Have You Heard of Mansa Musa? Fact: The Africans Knew about the Lunar Cycle and Its Shadows Long before Any European Thought about It. If You Don't Believe It, Ask the BBC's Michael Palin

New African, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Have You Heard of Mansa Musa? Fact: The Africans Knew about the Lunar Cycle and Its Shadows Long before Any European Thought about It. If You Don't Believe It, Ask the BBC's Michael Palin


In a recent book, Cynthia Crossen, senior editor of the New York-based financial daily, The Wall Street Journal, wrote: "You've heard of the extraordinary wealth of Bill Gates, J.P. Morgan, and the sultan of Brunei, have you heard of Mansa Musa, one of the richest men who ever lived?"

Crossen, sitting in the centre of the foremost capitalist nation in the world, was not being sarcastic when she followed up her question with this comment: "Neither producer nor inventor, Mansa Musa was an early broker, greasing the wheels of intercultural trade. He created wealth by making it possible for others to buy and sell."

The great British historian on Africa, Dr Basil Davidson, suggested that the rulers of Mali were "rumoured to have been the wealthiest men on the face of the earth".

Mansa Musa I (or King Musa) ascended the throne of the Mali Empire in 1312. He was, perhaps, the most colourful personality in West African history. Of this monarch, Dr DeGraft Johnson wrote that:

"It was in 1324 ... that the world awoke to the splendour and grandeur of Mali. There across the African desert, and making its way to Mecca, was a caravan of a size which had never before been seen, a caravan consisting of 60,000 men. They were Mansa Musa's men, and Mansa Musa was with them. He was not going to war: he was merely going to worship at Mecca.

"The large caravan included a personal retinue of 12,000 slaves, all dressed in brocade and Persian silk. Mansa Musa himself rode on horseback, and directly preceding him were 500 slaves, each carrying a staff of gold dust. This imposing caravan made its way from Niani on the Upper Niger to Walata, then to Tuat, and then to Cairo.

"Mansa Musa's piety and open-handed generosity, the fine clothes and good behaviour of his followers, all quickly made a good impression. One might have thought that a pilgrimage to Mecca undertaken with such pomp and ceremony would have ulterior motives, but no such motives have ever been adduced."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In Egypt, Musa spent so much money in gold that he devastated that nation's economy. "For years after Mansa Musa's visit," wrote Prof DeGraft Johnson, "ordinary people in the streets of Cairo, Mecca, and Baghdad talked about this wonderful pilgrimage--a pilgrimage which led to the devaluation of gold in the Middle East for several years."

Mansa Musa embarked on a large building programme of mosques and universities in Timbuktu and Gao. In Niani, the capital, he built the Hall of Audience, a building communicated by an interior door to the royal palace. It was an "admirable monument" surrounded by a dome, adorned with arabesques of striking colours.

At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated. One of the cities, Timbuktu rose from obscurity to great commercial and cultural importance. It became a centre of learning, one of the foremost centres of Islamic scholarship in the world.

The mosque of the University of Sankore was highly distinguished for the teaching of Koranic theology and law, besides other subjects such as astronomy and mathematics.

In the 14th century, Timbuktu had an estimated population of 115,000 people. Typically, 25,000 were at university and 20,000 were at school. London, by contrast, had a total 14th century population of 20,000 people.

Similarly, Old Djenne, one of the early cities that date back to 250 BC (the city was part of the old Ghana Empire and passed on to the Mali Empire when Ghana fell), had a population of 20,000 people. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Have You Heard of Mansa Musa? Fact: The Africans Knew about the Lunar Cycle and Its Shadows Long before Any European Thought about It. If You Don't Believe It, Ask the BBC's Michael Palin
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.