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
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.