The modern country of Ghana, formerly the Gold Coast, takes its name from an
ancient empire which dominated West Africa during the Middle Ages. Ancient Ghana
lay many miles north of the present country, between the Sahara desert and the
Niger and Senegal rivers.
Ghana was probably founded some time in the AD 300s. From then until about
770 its rulers were the Maga dynasty, a Berber family, though the people were
Negroes of the Soninke tribes. In 700 the Maga were ousted by the Soninke , and
the empire expanded greatly under the rule of Kaya Maghan Sisse, who was king
At this time Ghana began to acquire a reputation as a land of gold. It rose
to its greatest glory in the 900s, and so again attracted the attention of the
Arabs. After many years of warfare the Berber Almoravid dynasty seized power,
though they did not hold it long. The empire declined in 1240 and was overrun by
the people of Mali.