Berbers In North Africa Essay

3967 words - 16 pages

Berbers in North Africa

The modern-day region of Maghrib - the Arab "West"

consisting of present-day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia - is

inhabited predominantly by Muslim Arabs, but it has a large

Berber minority.

North Africa served as a transit region for peoples moving

toward Europe or the Middle East. Thus, the region's inhabitants

have been influenced by populations from other areas. Out of

this mix developed the Berber people, whose language and culture,

although pushed from coastal areas by conquering and colonizing

Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines, dominated most of the land

until the spread of Islam and the coming of the Arabs. The

purpose of this research is to examine the influence of the

Berbers on North Africa.

The cave paintings found at Tassili-n-Ajjer, north of

Tamanrasset, and at other locations depict vibrant and vivid

scenes of everyday life in the central Maghrib between about 8000

B.C. and 4000 B.C. They were executed by a hunting people in the

Capsian period of the Neolithic age who lived in a savanna region

teeming with giant buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and

hippopotamus, animals that no longer exist in the now-desert

area. The pictures provide the most complete record of a

prehistoric African culture.

Earlier inhabitants of the central Maghrib have left behind

equally significant remains. Early remnants of hominid

occupation in North Africa, for example, were found in Ain el

Hanech, near Saida (200,000 B.C.). Later, Neanderthal tool

makers produced hand axes in the Levalloisian and Mousterian

styles (43,000 B.C.) similar to those in the Levant. According

to some sources, North Africa was the site of the highest state

of development of Middle Paleolithic flake-tool techniques.

Tools of this era, starting about 30,000 B.C. are called Aterian

( after the site Bir el Ater, south of Annaba) and are marked by

a high standard of workmanship, great variety, and


The earliest blade industries in North Africa are called

Ibero-Maurusian or Oranian (after a site near Oran). The

industry appears to have spread throughout the coastal regions of

the Maghrib between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C. Between about 9,000

and 5,000 B.C., the Capsian culture began influencing the Ibero-

Maurusian, and after about 3,000 B.C. the remains of just one

human type can be found throughout the region. Neolithic

civilization (marked by animal domestication and subsistence

agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean Maghrib

between 6,000 and 2,000 B.C. This type of economy, so richly

depicted in the Tassil-n-Ajjer cave paintings, predominated in

the Maghrib until the classical period.

The amalgam of peoples of North Africa coalesced eventually

into a distinct native population that came to be called Berbers.


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