History of Comoros

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The history of Comoros goes back some 1500 years. It has been inhabited by various groups throughout this time. France colonised the islands in the 19th century. Comoros finally became independent in 1975.

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Early inhabitants

It is thought that the Comoros islands were first visited by Phoenician sailors.[1][2] The earliest inhabitants of the islands may have been 5th or 6th century Melanesian or Polynesian sailors;[3] a 6th Century settlement on Nzwani was found by archaeologists.[4] Traces of this original Asian culture have blended with successive waves of African, Arab and Shirazi immigrants. Bantu peoples apparently moved to Comoros before the 14th Century, principally from the coast of what is now southern Mozambique; on the island of Nzwani (French Anjouan) they found earlier Malayo-Indonesian inhabitants.[4] However, locals agree that the islands were first peopled by storm-tossed Arab voyagers.[5]

The most notable of these early immigrants were the Shirazi Arab royal clans, who arrived in Comoros in the 15th and 16th centuries and stayed to build mosques, create a royal house and introduce architecture and carpentry.

Over the centuries, the Comoro Islands were settled by a succession of diverse groups from the coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, Indonesia, and Madagascar. Portuguese explorers visited the archipelago in 1505.

In 1529 the French Parmentier brothers came, but the first reliable European accounts of this part of the world came from the Portuguese explorers, Diogo Dias and Fernando Soares. The Portuguese failed to capitalise on being the first Europeans to reach the islands, and for the next century or two the islands were used only on voyages up and down the coast of East Africa. In fact, up until the middle of the 19th century, it was not European explorers but pirates from Madagascar who had the largest impact. During this time the fragmentation of power led to the creation of many statelets, each controlled by a sultan and at one stage there were no fewer than 12 sultans on the island of Grande Comore alone.

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