Daar es-Salam University
Ancient Settlements and Trade on the Eastern African coast and Islands
The East African coast of the Indian Ocean has been known by scholars from the 19th century to have had been visited and trading with civilizations of the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and even Asia from the ancient time. Ancient and Medieval documents, actually from the Pharaonic Egyptian time, mention the region as being part of the then international trade. For a long time, only the Roman documents of Periplus and Ptolemy’s Geographia were trusted as genuine, but recent archaeological discoveries have now provided chance for also trusting the previous documents of Greeks and Egyptian. Although actual towns or planned settlements have not been found, sites with cultural and trade materials of the time, from Pharaonic period to those of the Roman and later periods, have been discovered on the islands of Zanzibar, Comores and Madagascar. On the mainland coast, a large site of the period of Rhapta, emporium/Metropolis mentioned in the Roman documents, has been discovered on the Rufiji river delta, a place which agree with latitute and natural features described in those documents. The whole region of the Rufiji Delta has many sites of the period and some have trade goods such as beads and pottery of the imported type. Only more research is required to give more light to whether we now have Rhapta, the southern most trading town known in the Roman period. The idea that during the Roman period the whole of the East African coast all the way to Comores and Madagascar was known is verified by the find of sites of that period with trade goods in those Islands, as indicated above.