Pre-Colonial Tanganyika and Zanzibar
Prior to the arrival of the first European colonial interests in 1498, Tanzania had already supported a dynamic mix of tribal peoples for thousands of years. Starting with the Hadzabe and Sandawe hunter-gatherers, the nation’s population swelled with two large movements of Southern Cushitic peoples from Ethiopia approximately 4,000 and 2,000 years ago. At around the same time, the Mashariki Bantu people from West Africa settled in the areas around Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, bringing with them West African traditions such as iron-making and agriculture. The Masai, arguably Tanzania’s most famous tribal people, did not come to the area from South Sudan until somewhere between the last 1,500 and 500 years.
Since around the 9th Century AD, trade vessels from the Middle East had been making use of the Indian Ocean coast. It is for this reason that Swahili bears some resemblance to the Arabic tongue, and why Islam is practised among most coastal people.