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DEFINITION: The earliest and one of the most important of the West African empires, on the border of southern Mauretania and Mali and dating from at least the 8th century AD. It may have arisen as an organization of agricultural people who fought Saharan nomads. This early Sudanic state was well-established when it was first visited by Muslims from north of the Sahara. Its capital is believed to have been at Kumbi Saleh, where ruins of a large stone-built town have been investigated. Ghana also controlled the trading center at Awdaghast, at the southern end of the one of the major trans-Saharan caravan routes. The state regulated and profited from trade in gold, ivory, and salt. From the 11th century, Arabic written accounts are an important source for the history of ancient Ghana; late in that century the state was conquered by the Almoravids, who imposed Islam. Ghana was effectively eclipsed by Mali during the 13th century.

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