This is a short follow up to an article I published earlier on the quantity of Gold in the world. PB
Mansa Musa 1 ruled Mali from 1312 to 1337 AD. He was the tenth Emperor of the Mali Empire that spread over an area of half a million square miles (almost 1.3 million square kilometres). In the 14th century the Mali Empire was the civilised centre of the world.
“Thus was laid the foundation of an urban civilization. At the height of its power, Mali had at least 400 cities, and the interior of the Niger Delta was very densely populated.” – Sergio Domian, an Italian art and architecture scholar speaking of Musa’s reign.
In 1324 Mansa Musa went on a Hajj to Mecca and took with him 100 camels laden with gold. Now, a camel can carry up to 450 kilos, but comfortably, and we will use this figure, 150 kilos. That is a total of 1,500 kilos of gold – 15 tonnes. One report speaks of only 80 camels carrying 300 pounds each, which reduces the figure to around 11 tonnes. Either way it is a heck of a lot of gold. Note well that he took this gold to spread largesse along his journey – it represented spending money.
A recent article names Mansa Musa as the richest man who ever lived (inflation adjusted) with a fortune of US$400 billion.
I have to assume that the author of the article translated real money value into paper money value (the ‘price of gold’). If so, then we can assume that he was talking about dollar value at the time that the article was written, which was around US$1750.
So how much gold did Mr Mansa Musa possess? Well, US$400 billion divided by 1750 equals 228,571,428 ounces. Divide that by 32,150 and we get over 7100 tonnes. That is a lot of money.
It is interesting to try to balance that tonnage against the claim by the World Gold Council that the total amount of gold mined in the history of the world prior to 1848 (AD) was 10,000 tonnes.
No matter which continent one looks at to establish the true gold stock existing in the world prior to 1848, the WGC figures come up as a fanciful understatement. South and Central America, Africa and Asia each on their own show substantially more than that amount.
And no, Mr Musa was a far cry from the richest man who ever lived; in fact he is a far cry from the richest men still living – the same ones who will never appear on the Forbes richest list that deals only in the somewhat dubious status of the people with the largest piles of paper.
Smart people have been hiding their gold from governments for many thousands of years. They will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Originally published 5th June 2013