Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Across the Centuries

Traveling through Sub-Saharan Africa

Objective: Students research medieval trade patterns in sub-Saharan Africa and observe how contact with the Portuguese altered traditional patterns.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
4 hours over 4 days

Building Background:
Tell students that they will be creating a series of maps that will illustrate the historical trade routes of sub-Saharan Africa. Inform them that the objective of this activity is to observe how contact with Portugal altered traditional patterns of trade in the region. Begin by reviewing the origin of the West African Kongo kingdom that grew powerful through the trade of goods such as salt, iron, and copper. In East Africa, inland kingdoms such as the Great Zimbabwe traded ivory and gold to coastal city-states in exchange for products such as Chinese porcelain and Indian spices. Continue to review how large multicultural, East African city-states such as Mozambique and Kilwa were major trading centers. These city-states linked Africa with the Middle East, India, and China. Beginning in the 15th century, Portuguese explorers ventured down the African coast in search of a trade route to India. Portugal's explorations brought Europeans into contact with the Kongo Kingdom and the East African states, changing the cultures of sub-Saharan Africa and Europe.

What To Do:

1. Distribute the Changes in Sub-Saharan Africa worksheet. Ask students to review the worksheet and complete the chart and the questions about trade routes and products. Encourage students to visit their local library to find information that will help them answer these questions. If your class has Internet access visit this site for additional information:

Africanet: Zimbabwe History

This Internet site provides a detailed list of Zimbabwe's history and presents its early economic activities.

2. As a class examine the completed worksheets. As you review the products traded in Africa, discuss the concept of slavery. Inform students that slavery was part of many early African, European, Asian, and American cultures. However, slaves in Africa were typically prisoners of war, not separated from their families, and often treated as members of the communities or the families they served. Conclude by mentioning that slaves in Africa had rights such as purchasing their own freedom.

3. Print and distribute one copy of the Africa outline map to each student. Ask students to locate and label the following places on the map: the Kongo Kingdom, Great Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kilwa, Sofala, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Monomutapa, and Portugal. (Note that the boundaries of Portugal are not shown on the map. Have students add this information to the map).

4. Have students draw in the trade routes that existed prior to Portuguese contact. Have students review their worksheets and research notes to determine the locations of these routes. Suggest that students complete their maps by drawing product symbols at locations on the map where they were found. Encourage students to look at the maps in their textbook on pages 142 and 303 for information.

5. Print and distribute a second copy of theAfrica outline map to each student. Ask students to locate the same places as above. Explain to students that this map will show the trade routes and products exchanged by the African nations and the Portuguese. Suggest that students use their worksheet, research notes, and review Unit 3, Chapter 6 in their textbooks to help them complete the new routes.

Have students compare their two maps and discuss the differences between them. Encourage students to express their thoughts about how the new trade patterns and Portuguese influence may have changed African society. Discuss how the new trade patterns impacted the Portuguese.


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