East Africa c. 1000

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Map Code: Ax01264

Two waves of settlement washed over the Great Lakes region a thousand years ago: Nilo-Saharan peoples from Sudan beginning in the 8th century, to be succeeded by Bantu from the west in the 10th century. To the east of Lake Victoria, the varied ecology gave rise to communal specialization in forms of subsistence: cereal farming, livestock herding and banana/plantain cultivation. These prospered, grew and coalesced into embryo states. The first (possibly mythical) king of the Kiamtwara dates back to the end of the 9th century. The warrior king of Kiamtwara, Ndahura (1344–71) ruled over the Bunyoro, Nkore, Kiziba and Karagwe until his army, unnerved by a solar eclipse, forced his exile. By this time, the coast was lined with prosperous trading cities, which exported gold and ivory and were entrepots for eastern silks and spices. Arab explorer Ibn Battuta (1305–68) considered Kilwa ‘one of the finest cities in the world’.

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