A Brief History of
Consensus scientific opinion places human origins in the Great Rift Valley, which dominates the landscape of much of East Africa. Northern Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge has provided rich evidence of the area's prehistory, including fossil remains of some of humanity's earliest ancestors.
Interior Tanzania’s great cultural and linguistic diversity is due to the various histories of migrations from elsewhere in the region. In some instances groups of migrants separated, leading to different cultural developments. In other cases various groups merged, creating new cultural identities and languages. Most Tanzanians are aware of their cultural origins and the traditional histories of the ethnic community with which they identify. The peoples of the interior traded with coastal communities, which in turn traded with all the countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Long standing patterns of political organization, economic production, and trade were disrupted by the violent escalation of the Arab-led slave and ivory trades in the 18th
centuries. Bagamoyo on the coast and Zanzibar town were major slave ports serving markets for slave labor mostly in the Arab world. These societies, already severely stressed by the violence of the slave trade, came under further pressure once European explorers (mostly military, some missionary) opened the way to European conquest (first by semi-private European companies, later by European states) from the mid-19th
century to the early 20th
Coastal and island Tanzania organized into city-states around 1,500 years ago. The Swahili city-states traded with the peoples of the interior and the peoples of the Indian Ocean and beyond (including China). Many merchants from these trading partner nations (principally from inland Africa, the Arab world, Persia and India) established themselves in these coastal and island communities, which became cosmopolitan in flavor.
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