Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ghana, Elmina Castle

Elmina Castle was erected by the Portuguese in 1482 in Ghana ( formerly the gold coast) . It was the first trading post built on the Gulf of guinea, the oldest European building in existence below the Sahara. gradually it became the most important stops on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. The Dutch seized it in 1637 and used it till 1871 when the fort was taken by British. Gold coast was granted independencein 1957 and the castle was handed over to the local authorities.
Now it is recognised by UNESCO as a Worl heritage Site.
the people living along the Elmina around 15th century were presumablyFante. It bore an uncertain relationship to "Akan" , connoting conquest and warfare. Among the ancestors there were merchants trading gold into the Mediterranean and near eastern worlds from the medieval period.
The tribal people of west African coast were organised into numerous small chiefdoms that were rawn according to kinship lines. Family was extremely important in society , and family heads were united in communities under a recognised chief.Alonbg the Gold Coast alone there were more than twenty independent kingdoms. Elmina lay between two different Fante kingdoms, Fertu and Eguafu. The coastal people also had trade relations with Sudanese empire to the north. The Portuguese were the first to discover such a land in 1471.
Prince Henry the Navigator first sent ships to explore the African coast in 1418 for,
1. being attracted by the rumors of fertile African lands and rich in gold and ivory,
2. To find a southern route for India to establish trade in Arab and Asia.
3. to spread christianity.During the reign of king AfonsoV.they reache Elmina in 1471.
Trading posts were created under Gomesand King Joao sent all the materials needed to build the forton ten caravals and two transport ships.
Atthe height of the gold trade in the early 16th century, 24,000 ounces of gold were exported annually from the gold coast, which was the one tenth of the world's supply. The Portuguese made trade relations with local tribes in exchange of their security.