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At Olduvai Gorge, in northern Tanzania, we can look far back in time. The remains of man's ancestors have been found here, dating back to two million years, through which the origins of human society can be traced. To the south, towards Iringa, tools from fifty to one hundred thousand years of age have been found and at Kondoa, towards Arusha, are the rock paintings of ancient man. Tanzania, and Dodoma in particular, are, therefore, at the centre of an area which takes us back to the earliest evidence of man's beginnings.
In common with most of Africa, Tanzania has a culture and history that is essentially oral, passed on by word of mouth. The language is rich with legends and proverbs. This history has been compiled and interpreted to the modern world by an alien, visually-oriented culture in the form of the written word; that misunderstanding and misinterpretations now exist, is not surprising. One of the more prevalent is that the tribes of Africa have for centuries been static, isolated and unchanging; quite on the contrary, their history has been one of action and interaction, migration and intermingling, war and peace.
In many ways, the people of the land that is now Tanzania are a microcosm of Africa. It was a melting pot where many succesive migrations reshaped the face of the continent centuries ago. Tribal cultures, traditions and ideas evolved and were continually adapted and modified. It was a country of nomads and pastoralists, small bands and large chiefdoms, and Nilotic and Bantu tribes. Today mainland Tanzania is the home of 122 different language groups and even within recent history, events in the neighbouring states of Uganda, Burundi and Zaire, not to mention the states of Southern Africa, have generated migrants who now make Tanzania their home.
Tanzania continues to be a crucible that represents all Africa.
East Africa was not only a meeting place for the tribes of Africa, but also for peoples and cultures from outside the continent. Following a period of Arab domination, characterized by trade along the coast and the caravan routes that stretched inland to the great lakes of the interior, European influence came with the arrival of the first explorers in the mid-nineteenth century. Later yet, with the development of colonial enterprises, came an influx of people from the Indian subcontinent. They all brought new cultures, languages and religions to Tanzania.
The European powers vied with each other to obtain colonial empires, for the wealth they produced and for their prestige and power. The early explorers were followed, first by missionaries and then by administrators. Power and control were centralized. Colonial rule under the Germans after 1890 established a level of ruthlessly enforced administration, which encompassed the many tribes and cultures of the area. Colonization created new means of communication and transportation, which followed the lines of the old caravan routes. It also brought western religions and western values which were added to the mix of African and Arab, and Muslim and animist traditions which characterized the country. Swahiii, the local Bantu language of the area, became the "lingua franca"; it absorbed and adopted European words, as it had Arabic before. From the earliest periods of settlement, the Arabs along the coast and in Zanzibar had inter-bred with Africans, with the result that Swahiii had already become the largely Arab-oriented common language.
The Great War of 1914-18, was especially hard on the people of Tanganyika. The prodigal use of resources in an ecologically sensitive area lead to famine and death. In 1918, control of the Tanganyika territory passed to the British, in the form of a League of Nations mandate. Under British rule, the territory, although not a colony, formed part of an even larger administrative group, sharing common services in transport, communications, income tax and customs with Uganda and Kenya. However, as the country was never classed as a colony, it never had white settlers in the large numbers found in adjoining Kenya. In 1946 the League of Nations mandate was terminated and the country, still under British administration, became a Trust Territory of the United Nations.
As the United Nation's Trust Territory of Tanganyika, the country reached the threshold of its independence as a modern state.
These were the historical foundations for today's Tanzania. The past had created a multiracial and multicultural African country, in which the widespread use of Swahiii helped to bring a growing degree of unity among the different peoples. The nation has now dedicated itself to the policy of furthering the principles of unity and equality in a state where tribalism and religion do not dominate social or political life.
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