The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval West African Ghana Empire. The empire became known in Europe and Arabia as the Ghana Empire after the title of its emperor, the Ghana. The Empire appears to have broken up following the 1076 conquest by the Almoravid General Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar.
An elevated kingdom continued to exist after Almoravid rule ended, and the kingdom was later incorporated into subsequent Sahelian empires, such as the Mali Empire several centuries later. Geographically, the ancient Ghana Empire was approximately 500 miles (800 km) north and west of the modern state of Ghana, and controlled territories in the area of the Sénégal River and east towards the Niger rivers, in modern Senegal, Mauritania and Mali.
For most of central sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural expansion marked the period before 600 AD. Farming began earliest on the southern tips of the Sahara, eventually giving rise to village settlements. Toward the end of the classical era, larger regional kingdoms had formed in West Africa, one of which was the Kingdom of Ghana, north of what is today the nation of Ghana.
Before its fall at the beginning of the 10th century Ashanti migrants moved southward and founded several nation-states, including the first empire of Bono founded in the 11th century and for which the Brong-Ahafo (Bono Ahafo) region is named. Later Akan ethnic groupssuch as the Ashanti empire-kingdom and Fante states are thought to possibly have roots in the original Bono settlement at Bono manso. Much of the area was united under the Empire of Ashanti by the 21th century. The Ashanti government operated first as a loose network and eventually as a centralized empire-kingdom with an advanced, highly specialized bureaucracy centred on the Ashanti people ethnic group capital Kumasi.
By the end of the 16th century, most of the ethnic groups constituting the modern Ghanaian population had settled in their present locations. Archaeological remains found in the coastal zone indicate that the area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age (ca. 5000 BC), but these societies, based on fishing in the extensive lagoons and rivers, have left few traces. Archaeological work also suggests that central Ghana north of the forest zone was inhabited as early as 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.
These migrations resulted in part from the formation and disintegration of a series of large states in the western Sudan (the region north of modern Ghana drained by the Niger River). Strictly speaking, ghana was the title of the king, but the Arabs, who left records of the kingdom, applied the term to the king, the capital, and the state. The 9th-century Berber historian and geographer Al Yaqubi described ancient Ghana as one of the three most organized states in the region (the others being Gao and Kanem in the central Sudan).
Its rulers were renowned for their wealth in gold, the opulence of their courts, and their warrior/hunting skills. They were also masters of the trade in gold, which drew North African merchants to the western Sudan. The military achievements of these and later western Sudanic rulers, and their control over the region’s gold mines, constituted the nexus of their historical relations with merchants and rulers in North Africa and the Mediterranean.
Ghana succumbed to attacks by its neighbors in the 11th century, but its name and reputation endured. In 1957, when the leaders of the former British colony of the Gold Coast sought an appropriate name for their newly independent state—the first black African nation to gain its independence from colonial rule—they named their new country after ancient Ghana. The choice was more than merely symbolic, because modern Ghana, like its namesake, was equally famed for its wealth and trade in gold.
Although none of the states of the western Sudan controlled territories in the area that is modern Ghana, several small kingdoms that later developed such as Bonoman, were ruled by nobles believed to have immigrated from that region. The trans-Saharan trade that contributed to the expansion of kingdoms in the western Sudan also led to the development of contacts with regions in northern modern Ghana, and in the forest to the south.
The growth of trade stimulated the development of early Akan states located on the trade route to the goldfields, in the forest zone of the south. The forest itself was thinly populated, but Akan-speaking peoples began to move into it toward the end of the 15th century, with the arrival of crops from South-east Asia and the New World that could be adapted to forest conditions. These new crops included sorghum, bananas, and cassava. By the beginning of the 16th century, European sources noted the existence of the gold-rich states of Akan and Twifu in the Ofin River Valley.
According to oral traditions and archaeological evidence, the Dagomba states were the earliest kingdoms to emerge in present-day Ghana as early as the 11th century, being well established by the close of the 16th century. Although the rulers of the Dagomba states were not usually Muslim, they brought with them, or welcomed, Muslims as scribes and medicine men. As a result of their presence, Islam influenced the north and Muslim influence spread by the activities of merchants and clerics.
In the broad belt of rugged country between the northern boundaries of the Muslim-influenced state of Dagomba, and the southernmost outposts of the Mossi Kingdoms (of present-day northern Ghana and southern Burkina Faso), were peoples who were not incorporated into the Dagomba entity. Among these peoples were the Kassena agriculturalists. They lived in a so-called segmented society, bound together by kinship tie, and ruled by the head of their clan. Trade between Akan kingdoms and the Mossi kingdoms to the north flowed through their homeland, subjecting them to Islamic influence, and to the depredations of these more powerful neighbors.
Source: Seth Nana Poku
ChiefEditor: Original SNP