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Pre-colonial Madagascar

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    Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 10:38
Prior to the European age of exploration and colonisation, contact with Madagascar -including settlement- had occurred for thousands of years. Madagascar's history during its French occupation is well-documented, but less seems be known and discussed about prior contact and inhabitants. The Arabs first established ports and trade routes along Madagascar by the 7th century, but they were by no means setting up camp on an uninhabited island.

Which peoples/groups inhabited the island prior to Islamic/Arabic contact, and what evidence exists to enlighten us about their ways of life? Even during and after the Arab contact, it was quite a polygenic landmass, in terms of peoples, with scholars stipulating a range of origins - 'Austronesians', Indians, Africans...

Feel free to just share your knowledge in any related manner, too. I'm always happy to learn more about an island's history which I currently know next to little about!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 14:07
Madagascar can't be undestood without taking into account the Indonesian conquest. As the matter of fact, there are several things in the so called "African" culture that were introduced by these settlers in the Island and that spread to the mainland and all over subsahran Africa. For instance, the Xilophone seem to be imported from Indonesia. More clearly it is the introduction of Bananas. Some speculate that even Great Zimbabwe was influenced by the Indonesians, and certain archaeological remains pont to that.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 14:35
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Some speculate that even Great Zimbabwe was influenced by the Indonesians, and certain archaeological remains pont to that.
 
 
Not all archaeologists and africanists would agree to that one.
 
And there is also a whole host of other theories of eventual inspiration from outsiders on Great Zimbabwe (South Indian and Arab has ben mentioned now and then, and also some more exotic theories about Romans, Greeks, Persians, Fenicians and some more).


Edited by Carcharodon - 23 Aug 2009 at 14:39
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 14:49
Foreing archeological pieces has been found in Zimbabwe which shows trade extended beyond Africa, and so it is nothing wild to assume influences. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 15:14
It is one thing to find different artifacts and another to suppose influence on architecture. For there to be serious influence on architecture there must be people present who has seen and understood the architectural styles in Indonesia and are knowledgeable enough to be able to convey such knowledge to the locals. Also one must show that the temporary architecture in Indonesia was somewhat like the one in Great Zimbabwe (especially compared with South Indian, Arab or other architecture).
On top of that one must compare with the architecture that for a rather long time had preceeded Great Zimbabwe and according to Garlake and others were built according to the same principles but in smaller scale.
And concerning artefacts one has found more Chinese artefacts in Zimbabwe and its surroundings than Indonesian dito, and one has also found more Arab and muslim East African artefacts. On top of that one also find South Indian artefacts there.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 15:29
I said influences. You said influence in architecture.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 17:51
Hmmm, Great Zimbabwe is a complex of buildings, that is architecture.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 18:13
I was talking about influences on people. Buildings aren't natural structures, anyways, but a produce of a society. In any case, the influences from the Indonesians are seen in Africa for the presence of musical instruments of South Asian origin (xylophone), fruits (bananas) and some more devated topics (words, methalurgy technics, etc.)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 19:26
Well I asked this question when I saw that their president looked more of an Asian than African.
 
The Malays began to migrate about 2000 years ago. This can be seen in the same perspective as the great cross ocean migrations that also began in the malay region since 50000 BC. However, they chose the opposite direction for whatever reason.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 20:29

I have no idea about the situation in the BC era but the Malay voyages started somewhere in the first century AD and they successfully settled Madagascar. They began trading with both Madagascar's neighbours and the far East.  There was a steady influx of Africans from Southeastern Africa and after the birth of Islam Arab/Persian traders also reached their shores.

I found it interesting that Southern Madagascans seem to trace their descent to Somalia, which is probably more legend than factual, though Somali muslim traders did during their Indian Ocean trade reach Madagascar in the medieval era.
 
Pinguin,  i'm sure if serious archaeogical digging started in less stable places like Somalia and Yemen you would find plenty of artifacts with a Malagasy origin, they were an enterprising people, but so were the Monomopatans and their predecessors. There is no need to look for Malay or for Phoenician influences with regards to the ruins of Zimbabwe there are similar structures in Somalia(Bendiger, Gondershe etc) so it's more likely a regional development.
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 23:08

Somalia is not precisely a neighbour of Zimbabwe (see the map). I don't believe in the multiregional "African" origin. On the other hand, Madagascar is just across the strait from Mozambique, and from there to Madagascar it is very close.

In the Indic Ocean, the malay where the best sailors for a long time. Better sailors that Indians, Arabs and Hornerss included, so I bet the vector that carried the common traits were the malay rather than other peoples.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 23:20
The burden of proof is in your corner Pinguin, fact is Somali merchants from Mogadishu had a commercial agreement with the gold miners of Sofala, Mozambique which gave birth to the East African Goldtrade, it was Somali port cities that acted as intermediaries between Africa and Asia. There is no equivalance of the Zimbabwe ruins in Madagascar, so pray tell; why did the enterprising Malagasy people excercise monumental architecture in mainland Africa but not in Madagascar itself? 
 
People of Al-qomr were great sailors nobody is denying that but the amount of influence you are trying to attribute to them is farfetched.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 23:23
I am attributing influences in the comming of certain cultural elements to the region. Particularly the Xylophone. As far as I know, that instrument wasn't invented in Somalia.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 23:34
It's not even used in Somali music. In any case i never denied Malay/Malagasy influence in Africa, i'm however sceptic of those that would like to attribute an entire culture or tradition to an unrelated group of people regardless of their historical interaction.(you having a Chinese car doesn't make you an ethnic Chinese, pinguin)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Aug 2009 at 23:59

Of course. By the way, I am interested in something you pointed out. That Somali merchants founded the gold trade in Zimbabwe, the intermediate ports and also in the influence in architecture. Could you explain it more?

 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 00:25
A bit off topic, i hope Knights doesn't mind.
 
The miners of Sofala had an agreement with the merchants of Mogadishu since atleast the 10th century AD, Mogadishu was by that time the largest port city on the East African coast and hence provided the Sofalans with a viable commercial outlet for their Gold reserves. Most of this Gold went to India and that's how the medieval East African Gold trade flourished, even during the ascendance of Sofala's neighbour Kilwa centuries later, the Gold merchants were still forced to go through Mogadishu before they could make a profit, it was only after the Portuguese took control of Sofala that a different route was established[1]. Unlike the ports of Southeastern Africa which came under Portuguese domination, the Port cities of Somalia were out of their reach, which provided merchants from other parts of Africa and Asia a safe haven for commerce. 
 
As for architecture, mind you my earlier suggestion was not a definitive one but a personal opinion , as it seems more logical to me. There are similar structures in Somalia, some dating to B.C times and others to the medieval era that used similar construction methods as the Monomopatans, the stone city of Gondershe in Somalia is a good example:
 
 
-[1] - the port of Mogadishu initiated a thriving trade with Sofala for gold and
ivory - The quest for an African Eldorado: Sofala, pg 4 By Terry H. Elkiss
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 00:33
Pinguino: Two points. First. "Indonesian" is a modern political term. It refers to nationality, and not the name of any race or peoples. The majority of people who inhabit the nation of Indonesia are Malay, also termed Malayo-Polynesian and Austronesian. In other words, cousins to one of the peoples who settled much of the Pacific, and Madagascar.  Second, and this is an important point, when looking for proximities that extend across bodies of water, pay attention to seasonally prevailing winds and ocean currents. Geographical proximity alone does not suffice.

Obviously, you are not the only one to use "Indonesian" as a ethnic term:  http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5460.htm#history  OMG! what low point in academic standards has the US DOS fallen to? But, the "history" section is of interest and coincides with what I remember of the old country study.


Edited by lirelou - 24 Aug 2009 at 00:40
Phong trần mài một lưỡi gươm, Những loài giá áo túi cơm sá gì
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Knights Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 00:37
Originally posted by Prince of Zeila Prince of Zeila wrote:

A bit off topic, i hope Knights doesn't mind.
 
 
Go for it! I'm happy to see that some great discussion has been generated. I'll try and get around to contributing as well Smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 01:56
^Cheers!
 
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

  Second, and this is an important point, when looking for proximities that extend across bodies of water, pay attention to seasonally prevailing winds and ocean currents. Geographical proximity alone does not suffice.
Excellent point!
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 03:03
Originally posted by Prince of Zeila Prince of Zeila wrote:

As for architecture, mind you my earlier suggestion was not a definitive one but a personal opinion , as it seems more logical to me. There are similar structures in Somalia, some dating to B.C times and others to the medieval era that used similar construction methods as the Monomopatans, the stone city of Gondershe in Somalia is a good example:
 
...
 
Interesting thesis, but I don't agree fully.
First, the Great Zimbabwe has some particular architecture that resemble more the mud and wood architecture of the Subsharan agricultural tribes rather than to anything from North Africa, the Horn, Eurasia and even in the Americas.
All over the world, people preffered to use simple geometrical structures when they made buildings on stone or any other materials. The favorite structures has been the rectangle, followed sometimes by the circle. Most of the structures follow a Euclidean geometrical structure.
All over the world that has been the norm, including "less developed" tribal houses in the Americas. You always find squared houses, or at most some round or elyptical structures.
 
The difference is than in South Saharan Africa, the tribal architecture follows a fractal pattern.
 
 
Round or squared patterns repeated in different scales is quite common in Subsaharan Africa
Now, the same happens in Zimbabwe
 
 
As you can see, the design is typically Subsaharan African. Of course I agree that the techniques of building in stone could be imported from the Horn. Also, if somebody from Zimbabwe visited the Horn in ancient times, probably learn some techniques of building, but obviously there was there an addaptation to local traditions, rather than a full copy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Edited by pinguin - 24 Aug 2009 at 03:04
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AksumVanguard Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 04:47
The origins of migration influx to Madagascar is in a bit obscurity. The Indonesian travlers would say it was already inhabited by Pygmy people around 2000 years ago.Alot of scholars have speculated that the admixture is due to the Bantu and Arab migration.


But tribal populations traveling to the remote islands of the coast of Africa are not impossible. There is already evidence of  presence of Sub Saharan inhabitants on the Canary Islands.


http://www.allempires.net/forum/pre-colonial-madagascar_topic124618.html

In addition, admixture analysis takingthe Iberians, Northwest and sub-Saharan West African populations as parental sources of the present-day Canarypopulation, showed that the indigenous contribution was estimated to be 33% of maternal lineages [4] and only 7% for paternal lineages .

The Monomatapa and Shona Empire were actually sprouted from former smaller  kingdoms such as the Makua,Yao,and Maravi. These kingdoms existed before the 1000 AD. When the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama arrived he was startled at the thriving commerce. They were Monomatapa sailors who even new the sail route to India,which he was looking for.

By the time the Portuguese arrived there was a culture called the "Swahili". This Swahili culture was reconisable  within  the Shona, Monomatapaand Thonga empire. The Swahili culture was ignited by the Arab sea traders. The "Swahili" culture was also prominent in Tanzania also.They culture seemed to start of the Zambezi river.

Alot of Swahili also crossed the Mozambique channel to Madagascar.
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:


First, the Great Zimbabwe has some particular architecture that resemble more the mud and wood architecture of the Subsharan agricultural tribes rather than to anything from North Africa, the Horn, Eurasia and even in the Americas.


The structures of Great Zimbabawe seem to exhibit circular encasements many Middle Age strutures  in Europe exhibit this feature also. The semi circular segments within the wall are just other auxilary encasments.

Alot of african tribes did have circular structure but only would use this  when building out of mud or wood not with stone .
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Aug 2009 at 07:31
One must not forget that the Great Zimbabwe are not first or not last in using stone in flowing curves and circles. On the Zimbabwean plateau there are actually ruins from around 300 similar structures, just smaller.
 
Influences to GZ also come from places such as Mapungubwe in South Africa.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Prince of Zeila Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 00:03
Good info Pinguin, that has to be the last nail in the coffin sealing the outdated theory of an outside entity creating those ruins when it's design is unlike anything in the North/Horn or the Middle East.
 
To stay on the topic of Madagascar's history what exactly happened to the descendants of the old Monarchy? Do they still play a role in Madagascan politics?
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 17:35
Originally posted by Prince of Zeila Prince of Zeila wrote:

Good info Pinguin, that has to be the last nail in the coffin sealing the outdated theory of an outside entity creating those ruins when it's design is unlike anything in the North/Horn or the Middle East.
 ..
 
Well, that's with respect to the architecture or design of the site only. It is still very likely that the art of building in stone was learn from outsiders, though. No matter we don't know when and how.
What I am sure, though, is that the influences of the Indonesians (Malays or Austronesians, if you wish) are clearly seen in the musical instruments, starting with the xylophone,  and also in other arts that seem to be imported to Africa.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 17:46
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

 
Well, that's with respect to the architecture or design of the site only. It is still very likely that the art of building in stone was learn from outsiders, though. No matter we don't know when and how.
What I am sure, though, is that the influences of the Indonesians (Malays or Austronesians, if you wish) are clearly seen in the musical instruments, starting with the xylophone,  and also in other arts that seem to be imported to Africa.
 
 
Why should the art of building in stone come from outsiders? There are many historical examples of people who independently of each other have invented the art of building in stone (just look at Central and South America, or Nan Madol on Ponphei or the large stone weirs in Australia). The 300 or so stone ruins on the Zimbabwe plateau and in South Africa seem to have its roots in older local building traditions.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 18:50
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

... 
Why should the art of building in stone come from outsiders? ...
 
Why not?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 18:55
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

... 
Why should the art of building in stone come from outsiders? ...
 
Why not?
 
 
Since nothing really hints at that. The architectural style of them are compatible with older architectural styles. And most cultures have actually figured out how to build in stone by themselves. Why should sub Saharan Africans be an exception?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 19:24
Is there any statistics on phenotypes' prevalence in Madagascar? I mean, Negroid vs Mongoloid? And what are the relations between different racial groups of the island?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 19:35
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

...
Since nothing really hints at that.
 
Wrong. Stone architecture appeared in Zimbabwe AFTER (and I remark "After") that societies entered in contact with foreigners and foreign trade. Just a description on how to build in stone would have been enough for them to imitate it.
 
Originally posted by Carcharodon Carcharodon wrote:

Why should sub Saharan Africans be an exception?
 
I don't know, you tell me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Carcharodon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Aug 2009 at 20:20
Great Zimbabwe had precursors in Mapungubwe and other places that has similarities to it. It also resembles older architecture in that area that was made in other materails but had similar outlines. So there is no really hint that GZ should be influenced by foreigners. The transfer to building in stone should probably be attributed to social change rather than foreign influences.
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