The historical range of the Berbers extended across North Africa, from the oases west of the Nile Valley to the Canary Islands from north to south, from the Mediterranean to "Black country". Compared to these past vastness, the current "Berber" area is now significantly reduced.
Exploded unevenly distributed since some oases of Eastern Sahara to the Atlantic Ocean, however, she known areas of high concentration as well in the mountains of Kabylia in Algeria, or the Rif and Atlas at Morocco.
Despite the decline of their historical area of occupancy is estimated that the Berbers are now about sixteen million, nine million in Morocco, in Algeria five million, four hundred thousand in Mauritania, two hundred and fifty thousand in Tunisia and one hundred thousand in Libya.
The Berbers today
Islam in the Berber Africa
The romanization of the Berber Africa
In North Africa, the Berbers climax is called "Mauritanian" period, which precedes the Roman times and sees be constituted, probably from the fourth century BC, of three major kingdoms.
In the northwest of the region, that is to say in the current Morocco, is a federation peoples and strong Berber tribes who gives birth to the kingdom of Mauretania - or the Moorish kingdom - which extends from the Atlantic to Mulucha River (Moulouya). Between Mulucha and Amsaga river - current - Oued el Kebir, stood the kingdom of Masaesyles. Finally, between the river Ampsaga and territories of Carthage takes place that of Massyles. In the third century BC, the last two gathered in the kingdom of Numidia.
These three kingdoms are ruled by kings who hold the title of Aguellid: the power of the confederation leaders, who are also warlords having many armies, see generally undermined after their death, lack of rules transmission clearly defined. Among the tribes, jealous of their autonomy, that comprise these kingdoms, the end of each kingdom is the opportunity of political protest movements, which often degenerate into civil war.
The climax of the Berbers in North Africa: Mauritanian period
In the Neolithic period, the southern limit of the Berber population seems to be the area of 25th to 27th parallel, which separates the Neolithic tradition capsienne with Neolithic the Saharo Sudan: in other words, it forms the border between white and populations blacks. It is also at this time that pressure of Mediterranean whites occurs Tassili, hitherto mainly occupied by the melanoderm populations non-Negroid, probable ancestors of the current Peuls.
The movement will only grow in the future.
Beyond all its diversity, the Libyan-Berber world provides an ethnic ensemble of which linguistic, cultural and religious unity crosses multiple tribal divisions. Despite this, mapping the establishment of these people is an impossible task, due to their nomadic lifestyle on the one hand, and gaps in the sources on the other hand.
The ancestors of today's Berber probably arrive in North Africa there are about nine thousand years. Anthropologists identify them as Proto-Mediterraneans progressing from east to west. This seems also confirmed by the language since, inside the "afrasien" group - the new name for the old "Afro-Asian" Joseph Greenberg - are classified in the same set Berber, Egyptian and Semitic, reflecting an Eastern origin common, where emergence could have been done in the area occupied by the current Eritrea area.
Archaeology also notes that newcomers are carriers of a lithic industry of their own and introduced from east to west and is known as the Capsian - Capsa, the ancient name of Gafsa - is maintains the eighth to the fifth millennium.
The new arrivals push, remove or absorb the people who preceded them, the Mechtoides - men Mechta el-Arbi - whose lithic industry is ibéromaurusian,
contemporary with the Magdalenian and European Azilian.
Proto-Mediterraneans from the East...
Some Berbers have escaped from Arabization, except those of the Algerian Kabyle and Moroccan Atlas, two mountainous regions. Ultimately, in spite of often fierce resistance - including that of the Kahina, Berber heroine ofthe Aures - Arab-Muslim conquest seems to have been easy.
The main reason may be that sedentary Berbers are no longer, So the masters of their own destiny and this already since centuries. Indeed, their world is prey to anarchy, amplified by vandals conquerors starting from 520, by the devastations of nomads who hunt degradation Sahara climate . Do not forget the theological disputes that deeply divided the Berber Christianity or the opposition to Byzantines, which were rejected by rural Berbers, an just exercise their authority in the cities.
Because of all this, "horsemens of Allah", driven by a strong desire to win, do not find opposite them a united front, but successive resistant, that they reduce one after another: troops Byzantine, Berber tribes and confederations, fortified cities...
Conquered North Africa Berber rapidly Islamized; Arabization, the other hand is later and slower, to such extent that the "Berber" is still alive in some areas. Ethnically speaking, the Arab contribution is in effect a drop of water in the ocean Berber.
the subsequent invasions of Beni Hilal, Beni Beni Solaim Maqil (eleventh to thirteenth centuries) are not strong at all, only two to three hundred thousand people, which is low compared to the millions of indigenous Berber.
However, instead of "berbériser" themselves, newcomers arabisent Berbers - cultural and cultic Arabization before ethnic insofar as the faithful Muslim is obliged to pronounce Arabic basic phrases that devoted its adherence to Islam.
148 BC, Masinissa, the chief Massyles becomes an ally of Rome, allowing him to unify Numidia by the annexation of the kingdom of Masaesyles. Further east, the Mauretania kingdom still independent for some time.
In 113 BC., Rome engages in a total war against the Numidian king Jugurtha, that's support provides him a domination of a large part of the current Maghreb. Under the reign of Juba II (25 -23 BC.) and in the period of his son Ptolemy ( 23-40BC), Mauretania knows a brilliant development.
The capital of the kingdom was then Caesarea - the current Cherchell - while Volubilis is elevated to a royal residence. In 40 AD, the revolts; at 44, the Emperor Claudius, who crushed them, divides the territory into two, creating the Caesarian Mauretania - western part of modern Algeria, Algiers and Oran, that is to say the former masaesyle kingdom - and Mauretania Tingitana corresponding to the current Morocco, Tangier as capital.
This Berber Africain part Romanized and the other part Christianized, will soon suffer the Arab-Muslim conquest. The question arises as to how it has become "a few centuries a set of fully Islamic and widely Arabized country, to the point that the majority of the population is said and think of Arab origin.
Then they experienced the Roman occupation, Christianity, the vandal before being converted by the Arab conquerors to Islam domination, that was extremely quick and deep.
The Berbers, who once occupied the whole of North Africa, from western Egypt to the Atlantic and the entire Sahara, entered history with the foundation of Carthage, about 800 BC -C. and of Cyrene, around 630 BC, but their history is much older.
The Berbers were known as Libyans by the Greeks, who also gave the name to all white people living in North Africa, from the desert fringes of western Egypt to Gibraltar - the Pillars of Hercules . To the south, the Greeks did not know the limits of the areas that these people occupied; for them, the Libyan world ended where the country of blacks began, what they called the Ethiopians
Berbers, a memory of the sands
Arrived from the east in North Africa there nine thousand years to occupy that territory in its entirety, the Berbers founded powerful kingdoms formed Confederated Tribes.