Ghana's Historic Coastal Forts And Castles

Cape Coast Castle is one of about forty "slave castles", built on the Gold Coast of Ghana by European traders
Cape Coast Castle is one of about forty "slave castles", built on the Gold Coast of Ghana by European traders

5. Description and History -

The historic forts and castles along the coast of Ghana are the remains of sites that acted as protected trading-posts that were built over a three hundred year period between 1482 and 1786. These castles and forts were mostly built by the Portuguese and at times occupied by traders from Britain, German, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. These forts and castles were originally built by the Portuguese to link together their trade routes during the Age of Discovery and the rise of the Portuguese Empire. Besides linking together trade routes for Europe these forts and castle served the gold trade for companies, as a location to trade with African traders and in the development of the slave trade. The Castles and Forts of Ghana bear a kind of historical testament to the more than four centuries of African-European trading on an equality basis before the Scramble for Africa and as a starting point for the African Diaspora and the evils of the slave trade.

4. Tourism and Education -

The historic forts and castles along Ghana's coast were designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) site in 1979 under the title of Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions. This site was the first UNESCO site to be designated in the country and is currently only one of two in all of Ghana. Tourists visiting this site can learn about how the Europeans and Africans interacted with each other during this period, the type of trade between the continent, and also the horrors of the slave trade.

3. Architectural and Cultural Uniqueness -

The historic forts along Ghana's coastline all have the same basic architectural design being either in the form of rectangles or squares. The outer part of these forts has four towers in each corner of the square or rectangle. The inner area of the fort has a courtyard and also has some buildings that are usually two or three stories tall, which may also have their own towers Besides this basic layout design many of these forts have been altered due to different European countries occupying them and changing them to their liking. The oldest site is the Elmina Castle, which was built by the Portuguese in 1482 and was called São Jorge da Mina. This castle is also notable as the first trading post built by Europeans on the Gulf of Guniea. It is also the oldest European building built below the Sahara Desert and one of the oldest European buildings to have been built outside of Europe.

2. Natural Surroundings, Sights, and Sounds -

The historic forts and castles site cover a distance that is about 310 miles (500 kilometers), located between the cities of Keta and Beyin along the coastline of Ghana. These sites cover a total of 15 forts, 3 castles, 4 partially ruined forts, 4 crumbling ruins with some visible structures and 2 sites that only have slight traces of the former fortifications that were located there. Besides taking in the sites of historical European fortifications, since these sites sit along the coastline of Ghana visitors are also provided with a stunning view of the waters of the Gulf of Guinea.

1. Threats and Conservation Efforts-

The historic forts and castles site along the coast of Ghana is vulnerable to the environment, especially some of the ruins that are closer to the shore and can be hit by ocean waves. Out of all of the ruins, Fort Prinzenstein was the worse off being eroded by the ocean waves, but it has since been protected by a sea defense wall and had its corroding parts stabilized. The historic forts and castles are also vulnerable to development pressures coming into the area, specifically from quarrying. The site also needs more funding to more often conserve and maintain the sites, as well as having buffer zones put up and better training for staff on site. The government of Ghana has passed the National Liberation Council Decree in 1969 and the Executive Instrument in 1973 to established and protect the sites as official National Monuments. The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB) is the organization charged with managing, maintaining and inspecting the sites.


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