History of Algeria, Part I

In an effort to summarize a very rich and lengthy history, I will try to outline the chronology of Algeria through all its many transitions. For my outline, I am going to heavily use the Library of Congress Country Studies.

To start, I’m going to talk about pre-Arabization of Algeria.

Very long time ago (prehistoric, aka cavemen): Algeria, like most of North Africa, was inhabited by hominids (200,000 BCE) and Neanderthals (43,000 BCE) who forged sophisticated tools and crafts (Aterian). The blades were the first of their kind, and the areas in which these peoples thrives were Ibero-Maurusian and Oranian. There were cave paintings depicting hunters and gathers found to be dated at at least 4,000 BCE. The hunters from the Caspian area overtook the region, and peoples and cultures merged with the creation of what we consider the Berbers (3,000 BCE). Agriculture, animal domestication and sedentary living began.

Empires and wars (classical period, aka establishment): Berber networks became more advanced with trade, agriculture and muncipalities. Phonecians arrived in 900 BCE and set up trading posts along the Maghreb coastline, the most lucrative being Carthage in modern Tunisia. The Berbers and Phonecians had mutual trade agreements at first, but with each of their advancements, territory became an issue. Peoples, lands and crops were inevitably fought over, enslaved and extracted. There was a series of Punic Wars, Berbers winning the first and Catharage destroyed by the Romans (146 BCE). Berbers united and formed a single leadership under Masinissa (2 BCE). After his death (148 BCE), Berber groups divided and united several more times.

Urbanization (Roman empire, aka hail caesar): In 24 AD, Berber regions were annexed to the Roman Empire, and like everywhere else the Romans ventured, destruction of civilizations followed. Berber groups were margainalized (the first series of this pattern for Berbers) and stripped of their land ownership. There were forced to migrate and settle elsewhere, further into the Sahara desert. Roman troops circled the state, from the coast until the sourthern-most area of Algeria today, forming a barrier. The major Roman players established cities and effective grain and olive production, making Algeria known as the “breadbasket of the empire.” With increase exports, towns were created. The fall of the Roman Empire began in Algeria around 250 AD with successive revolts by Berber tribes. Also around this time, Jewish settlers emerged and Christianity was introduced, resulting in a spread of both religions in the Berber communities. Christian leaders, namely Augustine, had a lot of power.

Game of Thrones (Middle Ages, aka boo caesar): Vandals from Germanic lands conquered Algeria after the death of Augustine in 429 AD. While initially making a pact with the Romans, Gaiseric, leader of the Vandals, pillaged most of the coastal cities in North Africa. The Romans lost their economic stronghold in the region, and Berbers returned with valor. In 533 AD, the Byzantines (under Justinian) kicked out the Vandals and claimed rule over the area, building still. However, since the homebase was in modern Turkey, the leaders were not effective in controlling the area and mainly concerned themselves in indulgences and corruption. Berber superiority once again grew out of the untouched areas of Algeria.

Stay tuned for Part II, Arabization, spead of Islam, Spanish and Ottoman conquer!!


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