Ghana (gäˈnə) [key], ancient empire, W Africa, in the savanna region of what is now E Senegal, SW Mali, and S Mauritania. The empire was founded c.6th cent. by Soninke peoples and lay astride the trans-Saharan caravan routes. Its capital was Kumbi Salih (in present-day SE Mauritania). It prospered from trade—particularly in salt and gold—and tribute. Internal divisions and an Almoravid invasion (1076) contributed to Ghana's decline, and by the 13th cent. it had disintegrated. Modern Ghana takes its name from the former empire.
See N. Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali 1973).