topics from section two (experiences offered) depending on the size of your team .


     a. Weather and climate (what to pack or not to pack). 

     b.  Place to go on land (mountains, deserts, valleys, and plateaus). 

     c. Places to go on water (rivers, falls, lakes, and oceans). 

     d.  Wild animals to see (or avoid).  Liability release in case the client is eaten? Innoculations to avoid catastrophes from insect or snake bites. 

     e.  Vegetation, crops, medicines.


     a. Cooking (everyday meals or special occasions). 

     b. Food gathering (hunting, fishing, farming, herding). 

     c.  Clothing  (making, wearing - everyday or special occasions). 

     d.  Making and wearing of adornments. 

     e.  Dancing, music, instruments, drums. 

     f.  Attending ceremonies (birth, coming of age, weddings, funerals) 

     g. Honoring common customs and traditions of daily life. 

     h. Attending religious events dealing with gods and spirits (Purification required). 

     i. Making and using masks. 

     j. Witnessing warfare (weapons, armor, strategies). 

     k. Healing and medicine, use of magic. 

     l. Observing or taking part in arts and crafts. 

     m. Meeting different people - social classes. 

     n.  Visiting homes and villages (architecture). 

     o.  Listening to the village griot tell myths and legends. 

     p. Participating in the local economy (shopping, trade). 

     q. Visiting royalty. 

     r. Witnessing the tragic decline and fall of the empire. 



Web resources:

African Voices

 This Smithsonian site is wonderfully rich graphically and has a huge, well organized compilation of resources on the history of Africa from ancient times to now. 

Dogon People

According to oral tradition, the Dogon people of south-central 

Mali originated near the headwaters of the Niger River.

Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa captured the attention of the Arab world when he left 

his home in Mali to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324.


Sundiata's forces killed Samanguru and destroyed his forces in 

the Battle of Kirina in 1235.  Sundiata then became mansa, or 

king of a new empire which we know today as Mali.

Splendor in Medieval Africa: a Visit to Mali's Medieval Past

A look at the fascinating and near-forgotten medieval Kingdom of Mali.

Africa for Kids

Provides links to material on ancient and medieval kingdoms as well as historical persons, folktales, and proverbs.

Ghana Web

African Empires

Exploring Mali


The Story of Africa

An excellent resource by the BBC.

Daily Life in Ancient and Medieval Africa

Information about several ancient and medieval African kingdoms, including Egypt, Kush, Ghana, Mali, Songhay, and Benin.

FactCite Info

Britannica School - Database

More Resources - Books

Books in our Library: [With Call Numbers for location]

Africa's glorious legacy. (Lost civilizations) Time-Life, 1994.  [960 AFR]

Brooks, Larry. Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Timbuktu (Cities Through Time) Runestone, 1999.  [966.23 BRO]

Conrad, David. Empires of medieval West Africa : Ghana, Mali, and Songhay. Facts on File, 2005.  [966 CON]

Conrad, David. The Songhay Empire (First Book). Watts, 1998.  [966.2 CON]

Cox, Reg.  The seven wonders of the medieval world. Chelsea House, 2001.  [940.1 COX]

Diouf, Sylviane.  Kings and Queens of Central Africa. Watts, 2000.  [920 DIO]

Diouf, Sylviane.  Kings and Queens of East Africa. Watts, 2000.  [920 DIO]

Diouf, Sylviane.  Kings and Queens of Southern Africa. Watts, 2000.  [920 DIO]

Diouf, Sylviane.  Kings and Queens of West Africa. Watts, 2000.  [920 DIO]

Green, Rebecca L.  The Empire of Ghana.  Watts, 1998.  [966.1 GRE]

Koslow, Philip.  Centuries of Greatness : the West African Kingdoms, 750-1900. Chelsea House, 1995.  [966 KOS]

Koslow, Philip.  Songhay: the Empire Builders (The Kingdoms of Africa). Chelsea House, 1995.  [966.2 KOS]

Nelson, Julie. West African Kingdoms. Steadwell Books, 2002.  [966 NEL]

Shuter, Jane. Ancient West African Kingdoms. Heinemann Library, 2009.  [966.23 SHU]
Thompson, Carol.  The Empire of Mali. Watts, 1998.  [966.2 THO]

Other Topics:

Barnes-Svarney, Patricia.  Zimbabwe. Chelsea, 1999.  [968.91 BAR]

Bessire, Mark. Great Zimbabwe. Watts, 1998.  [968.91 BES]
Laure, Jason.  Zimbabwe. Children's Press, 1988.  [968.91 LAU]