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Spotlight on Culture

People that call this area Home

African Countries

Immigrants from other areas of the world


People's Democratic Republic of Algeria

Also known as: Al-Jumhūriyyah al-Jazāʾiriyyah al-Dīmuqrāṭiyyah al-Shaʿbiyyah


A long time ago Algeria was known as the Numidia Kingdom and its people were called Numidians and Imazighen, free men. But their history is much more ancient, with evidence of early human occupation demonstrated by the discovery of 1.8 million year old Oldowan stone tools, found at Ain Hanech in 1992. In 1954, fossilized Homo erectus bones were also discovered at Ternefine that are 700,000 years old. A neolithic civilization (defined by animal domestication and subsistence agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean Maghrib between 6000 and 2000 BC. This type of economy, depicted in the Tassili n'Ajjer cave paintings in southeastern Algeria, predominated in the Maghrib until the classical period.

Carthaginian Period, Kingdom of Numidia and Roman Period:

Numidia (in Berber, Inumiden; 202–40 BC), the ancient kingdom of the Numidians, was located in northwest Africa. These people only inhabited the territory that now makes up modern-day Algeria at first , but later expanded across what today is known as Tunisia, Libya, and parts of Morocco.

Greek historians referred to these peoples as "Νομάδες" (meaning Nomads), becoming in the Latin interpretation Numidae. Historian Gabriel Camps, disputes this claim and favors instead an African origin for the name. It appears first in Polybius (second century BC) to indicate the people and territory west of Carthage, including the entire north of Algeria as far as the river Mulucha (Muluya), about 100 miles west of Oran.

The Numidians were composed of two great tribal groups: the Massylii in eastern Numidia, and the Masaesyli in the west. During the first part of the Second Punic War (218–201 BC), the eastern Massylii, under their king Gala, were allied with Carthage, while the western Masaesyli, under king Syphax, were allied with Rome. The Kingdom of Masaesyli under Syphax extended from the Moulouya river to Oued Rhumel. During the war , Masinissa (king of the Massylii), defeated Syphax to unify Numidia into one kingdom. The kingdom began as a sovereign state and later alternated between being a Roman province and a Roman client state.

For more info on this period of their history, visit this page.

To resume, around 1250 BC the Phoenicians arrived, and the merchant colonies of Hippo-regius and Utica were founded.

Around 510 BC a treaty was signed between Rome and Carthage, and Rome recognized the commercial monopoly of Carthage in the western Mediterranean. Then, from 348 BC to 306 BC there were many Commercial Treaties between the Punics and Romans.

From 264 BC to 146 BC they had the Punic wars (264 BC to 241 BC/ 218BC to 201 BC/ 149 BC to 146 BC). In the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC they unified as the Kingdoms of Numidia: Syphax, Massinissa and Jugurtha. From 111 BC to 105 BC they had the Jugurthine Wars between Jugurtha, king of the Numidians, and the Romans. And in 46 BC Numidia became a Roman province, which led to the romanization of North Africa from 1 AD to 429 AD. From 429 AD to 430 AD the Vandals invaded the area, and from 533 AD to 646 AD the Byzantine empire did the same, in their conquests of North Africa.

The advent of Islam:

On 647 AD another group arrived, the Arabs- Led by Oqba Ibn-Nafaa. The first Arab military expeditions into the Maghrib, between 647 and 669, resulted in the spread of Islam. By 711 the Umayyads (a Muslim dynasty based in Damascus from 661 to 750), helped by Berber converts to Islam, had conquered all of North Africa. In 750 the Abbasids succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers and moved the caliphate to Baghdad. Under the Abbasids, the Rustumid imamate (761-909) ruled most of the central Maghrib from Tahirt, southwest of Algiers. They gained a reputation for honesty, piety, and justice, and the court of Tahirt was noted for its support of scholarship and knowledge.

The Rustumid imams failed to organize a reliable standing army, which opened the way for Tahirt's demise under the assault of the Fatimid dynasty. With their interest focused primarily on Egypt and Muslim lands beyond, the Fatimids left the rule of most of Algeria to the Zirids (972-1148), a Berber dynasty that centered their power in Algeria for the first time. This period was marked by constant conflict, political instability, and economic decline. Following a large incursion of Arab bedouins from Egypt beginning in the first half of the eleventh century, the use of Arabic spread to the countryside, and the Berbers were gradually "arabized".

The Almoravid (“those who have made a religious retreat”) movement developed in the first part of the eleventh century among the Sanhaja Berbers of the western Sahara. The movement's initial idea was of religious nature, an attempt by a tribal leader to impose moral discipline and strict adherence to Islamic principles on his followers. But this movement shifted to engaging in military conquest after 1054. By 1106 the Almoravids had conquered Morocco, the Maghrib as far east as Algiers, and Spain up to the Ebro River.

The Almohads (“unitarians”) also found their inspiration in Islamic reform. They took control of Morocco by 1146, captured Algiers around 1151, and by 1160 completed the conquest of the central Maghrib. The best part of Almohad power occurred between 1163 and 1199. It was the first time that the Maghrib was united under a local regime, but the never ending wars in Spain exhausted the resources of the Almohads, and their position was compromised by factional problems and a renewal of tribal warfare.

In the central Maghrib, the Zayanids founded a dynasty at Tlemcen. For more than 300 years, they kept a precarious hold in the central Maghrib, until the region came under Ottoman rule in the sixteenth century. Many coastal cities at the time also asserted their autonomy as municipal republics governed by merchant oligarchies, tribal chieftains from the surrounding countryside, or the privateers who operated out of their ports. Among all this, Tlemcen, the “pearl of the Maghrib,” prospered as a commercial center. The city still exists, the following video (in Arabic and French) shows what it looks like now.

This video offers a summarized version of the history of North Africa, including Algeria.

The following two videos talk about the Berbers, their ancient origins and their different dynasties.

Stay tuned for more information on Algeria's history, its people and its culture, in future posts. Our area is blessed to be called home by many people of many cultures, and they deserve to be acknowledged.


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