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Mozambique, History

The first written record of Mozambique dates from the 10th century ad, when Arab writer al-Mas’udi mentioned the town of Sofala (south of present-day Beira) and the iron-using people called the Wak Wak who lived there. Long before that time, perhaps as early as the 3rd century ad, Bantu-speaking peoples from central Africa migrated to the region, where they grew crops and raised cattle. Their settlements took on increasing complexity. By the 10th century, settlements featured stone enclosures, and their inhabitants played an important role in intra-African trade to the west. Over the next several centuries, traders from northeastern Africa and later from the Middle East and Asia arrived by sea, prompting ports along the Mozambican coast to flourish. Sofala, among the most prominent ports, developed as a trade center for gold from the interior. Commercial settlements also developed to the north of Sofala at Angoche, Mocambique Island, the Querimba Islands, and the mouth of the Zambezi. The beads, cloth, and other goods brought by Arab and Asian traders attracted caravans of agrarian-based traders from inland Mozambique. They in turn distributed the goods to the African interior. A struggle for control of this trade developed, and it was soon won by the cattle-owning chiefs of the Karanga in the south and the Makua in the north. Slave trading was also common throughout this period, in both the coastal and interior regions.

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