Bono Manso (sometimes known as Bono Mansu) was an ancient trading town in what is now the Nkoranza district of the Brong-Ahaforegion of Ghana. Located just south of the Black Volta river at the transitional zone between savanna and forest, the town was frequented by caravans from Djenné as part of the Trans-Saharan trade. Goods traded included kola nuts, salt, leather and gold; the latter was the most important trading good of the area from the middle of the fourteenth century on. During the Atlantic slave trade, Bono Manso was one of the regional slave markets. Bono Manso was instrumental in the formation of the Akan Bono state, of which it was the capital.
The oral history of the Bono people has it that Bono Manso was founded by people from the ‘Great White Desert’ (the Sahara), who via some intermediate settlements finally came to the Bono area and founded Bono Manso, presumably in the late thirteenth century. According to oral traditions, “Bonohene” (kings of Bono) reigned in Bono Manso from its inception on. Halfway the fourteenth century, gold was discovered in the hills and rivers to the west and north of Bono Manso, leading to a thriving gold trade in which the “Bonohene” played a major role by introducing new mining techniques. In the following centuries, the growing commercial importance of Bono Manso strengthened the position of the Bono state as a regional political entity. During the Atlantic slave trade, Bono Manso became the market place for slaves from the North before they were transported to the Diaspora.
Bono Manso was taken by the Ashanti Confederacy in 1723. Upon this event, many residents of Bono Manso fled to Takyiman (or Tekyiman, Techiman, Takijiman), which in 1740led to the foundation of the Bono-Tekyiman state, more or less under Ashanti sovereignty.
In 2004, inhabitants of present-day Manso in Nkoranza District of Brong-Ahafo appealed to the Ghanaian Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to rename the town “Bono-Manso”, in recognition of its status as the capital of the ancient Bono state. A tourist industry has been developed in recent years, and several historical objects and structures, including relics from the slave trade, are on view.
Based on excavations, carbon datings and local oral traditions, Effah-Gyamfi (1985) postulated three distinct urban phases. According to him, in the early phase (thirteenth to fifteenth century) the urban center was relatively small and the town was populated by only 4,000 people (not all living in the urban center). Buildings were made of daubted wattle. Painted pottery of this period was found distributed within a radius of 3.3 km.
In the second phase, sixteenth to seventeenth century, the urban centre was larger, consisting mainly of evenly distributed puddled mud houses and a nuclear market centre. The population was up to 10,000. Many indications of participation in long-distance trade, such as imported glass beads and mica coated pottery stem from this period. Like many towns of this area and period, Bono Manso was divided into ethnic quarters. It had a “Kromo” (Muslim Mande section) and an Akan royal capital site. The last phase (late seventeenth to early eighteenth century) featured greater population density and increasing political centralization.
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