I. Prehistoric Times > M. Later Old World Prehistory (3000 B.C.E. and Afterward) > 3. Later African Prehistory > c. East and Southern Africa
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
c. East and Southern Africa
 
Meroë was part of a vast trade network that linked Nubia with Arabia and the Mediterranean world. So was the kingdom of Axum on the Ethiopian highlands to the southeast. This state competed with Meroë, then overthrew it. Axum's Christian kings exchanged gold, ivory, and slaves for luxuries from the Mediterranean world, and from distant India throughout the late first millennium C.E. They were an outlying part of another great web of interconnected, and diverse, trading societies that extended not only to Arabia, but far across the Indian Ocean and beyond.  1
The catalyst for this trade was the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean. They allowed downwind sailing vessels to travel from India to Africa and back in the course of a year. India had an insatiable demand for soft, easily carved African elephant ivory, and for gold. This ocean trade developed nearly 2,000 years ago, bringing foreign merchants not only to Arabia and the Red Sea, but to the East African coast. The same winds brought Islam to the Africans of the coast, their partners in the trade. By 1000 C.E., a string of small trading communities dotted the Kenya and Tanzanian coasts. They formed an indigenous trading culture linked both with the outside world and with suppliers of gold, ivory, and slaves in the far interior, especially up the Zambezi River.  2
The Karanga people living in the inland plateau south of the Zambezi were cattle herders and farmers, who controlled rich gold and copper outcrops. Their leaders ruled over small, volatile kingdoms and used their religious powers to monopolize the gold and ivory trade with the coast. In return, they received cotton cloth, glass beads, Chinese porcelain, glass vessels, and other cheap trinkets, which had high prestige value in the interior. The greatest Karanga chief lived at Great Zimbabwe, a complex of stone enclosures built between 1100 and 1550 C.E.  3
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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