Aboriginal hunter-gatherers—possibly ancestors of the Okiek who live on the Rift Valley’s Mau escarpment—were Kenya’s earliest inhabitants. Cushitic-speaking cattle-herders migrated south from the horn of Africa from around 1500 BC, followed by Nilo-Saharan pastoralists and, from early in the first millennium AD, Bantu-speaking farmers from western Cameroon settled. Prominent Bantu groups include the Kikuyu, the Kamba, the Luhya and the Meru, while speakers of Nilotic languages include the Luo, Maasai, Samburu and Turkana. Muslim seafarers from the Arabian peninsula (Oman) established trading settlements along the Kenyan coast from the seventh century, with thriving ports like Lamu and Mombasa developing a distinctive African-Arabic ‘Swahili’ culture.
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