TIMBUKTU History & Timeline
400 B.C.E. Berber middlemen establish early trans-Saharan trade between West Sudan and North Africa.
100 B.C.E. Trans-Saharan trade expands with growing use of camels in place of horses and donkeys.
400 C.E. The Kingdom of Ghana, the first major trans-Saharan state in West Africa, is founded.
800 Beginning of the diffusion of Islam to West Africa from Morocco and Central Maghreb.
c. 1000 Ghana at the height of its power in West Sudan, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to Timbuktu. Islam accepted as a state religion in important towns of the empire.
c. 1100 Timbuktu settled as a summer camp of the Tuareg nomads. Timbuktu eventually becomes a permanent place of residence and a market—the meeting place of those who travel by water on the Niger and those who travel across the sands of the Sahara.
1250 Sundiata becomes king of the small state of Kangaba and founds early Mali. Begins conquering land to build empire.
c. 1300 Timbuktu has become an important trading center, its communications extending from the West Coast to the Mediterranean Sea. Guinea gold is exported to Europe via the caravans starting from Timbuktu.
1312 Mansa Moussa becomes king of Mali, which continues to expand in west and central Sudan, and develops new techniques of literacy and trade adopted from Islam.
1324 Mansa Moussa stays at Timbuktu with his famous caravan of great wealth. He founds a mosque in the city. Dies in 1337 after expanding Mali far across both western and central regions of West Africa.
1336 Timbuktu becomes part of the Mali Empire, now at the height of its power, and starts its own era of prosperity.
c. 1375 Rise of Songhay power at the expense of Mali.
The Kongo Kingdom in Zaire, Central Africa is founded c. 1380s.
c. 1400 Tuaregs gain control of the city from the declining Mali Empire. Mali-Songhay wars begin.
The Kingdom of Great Zimbabwe in southern Africa flourishes c. 1400.
1468 Songhay conquers Tuaregs and gains control of Timbuktu.
1493 Songhay expansion. Askia dynasty founded by al-Hajji Muhamed. Songhay dominates the central Sudan. Under Askia the Great, Timbuktu reaches its height as a center of trade and Muslim scholarship. Mali continues to decline.
1526 Leo Africanus visits Timbuktu, in a mission from the Sherif of Fez, and describes the city.
1546 Songhay defeats Mali.
1591 Moroccan Army expedition to Timbuktu. Timbuktu becomes part of the Moroccan Empire. Songhay Empire in ruins.
c.1600 Timbuktu starts to decline.
1650 c. 1650, Tuaregs assume control of the city for more than 200 years.
1824 After of a variety of attempts by Europeans to reach the city, the Geographical Society of Paris offers prize, valued at 10,000 francs, to the first person to return to Europe with a firsthand account of Timbuktu.
1828 Frenchman Réné Caillié enters the city in disguise, and returns to Europe with an account of the decline of the city, which had begun over two centuries previously.
1884-5 Congress of imperialist powers at Berlin partitions Africa. French gain West and Central Sudan.
1893 French Army enters Timbuktu. French colonial rule begins.
1960 Republic of Mali gains independence. Timbuktu returns to Mali rule after five and a half centuries.
In 1960, the former Belgian Congo (Zaire) gains independence.
1988 Timbuktu is inscribed on the World Heritage List. Two years later the city is inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger.
In 1990, Nelson Mandela is released from prison, after serving 27 years.