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By Andrea L. Stamm, Dawn E. Bastian, Robert A. Myers

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Mali can also be divided into three vegetation zones. The southern Sudanic zone, characterized by wooded savannahs and riverine forests, is dominated by herbaceous vegetation. Trees which grow here include bastard mahogany, kapok, shea butter, silk cotton, and mango, the last of which Was introduced by the French. The Sahelian zone is characterized by steppe vegetation; plant growth is sparse and the Page xix incidence of trees is less than in the Sudanic zone. Here can be found cram-cram grass and trees resistant to drought, such as the baobab, palmyra, doum palm, acacia thorn tree and a number of mimosa species.

First was the Sarakole Empire of Ghana, a federation of kingdoms which originated as early as the 4th century, reached its height about 1000 AD, and declined after the 11th century. Situated between the Niger and Senegal rivers and known as 'the land of gold' to the Muslim world, the Ghana Empire covered primarily what is now northwestern Mali and parts of Mauritania. The Malinké Empire of Mali, on the Upper and Middle Niger, began in the 12th century, reached its zenith in the middle of the 14th century, and declined in the 15th century.

The Sarakolé (Soninke), descendants of the founders of the Ghana Empire, inhabit the Sahel in northwestern Mali; they are farmers and merchants. Page xxi The Malinké (Maninka), descendants of the great Mali Empire, share cultural and linguistic characteristics with the Bambra. The Songhay, an important ethnic group with a rich history, live along the Niger River from Djenné to Asongo. The Dogon, whose art and culture have become known throughout the world, inhabit the plateau region around Bandiagara.

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