Fourth Grade - World History - Lesson 36 - Early African Kingdoms

Objective
Become familiar with the early African kingdoms of Kush and Aksum (Axum).

Materials
Classroom-size world map
1 per student
Map of Africa (attached)

Suggested Books
Teacher Reference
The following books provide a study of the traditions and history of the ancient African kingdoms of Egypt, Kush, and Axum, which once occupied northeastern Africa. They examine the kingdoms' relationships with each other as well as foreign influence and involvement in the region.
Jenkins, Earnestine. A Glorious Past: Ancient Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nubia. New York: Chelsea House, 1995.
Mann, Kenny. Egypt, Kush, Aksum: African Kingdoms of the Past. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1997.

Teacher Note
The National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. schedules programs for schools. You may wish to contact their Department of Education at (202) 357-4600 ext. 221 for information.

Procedure
Have a student locate the continent of Africa on the world map. Point out that the continent is almost entirely surrounded by water except for the narrow strip of land that is a part of Egypt that attaches Africa to the continent of Asia. Tell the students that early Africa was divided into kingdoms. Ask: What is a kingdom? Have the students recall that a kingdom is a geographic area that is ruled by a king. Give each student a map of Africa. Explain that the first African kingdom, the kingdom of Kush, dates back to 2000 B.C. Kush was located in the northeastern part of Africa just below Egypt in the present-day country of Sudan. (Point to Sudan on the world map as students locate the kingdom on their maps.)
Tell the students that the ancient Greeks and Romans thought that the region of Kush, which was also called Nubia, was one of the great civilizations in the world. Explain that although few Greeks or Romans ever travelled there because of Kush's great distance from Europe, they knew that Kush was very rich in natural resources. Write the word natural resource on the board. Have a student define the term if possible or give the following definition: natural resources are the gifts of nature or the natural wealth of an area such as land, water, minerals, trees, soil, etc. You may wish to review with the students the other types of productive resources: human and capital, at this time. (Human resources are people -- with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Capital resources are things we make such as buildings, equipment, machinery, and roads.) Tell the students that Kush was rich in gold mined from the earth, ivory from the tusks of animals (elephants), and cattle. Ask: What types of resources are these? (natural)
Explain that although not much information is known about the kingdom of Kush, we do know from historical reports that Kush was an advanced civilization which had its own language and a system of writing. They also discovered the use of iron ore to make iron tools and weapons. Tell the students that although Kushites adopted many elements of Egyptian art and architecture, they developed new styles in both of these areas. The Kushites also believed in many gods similar to those in which the Egyptians believed.
Tell the students that in 350 A.D. the kingdom of Kush was taken over by the neighboring kingdom of Axum (Aksum). Explain that Axum was located in what is today the country of Ethiopia. (Show the students Ethiopia on the world map as they locate the kingdom on their maps.) Tell the students that Axum was a strong trading kingdom. Explain that the earliest settlers of Axum recognized that it would be a good place to establish a trading settlement. Ask the students to name some of the reasons why the kingdom of Axum was located in a good place for trading (next to the Red Sea which gave access to the Indian Ocean, Arabia located across the Red Sea).
Explain that Axum's location allowed the people who lived there to make a profit from trade passing between Europe, Arabia, Asia, and eastern Africa. Tell the students that great amounts of ivory from the tusks of animals, tortoiseshell from the outer shell of tortoises (turtles), emeralds and gold mined from the earth were exported from Axum and goods such as silk and spices were brought into or imported to Axum from the Far East.
Remind the students that in their last lesson they learned that Muslim merchants who travelled great distances to trade in other areas also spread Muslim ideas, goods, and religion. Tell the students that interestingly enough Axum instead became a Christian kingdom under King Ezana in 328 A.D.
Explain that legend has it that a foreign boy named Frumentius was attacked and made a slave of the royal court. Frumentius was well liked by the royal family and became a tutor to the royal children. When the king died the queen asked Frumentius to help rule Axum. He had been promised his freedom, but instead remained until the queen's son, Ezana, was old enough to rule. Frumentius established a number of Christian churches and when Ezana became king he made Christianity the official religion of Axum.
Draw a table with two columns on the board. Write in the headings of Kush and Axum. Ask the students to compare and contrast the two kingdoms. Write the things that are different about each kingdom under the appropriate heading and the things that are the same across both columns (see example below).
 

 

Kush
 

Axum
 

older
 

younger
 

inland
 

on the coast
 

many gods
 

Christian
 

both rich in natural resources
 

developed language and writing
 

were traders

Direct the students' attention to their maps. Ask: What other labelled areas do you see on the map? Tell the students that the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai are labelled on the map in West Africa. Tell the students that the great demand for goods from Africa and the Middle East led to the rise of other wealthy African kingdoms, including the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. They will be learning about the development of these kingdoms in their next lesson. Collect the maps of Africa and save for Lesson 37.
 

Fourth Grade - World History - Lesson 37 - Medieval Kingdoms of the Sudan

Objective
Become familiar with the concepts of supply, demand, and bartering.

Materials
Classroom-size world map
Gold (piece of gold tone jewelry)
Packet of salt
1 per student
Map of Africa (from Lesson 36)

Suggested Book
Student Title
McKissack, Patricia and Frederick. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. New York: Henry Holt, 1994.
Well-researched book with many black and white illustrations, maps, and photographs of archaeological remains.

Procedure
Give each student a map of Africa (saved from Lesson 36). Tell the students that around the same time as Europe's Middle Ages, ancient African kingdoms were developing into wealthy trading areas. Explain that there were three great empires which rose and fell during this period. Tell the students that Ghana was the first and began around the year 700 A.D. Ghana was then absorbed into the larger kingdom of Mali, which was later replaced by the Songhai Empire.
Tell the students that the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were located in West Africa in a region called the Sudan. Have the students locate the kingdoms on their maps. Be sure to clarify that the region of the Sudan (present-day countries of Senegal, Mali, and Guinea) -- is not to be confused with the country of Sudan in the eastern section of Africa.
Tell the students that just like the kingdom of Axum on the eastern coast of Africa, Ghana, Mali, and Songhai were trading kingdoms. Explain to the students that trading or bartering was an important part of life in ancient Africa because it provided a way to meet their needs for goods and supplies. Tell the students that the business of trading was based on supply and demand. Explain that the demand is what people need or want and are willing to buy.
Introduce the students to bartering. Hold up a candy bar and a pencil. Ask: How many of you would trade a candy bar for a pencil? Tell the students that although many of them would rather have a candy bar than a pencil, if one of them didn't have a pencil and needed one, they might be willing to trade the candy for the pencil. Next hold up a piece of gold tone jewelry and a packet of salt. Ask: Would you trade this packet of salt for this piece of gold? Explain that people in ancient Africa did trade salt for gold because salt was something they needed.
Tell the students that two things that were in demand that came from Africa were salt and gold. Tell the students that the Sahara or desert region had rich salt deposits. Explain that salt was valued because it was used for flavoring and preserving food and for keeping moisture in the body. Some of the kingdoms in the Sudan were rich in salt, while others were rich in gold. Ask: What do you think happened between these kingdoms? (They traded because each wanted or needed something that the other had.) Explain that because salt and gold were equally valuable due to supply and demand, the kingdoms traded with each other.

Tell the students that Ghana, the first of these great kingdoms, was positioned between gold mines to the south and salt mines to the north. Explain that in the north there was so much salt that buildings were made out of blocks of salt. In the south, there was a lack of salt, but gold was plentiful, so a system of bartering developed between these two regions. Ghana became a wealthy kingdom because the traders had to pass through it and the king of Ghana arranged a system of charging taxes on the goods that passed through Ghana.
Tell the students that trade between the African kingdoms expanded when Muslim merchants began to travel across the Sahara Desert to trade with them. Tell the students that the Sahara Desert covers the area across the north central part of Africa. Write the name on the board and have the students locate the desert on their maps. Ask the students to define the word desert. If they are unable to, write the following definition on the board: A land area so dry and sandy that little or no plant life can survive. Tell the students that just like a mountain, a desert forms a natural barrier. Ask: Why would a desert be a barrier, in other words, why would it be difficult to cross? (sand difficult to travel on, no water, no trees for shelter from the sun, terrible heat)
Explain that in order to make trans-Saharan travel possible merchants travelled on camels. Tell the students that the camel is an animal that is well adapted to desert travel -- they can live in dry heat, they can drink up to twenty-five gallons of water at a time, go several days without food, and are able to carry heavy loads. Also, a camel's foot is very wide and helps to keep the animal from sinking in the sand. Explain that it works the way a snowshoe does to keep a person from sinking in deep snow.
Tell the students that usually a number of merchants joined together to form a caravan. Caravans were sometimes made up of as many as a hundred camels loaded with merchandise and supplies. Explain that this made travel safer since there was safety in numbers. Have the students recall that in this country people who first travelled to the West usually joined a wagon train to keep themselves safe from attacks -- once again safety in numbers. The Muslim merchants brought with them cloth, spices, copper, silver, horses, and other goods from Asia and the Middle East to trade for gold, iron, salt, and slaves with merchants in the Sudan. Explain that this trade enabled the kingdoms in the Sudan to grow and become wealthy areas.
 

Fourth Grade - World History - Lesson 38 - Medieval Kingdoms of the Sudan

Objective
Identify the influence of Muslim merchants in Africa.

Materials
Classroom-size world map
Map of Africa (from Lesson 36)

Suggested Book
Student Title
McKissack, Patricia and Frederick. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. New York: Henry Holt, 1994.
Well-researched book with many black and white illustrations, maps, and photographs of archaeological remains.

Procedure
Redistribute the map of Africa used in Lesson 36. Review with the students that Muslim merchants travelled in caravans across the Sahara Desert to trade with ancient West African kingdoms. Ask: Why was travel across the desert difficult? (sand difficult to travel on, no water, no trees for shelter from the sun, terrible heat) What animal made the trans-Saharan trip possible? (the camel) Why were the camels good animals to use for desert travel? (they can live in dry heat, they can drink up to twenty-five gallons of water at a time, go several days without food, and are able to carry heavy loads, shape of feet) Ask: What were two of the products found in this area of West Africa that were in demand? (salt and gold) Review with the students why salt was so valuable (flavoring and preserving food and for retaining moisture in the body).
Tell the students that as the Muslim merchants travelled to these areas in Africa not only did they bring goods from Asia and the Middle East for trade, they also spread the Muslim religion to these areas. Explain that Islam spread quickly because of the basic Muslim belief that all people are equal -- regardless of race or economic status. Because Islam encourages its followers to learn about the words of Allah, the new Islamic areas in the Sudan became centers of learning. Tell the students that one city that became a learning center in the Sudan was the city of Timbuktu in Mali. Have the students find the city on their maps.
Tell the students that when Islam spread to Timbuktu the Muslim tradition of learning followed. Explain that learning to read and write is important in the Muslim religion because every Muslim learns the Koran in order to pray and know what Allah allows and forbids. Also with the Muslim religion, the Middle Eastern traders brought the Arabic language to Africa. Explain that this united many of the West Africans because different West African tribes spoke different African languages. Tell the students that learning Arabic gave West Africa a common language.
Tell the students that some of what we know about the great African kingdoms actually come from the writings of a Muslim traveller named Ibn Battuta (IHB uhn bat TOO tah). Read the following from What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know by E. D. Hirsch:
He travelled east overland from his native country of Morocco all the way across northern Africa. Later he explored the Middle East. He also travelled overland to India, to the court of the sultan, who sent him to China. Just a few of the other places he visited in almost thirty years of travelling were Spain, Timbuktu, and the Niger River. His writings are still a rich source of information about the places he visited and the time in which he lived.

Tell the students that one place that Ibn Battuta visited was Mali. Explain that during his travels there, he wrote about the Malian people, their ruler who was called a sultan (explain that a sultan is a person who rules with absolute power), and their customs. Read Ibn Battuta's description of Mali:
The [people of Mali] are seldom unjust, and have a greater horror of injustices than other people. Their sultan shows no mercy to anyone who is guilty of the least act of it. There is complete security in their country. Neither traveller nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence.

Ask: From this description what kind of place was Mali? (safe) Is it a place you would have felt comfortable visiting?
Tell the students that even if a person is unable to travel to a far away place, a great deal can be learned by reading someone's description of that place. Have the students write a description of a place they have visited (a place where the class has taken a field trip, the Inner Harbor, some place they have been to visit in or out of state). Tell the students that their descriptions should be written for someone who has never been to the place about which they are writing. Explain that their description should therefore include what they saw, who they met, etc. You may wish to have them write about how each of their senses perceived the place (sight -- what they saw, taste -- things they ate, smell -- what smells would they attach to the place, touch -- could include temperature of the place, things they found or held [shells at the beach, petting a calf at a farm], sound -- the sounds they heard that remind them of the place). Before the students write their own descriptions, you may wish to run through an example using a place that you have visited.
 

Fourth Grade - World History - Lesson 39 - Sundiata and Mansa Musa

Objective
Become familiar with the following rulers of Mali: Sundiata Keita and Mansa Musa.

Materials
Classroom-size world map
Map of Africa from Lesson 36

Suggested Books
Student Titles
Koslow, Philip. Mali: Crossroads of Africa. New York: Chelsea House, 1995.
This book contains information regarding the rulers Sundiata and Mansa Musa.
Wisniewski, David. Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. New York: Clarion, 1992.
This is an inspirational retelling of the tale of Sundiata, son of the king of Mali. It tells how Sundiata overcame physical obstacles to reclaim the throne of Mali. Accompanied by vibrant cut-paper illustrations.

Procedure
Review with the students that there were three great empires which rose and fell during the Middle Ages. Remind the students that Ghana was the first and began around the year 700 A.D. Tell the students that when the kingdom of Ghana was conquered by the king of a neighboring kingdom, it became the kingdom of Mali.
Tell the students that two famous rulers of Mali were Sundiata Keita and Mansa Musa. There is a famous legend about Sundiata's life. Explain that unlike some legends which are not based on the life of a real person, such as the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Sundiata was a real person. If possible read aloud to the class Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski or share the following details of Sundiata's life with the students (If you do read Sundiata to the class, ask the students to pick out the elements of the story that are simply legend and did not really happen -- Sundiata's step brother turned to stone, the rooster's spur as Sumanguru's weakness, etc.):
Prince Sundiata was born very sick and for years was unable to walk or even stand. Sundiata's half brother took over the throne after their father's death and Sundiata was forced to live in exile. While in exile, Sundiata learned to walk and became a skilled warrior. He formed a large army and overthrew his cruel brother to become the king of Mali.

Ask the students if the story of Sundiata reminds them of another story? ("The Lion King") Tell the students that as king, Sundiata began the salt and gold trade again which had been stopped after the fall of Ghana. This brought wealth to Mali and made it possible to enlarge the kingdom of Mali to include more territory. Tell the students that Sundiata died in 1270 after a reign of twenty years. Explain that the kings that followed him were called mansas.
Tell the students that the most famous of the Malian mansas was Mansa Musa. Explain that Mansa Musa was famous because he also expanded the size of Mali, doubling the land area. He also added new trade routes including one for copper trade, making Mali an even wealthier kingdom. Explain that copper, like iron, was used to make tools, utensils, ornaments, and household objects, so it was an important metal.

Tell the students that Mansa Musa was a Muslim and encouraged learning and the arts -- under his rule the University of Timbuktu was built. Ask: Can someone recall the Five Pillars of Islam? (declaration of faith, prayer five times a day, fasting during the month of Ramadan, helping the needy, making a pilgrimage [or hajj] to Mecca) Explain that because Mansa Musa could afford the trip, he went on a hajj to Mecca. Tell the students that his hajj to Mecca brought the attention of people in every place he passed through. Explain that he travelled with 100 camels each carrying 300 pounds of gold, 100 more camels carrying food, clothing, and other supplies, and 60,000 people -- soldiers, slaves, relatives, friends, doctors travelled with him. Tell the students that the trip from Mali to Mecca took one year. Explain that people who lived in the places he travelled through lined the streets to watch the procession come through -- much like the way people line the streets to watch a parade today.
Tell the students that because of his pilgrimage, Mansa Musa and the kingdom of Mali became known in Egypt, Arabia, and throughout Europe. Tell the students that after his death the huge empire of Mali began to decline. Explain that after a series of weak rulers part of the kingdom of Mali, including Timbuktu, became part of the kingdom of Songhai, which lasted until 1590.

Bibliography

Student Titles
Koslow, Philip. Mali: Crossroads of Africa. New York: Chelsea House, 1995. (0-7910-3127-6)
McKissack, Patricia and Frederick. The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay: Life in Medieval Africa. New York: Henry Holt, 1994. (0-8050-1670-8)
Wisniewski, David. Sundiata: Lion King of Mali. New York: Clarion, 1992. (0-395-61302-7)

Teacher Reference
Jenkins, Earnestine. A Glorious Past: Ancient Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nubia. New York: Chelsea House, 1995. (0-7910-2258-7)
Mann, Kenny. Egypt, Kush, Aksum: African Kingdoms of the Past. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Press, 1997. (0-87518-655-6)