The Ghana Empire amassed large volumes of gold and resources, expanded trade among nations near and far, established a structured court system and introduced standard military organization. The Ghana Empire, also called the Kingdom of Ghana, enjoyed significant power from the ninth century to the 11th century A.D. Kings and rulers discovered significant gold deposits in the kingdom's lands, such as Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, and the newfound wealth helped rulers establish a powerful, prominent kingdom.
Historians remain uncertain of when the ancient Ghana Kingdom arose. However, records from the first century A.D. indicate the Ghana Empire formed around that time from convergence of the Soninke people. The Soninke lived in separate clans and united under the leadership of Dinga Cisse. As a unified group, the Soninke and their leaders established the Ghana Empire. The empire acquired territory quickly, including fertile lands between the Niger and Senegal rivers. Leaders, called ghanas or kings, established social structure and order within the borders of the Ghana Empire. They punished wrongdoers and imposed strict laws of conduct for civilians. Kings allowed autonomy in some surrounding regions acquired by the Ghana Empire, provided citizens followed Ghanaian laws. However, areas where citizens protested kings' leadership faced increased scrutiny and a tight rule. Around 1240, the weakened Ghana Empire fell to Malian leaders, which transferred power and prominence to the Mali Empire.