The Early West African Empire of Mali:
Trade, Rulers, Education, and Physical and Human Characteristics

Standard(s) of Learning


The student will study the early East African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition (storytelling), government (kings), and economic development (trade).

3.4 The student will develop map skills by

locating Greece, Rome, and West Africa;


describing the physical and human characteristics of Greece, Rome, and West Africa;


explaining how the people of Greece, Rome, and West Africa adapted to and/or changed their environment to meet their needs

Essential Understandings, Knowledge, and Skills

Skills (to be incorporated into instruction throughout the academic year)

Locate and use information from print and non-print sources.                                                

Use resource materials.

Gather, classify, and interpret information.

Collect and record information.

Identify and locate features on a map and globe.

Locate and use information from print and non-print sources.


Grand Mosque near Djenne, Mali

Know that most of what we know about Mali’s history comes from oral accounts that were handed down from Mali storytellers.

Understand that Mali was ruled by rich and powerful kings.

Understand that early Mali was a wealthy trading empire before Columbus sailed to America.

Describe how Africa was the home to several great empires. One of the most prosperous was the empire of Mali.

Describe how many storytellers in Mali passed on traditions and stories from one generation to the next.

Describe how the kings of Mali were rich and powerful men who controlled trade in West Africa. Mali became one of the largest and wealthiest empires in the region and was an important trade center.

Describe how Mali lay across the trade routes between the sources of salt in the Sahara Desert and the gold region/mines of West Africa. For the people of the desert, salt was a natural resource. People used salt for their health and for preserving foods. Miners found gold in Western Africa. Therefore, salt was traded for gold.

Describe how Timbuktu was an important city in Mali. It had a famous university with a large library containing Greek and Roman books.

Understand that the empire of Mali was located in the western region of the continent of Africa.

Know the term characteristics: different traits.                                                                   

Describe the physical characteristics of the Empire of Mali.
•    Located in West Africa                                                                                                
•    Near rivers                                                                                                                  
•    Desert-like conditions                                                                                                   
•    Gold mines                                                                                                                   

Describe the human characteristics of the Empire of Mali: Farmers, miners, and traders         

Describe how people adapt to their environment in different ways.                                        

Explain ways that the people of Greece, Rome, and West Africa adapted to their environments: Empire of Mali: Salt was an important natural resource for people in the desert; salt was traded for gold.

Sample Resources

Below is an annotated list of Internet resources for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.

“Graphic Organizers.” Education Place. Houghton Mifflin. <>. This Web page has a collection of graphic organizers.

“Graphic Organizers.” SCORE. Schools of California Online Resources for Education. <>. This Web page offers a variety of formats for graphic organizers.

Mali: Ancient Crossroads of Africa. This site is provided by the Virginia Department of Education and has numerous links, resources, lesson plans, pictures, videos, and maps. <>.

Matusevich, Melissa. Social Studies Curriculum Resources Poster Sets.  <>. This Web site is a resource of social studies poster sets for grades K–3.

Mr. Dowling’s Electronic Passport. Mike Dowling. <>. This Web site allows students to visit ancient civilizations in a virtual classroom.

Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments for the 2001 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. Grade Three History and Social Science Test Blueprint. Virginia Department of Education, 2003/04.<>. This site provides assessment information for Grade Three Introduction to History and Social Science.

Credits | Feedback | Privacy Statement | Terms of Use
Virginia Department of Education | Prince William County Public Schools