1743 French Map of Northwest Africa, depicting the areas covered in this curriculum unit.
Credit: Courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.
After a rich history as a center of commerce and scholarship, the West African city of Timbuktu began a period of decline in the 16th century. In time, like the other major centers along the overland routes of West Africa, Timbuktu was forgotten. In later centuries, stories about these remote "lost cities" piqued the curiosity of many Europeans. Certain intrepid adventurers set out to rediscover them.
Become familiar with the lesson material. Bookmark relevant websites for later reference. Additional background information can be found at History of Timbuktu.
Timbuktu tumbled from the peak of its glory to a sad state of ruin in a very short period.
In the years following the city's decline, the legend of the city began to grow. So did a number of misconceptions.
The image of a city filled with gold ultimately attracted a number of treasure-hunters.
At last, a European made it to Timbuktu—and back. But he didn't find a city of gold.
Pretend that you are Rene Caillie, back at home in France and beginning to write about your experiences in Timbuktu. Write an introduction to the first volume as he might have done.
2 class periods