The island is characterized by its early isolation from Africa and India, and colonization didn't begin until 200 BC through 500 AD.
Madagascar's first wave of settlers arrived along the southeastern coast, and practiced a form of "slash-and-burn" agriculture known as tavy to clear rainforests for crop cultivation.
These early settlers began to move inland around 600 AD, clearing the central Highlands and planting taro and rice. These people became known as the Vazimba, while the remaining inhabitants on the southwestern coast became known as the Vezo.
Madagascar's written history begins with the arrival of Omani Arabs and Shirazi Persians in the 7th century. Trading posts were established along the northwestern coast, and the influence of the Arab culture spread.
The island served as an important trading port during this time, and gave Africa a route to the Silk Road.
Europeans began arriving in the 16th century, with Portuguese explorer Diego Dias becoming the first to step foot on Madagascar, after the ship he was sailing on blew off-course. However, over the course of two hundred years, both the Portuguese and French tried (unsuccessfully) to establish settlements on the island.
Between 1680 and 1725, Madagascar transformed into a pirate haven with such notable pirates as William Kidd, Henry Every, John Bowen and Thomas Tew using Antongil Bay as a base for their operations.
Merchant ships were plundered in the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and the Persian Gulf by said pirates. European ships were stripped of their silks, cloth, spices, and jewels, while Indian cargo ships were robbed of their coins, gold, and silver.
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This page was last modified on October 2, 2015.