The Full Wiki

Berbers: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Berber people article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Berbers / Imazighen
Berber tunisie 1910.jpg
Young Berber woman, Tunisia
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Morocco 9,500,000[1]
 Algeria 4,300,000[1]
 Mali 600,000[2]
 Niger 400,000[2]

Berber languages, French, Spanish (in Morocco and Spain)


Islam, Christianity

Related ethnic groups

Iberians,[3] Arabs, Egyptians

Imazighen flag, the symbol of all the Berber peoples.
Zinedine Zidane, a football star of Algerian Berber ancestry.

Berbers, also called Imazighen (in antiquity known as Libyans by the Greek), are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are discontinuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke various Berber languages, which together form a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Today many of them speak Arabic and also French in the Maghreb, due to the French colonization of the Maghreb, and especially Spanish in Morocco. Today most Berber-speaking people live in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.[4][5]

Many Berbers call themselves some variant of the word Imazighen (singular: Amazigh), possibly meaning "free people" or "free and noble men"[4](the word has probably an ancient parallel in the Roman name for some of the Berbers, "Mazices").

The best known of the ancient Berbers were the Roman author Apuleius, Saint Augustine of Hippo and the Roman general Lusius Quietus, who was instrumental in defeating the major Jewish revolt of 115–117. Famous Berbers of the Middle Ages included Tariq ibn Ziyad, a general who conquered Hispania; Abd ar-Rahman I, the founder of the Caliphate of Córdoba; Abbas Ibn Firnas, a prolific inventor and early pioneer in aviation; Ibn Battuta, a medieval explorer who traveled the longest known distances in pre-modern times; and Estevanico, an early explorer of the Americas. Well-known modern Berbers include Zinedine Zidane, a French-born international football star.



Because "Berber" appeared for the first time after the end of the Roman Empire, the relevance of its use for the previous period is not accepted by all historians of antiquity.[6]

According to Leo Africanus, "Amazigh" meant "free men," though this has been disputed, because there is no root of M-Z-Gh meaning "free" in modern Berber. It also has a cognate in the Tuareg word "amajegh," meaning "noble".[7][8] This term is common in Morocco, especially among Central Morocco Tamazight speakers,[9] but elsewhere within the Berber homeland a local, more particular term, such as Kabyle or Chaoui, is more often used instead.[10] Historically, Berbers have been known by variously terms, for instance, as Meshwesh or Mashewesh by the Egyptians, as the Libyans by the ancient Greeks,[11] as Numidians and Mauri by the Romans, and as Moors by medieval and early modern Europeans. The modern English term, Berber, is probably borrowed from Italian or Arabic, but the deeper etymology of this word is not certain. (See also: Berber (Etymology).)

The use of the term "Berber" spread in the period following the arrival of the Vandals during their major invasions. The people of the region were described as "barbarians" by the Romans in Roman Africa,[citation needed] and in the Iberian peninsula where Berber camps were subjected to repeated attacks of the Romans. On the hills to the east of Numidia was assembled a numido-vandal coalition, which would remove Carthage and Rome's influence throughout Africa.[citation needed] The history of a Roman consul in Africa made reference for the first time to the term "barbarian" to describe Numidia. Arab historians, some time after, also mentioned the Berbers.[12]


A Berber family crossing a ford - scene in Algeria
Hoggar painting
Medghasen tomb, one of the earliest tombs known
Berbers in the world

Early inhabitants of the central Maghreb left behind significant remains including remnants of hominid occupation from ca. 200,000 B.C. found near Saïda. Neolithic civilization (marked by animal domestication and subsistence agriculture) developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean Maghrib between 6000 and 2000 B.C. This type of economy, so richly depicted in the Tassili-n-Ajjer cave paintings in southeastern Algeria, predominated in the Maghreb until the classical period. The amalgam of peoples of North Africa coalesced eventually into a distinct native population. The Berbers lacked a written language and hence tended to be overlooked or marginalized in historical accounts.

The Berbers have lived in North Africa between western Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean for as far back as records of the area go. Evidence of these early inhabitants of the region are found on the rock art across the Sahara. References to them also occur often in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sources. Berber groups are first mentioned in writing by the ancient Egyptians during the Predynastic Period, and during the New Kingdom the Egyptians later fought against the Meshwesh and Libu tribes on their western borders. From about 945 BCE the Egyptians were ruled by Meshwesh immigrants who founded the Twenty-second Dynasty under Shoshenq I, beginning a long period of Berber rule in Egypt. They long remained the main population of the Western Desert; the Byzantine chroniclers often complained of the Mazikes (Amazigh) raiding outlying monasteries there.

For many centuries the Berbers inhabited the coast of North Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. Over time, the coastal regions of North Africa saw a long parade of invaders and colonists including Phoenicians (who founded Carthage), Greeks (mainly in Cyrene, Libya), Romans, Vandals and Alans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and the French and Spanish. Most if not all of these invaders have left some imprint upon the modern Berbers as have slaves brought from throughout Europe (some estimates place the number of European slaves brought to North Africa during the Ottoman period as high as 1.25 million).[13] Interactions with neighboring Sudanic empires, sub-Saharan Africans, and nomads from East Africa also left impressions upon the Berber peoples.

In historical times, the Berbers expanded south into the Sahara (displacing earlier populations such as the Azer and Bafour), and have in turn been mainly culturally assimilated in much of North Africa by Arabs, particularly following the incursion of the Banu Hilal in the 11th century.

The areas of North Africa which retained the Berber language and traditions have, in general, been the highlands of Kabylie and Morocco, most of which in Roman and Ottoman times remained largely independent, and where the Phoenicians never penetrated far beyond the coast. These areas have been affected by some of the many invasions of North Africa, most recently that of the French.

Some pre-Islamic Berbers were Christians[14] (but evolved their own Donatist doctrine),[15] some were Jewish, and some adhered to their traditional polytheist religion. The best known of them were the Roman author Apuleius and St. Augustine.

History of Berber people in the Maghreb

Kabyle women

During the pre-Roman era, several successive independent states (Massylii) existed before the king Massinissa unified the people of Numidia.[16][17][18][19][20][21]

According to historians of the Middle Ages, the Berbers were divided into two branches (Botr and Barnès), descended from Mazigh ancestors, who were themselves divided into tribes, and again into sub-tribes. Each region of the Maghreb contained several tribes (e.g. Sanhadja, Houaras, Zenata, Masmouda, Kutama, Awarba, Berghwata, etc). All these tribes had independence and territorial decisions.[22][23]

Several Berber dynasties emerged during the Middle Ages in the Maghreb, Sudan, Andalusia, Italy, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Egypt, etc. Ibn Khaldun provides a table summarizing the Berber dynasties: Zirid, Banu Ifran, Maghrawa, Almoravid, Hammadid, Almohad, Merinid, Abdalwadid, Wattasid , Meknassa and Hafsid dynasties.[22][24]

They belong to a powerful, formidable, brave and numerous people; a true people like so many others the world has seen - like the Arabs, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. The men who belong to this family of peoples have inhabited the Maghreb since the beginning.
—Ibn Khaldun, 14th century Arab historian[15]


Map of Numidia
Numidia around 220 BC
Jugurtha, king of Numidia

Numidia (202 BC – 46 BC) was an ancient Berber kingdom in present-day Algeria and part of Tunisia (North Africa) that later alternated between being a Roman province and being a Roman client state, and is no longer in existence today. It was located on the eastern border of modern Algeria, bordered by the Roman province of Mauretania (in modern day Algeria and Morocco) to the west, the Roman province of Africa (modern day Tunisia) to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south. Its people were the Numidians.

The name Numidia was first applied by Polybius and other historians during the third century BC to indicate the 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 conceived of as two great tribal groups: the Massylii in eastern Numidia, and the Masaesyli in the west. During the first part of the Second Punic War, the eastern Massylii under their king Gala were allied with Carthage, while the western Masaesyli under king Syphax were allied with Rome. However in 206 BC, the new king of the eastern Massylii, Masinissa, allied himself with Rome, and Syphax of the Masaesyli switched his allegiance to the Carthaginian side. At the end of the war the victorious Romans gave all of Numidia to Masinissa of the Massylii. At the time of his death in 148 BC, Masinissa's territory extended from Mauretania to the boundary of the Carthaginian territory, and also southeast as far as Cyrenaica, so that Numidia entirely surrounded Carthage (Appian, Punica, 106) except towards the sea.

Masinissa was succeeded by his son Micipsa. When Micipsa died in 118, he was succeeded jointly by his two sons Hiempsal I and Adherbal and Masinissa's illegitimate grandson, Jugurtha, of Berber origin, who was very popular among the Numidians. Hiempsal and Jugurtha quarreled immediately after the death of Micipsa. Jugurtha had Hiempsal killed, which led to open war with Adherbal. After Jugurtha defeated him in open battle, Adherbal fled to Rome for help. The Roman officials, allegedly due to bribes but perhaps more likely because of a desire to quickly end conflict in a profitable client kingdom, settled the fight by dividing Numidia into two parts. Jugurtha was assigned the western half. However, soon after conflict broke out again, leading to the Jugurthine War between Rome and Numidia.

Berbers and the Islamic conquest

Unlike the conquests of previous religions and cultures, the coming of Islam, which was spread by Arabs, was to have pervasive and long-lasting effects on the Maghreb. The new faith, in its various forms, would penetrate nearly all segments of society, bringing with it armies, learned men, and fervent mystics, and in large part replacing tribal practices and loyalties with new social norms and political idioms.

Nonetheless, the Islamization and Arabization of the region were complicated and lengthy processes. Whereas nomadic Berbers were quick to convert and assist the Arab conquerors, not until the 12th century, under the Almohad Dynasty, did the Christian and Jewish communities become marginalized.

The first Arab military expeditions into the Maghrib, between 642 and 669 CE, resulted in the spread of Islam. These early forays from a base in Egypt occurred under local initiative rather than under orders from the central caliphate. But, when the seat of the caliphate moved from Medina to Damascus, the Umayyads (a Muslim dynasty ruling from 661 to 750) recognized that the strategic necessity of dominating the Mediterranean dictated a concerted military effort on the North African front. In 670, therefore, an Arab army under Uqba ibn Nafi established the town of Qayrawan about 160 kilometers south of present-day Tunis and used it as a base for further operations.

Abu al Muhajir Dinar, Uqba's successor, pushed westward into Algeria and eventually worked out a modus vivendi with Kusaila, the ruler of an extensive confederation of Christian Berbers. Kusaila, who had been based in Tilimsan (Tlemcen), became a Muslim and moved his headquarters to Takirwan, near Al Qayrawan.

But this harmony was short-lived. Arab and Berber forces controlled the region in turn until 697. By 711, Umayyad forces helped by Berber converts to Islam had conquered all of North Africa. Governors appointed by the Umayyad caliphs ruled from Kairouan, capital of the new wilaya (province) of Ifriqiya, which covered Tripolitania (the western part of present-day Libya), Tunisia, and eastern Algeria.

The spread of Islam among the Berbers did not guarantee their support for the Arab-dominated caliphate due to the discriminatory attitude of the Arabs. The ruling Arabs alienated the Berbers by taxing them heavily; treating converts as second-class Muslims; and, at worst, by enslaving them. As a result, widespread opposition took the form of open revolt in 739-40 under the banner of Kharijite Islam. The Kharijites had been fighting Umayyad rule in the East, and many Berbers were attracted by the sect's seemingly egalitarian precepts.

After the revolt, Kharijites established a number of theocratic tribal kingdoms, most of which had short and troubled histories. But others, like Sijilmasa and Tilimsan, which straddled the principal trade routes, proved more viable and prospered. In 750, the Abbasids, who succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers, moved the caliphate to Baghdad and reestablished caliphal authority in Ifriqiya, appointing Ibrahim ibn al Aghlab as governor in Kairouan. Though nominally serving at the caliph's pleasure, Al Aghlab and his successors, the Aghlabids, ruled independently until 909, presiding over a court that became a center for learning and culture.

Just to the west of Aghlabid lands, Abd ar Rahman ibn Rustam ruled most of the central Maghrib from Tahert, southwest of Algiers. The rulers of the Rustamid imamate, which lasted from 761 to 909, each an Ibadi Kharijite imam, were elected by leading citizens. The imams gained a reputation for honesty, piety, and justice. The court at Tahert was noted for its support of scholarship in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, theology, & law. But the Rustamid imams failed, by choice or by neglect, to organize a reliable standing army. This important factor, accompanied by the dynasty's eventual collapse into decadence, opened the way for Tahert's demise under the assault of the Fatimids.

Berbers in Al-Andalus

The Almoravid Empire, a powerful Berber empire that lasted from 1040 to 1147.
The Giralda, built by the Berbers in Andalus

The Muslims who entered Iberia in 711 were mainly Berbers, and were led by a Berber, Tariq ibn Ziyad, though under the suzerainty of the Arab Caliph of Damascus Abd al-Malik and his North African Viceroy, Musa ibn Nusayr. A second mixed army of Arabs and Berbers came in 712 under Ibn Nusayr himself. They supposedly helped the Umayyad caliph Abd ar-Rahman I in Al-Andalus, because his mother was a Berber. During the Taifa era, the petty kings came from a variety of ethnic groups; some—for instance the Zirid kings of Granada--were of Berber origin. The Taifa period ended when a Berber dynasty—the Almoravids from modern-day Western Sahara and Mauritania--took over Al-Andalus; they were succeeded by the Almohad dynasty from Morocco, during which time al-Andalus flourished.

In the power hierarchy, Berbers were situated between the Arabic aristocracy and the Muladi populace. Ethnic rivalry was one of the most important factors driving Andalusi politics. Berbers made up as much as 20% of the population of the occupied territory.[25]

After the fall of the Caliphate, the taifa kingdoms of Toledo, Badajoz, Málaga and Granada had Berber rulers.

Arabization of Northwest Africa

Before the 9th century, most of Northwest Africa was a Berber-speaking Muslim area. The process of Arabization only became a major factor with the arrival of the Banu Hilal, a tribe sent by the Fatimids of Egypt to punish the Berber Zirid dynasty for having abandoned Shiism. The Banu Hilal reduced the Zirids to a few coastal towns, and took over much of the plains; their influx was a major factor in the Arabization of the region, and in the spread of nomadism in areas where agriculture had previously been dominant.

Soon after the independence in the middle of the 20th century, the countries of North Africa established Arabic as their official language, replacing French (except in Libya), although the shift from French to Arabic for official purposes continues even to this day. As a result, most Berbers had to study and know Arabic, and had no opportunities until the 21st century to use their mother tongue at school or university. This may have accelerated the existing process of Arabization of Berbers, especially in already bilingual areas, such as among the Chaouis.

Berberism had its roots before the independence of these countries, but was limited to some Berber elite. It only began to gain success when North African states replaced the colonial language with Arabic and identified exclusively as Arab nations, downplaying or ignoring the existence and the cultural specificity of Berbers. However, its distribution remains highly uneven. In response to its demands, Morocco and Algeria have both modified their policies, with Algeria redefining itself constitutionally as an "Arab, Berber, Muslim nation".

Now, Berber is a "national" language in Algeria and is taught in some Berber speaking areas as a non-compulsory language. In Morocco, Berber has no official status, but is now taught as a compulsory language regardless of the area or the ethnicity.

Berbers have reached high positions in the social hierarchy; good examples are the former president of Algeria, Liamine Zeroual, and the former prime minister of Morocco, Driss Jettou. In Algeria, furthermore, Chaoui Berbers are over-represented in the Army for historical reasons.

Berberists who openly show their political orientations rarely reach high hierarchical positions. But, Khalida Toumi, a feminist and Berberist militant, has been nominated as head of the Ministry of Communication in Algeria.


There are past & present complaints of persecution of Berbers by Arab authorities through both exclusivities: Pan-Arabism and Islamism [26], their issue of identity is due to the pan-arabist ideology of the former Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, activists: "It is time—long past overdue—to confront the racist arabization of the Amazigh lands." [27]

Modern-day Berbers

Distribution of Berbers in Northwest Africa:      Tuaregs      Zaians      Riffians      Chenwis      Kabyles      Chawis (Chaouia)      Saharian Berbers (Zenagas, Mozabites, Siwis)      Chleuhs
Market on the main square of Ghardaïa.

Most of the population of Morocco and Algeria is of Berber descent, although up to a certain extent interbred with other elements (Arab, Subsaharian, Iberian...), but only about half of the Moroccan population and a third of the Algerian can be identified nowadays as Berber by speaking a Berber language (see there for estimates). Nevertheless, the culture of many Arabic-speaking ethnic groups in these countries is very similar to that of their Berber neighbours and often language may be the only difference between Berbers and Arabs in the Maghreb. Thus, very high estimates of Berber population might include ethnic groups which no longer speak a Berber language. There are also smaller Berber populations in Libya and Tunisia, though exact statistics are unavailable [3] and very small groups in Egypt and Mauritania. Tuareg Berber spread southwards to Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. Prominent Berber groups include the Kabyles of northern Algeria, who number about 4 million and have kept, to a large degree, their original language and culture; and the Chleuh (francophone plural of Arabic "Shalh" and Tashelhiyt "ašəlḥi") of south Morocco, numbering about 8 million. Other groups include the Riffians of north Morocco, the Chaouia of Algeria, and the Tuareg of the Sahara. There are about 2.2 million Berber immigrants in Europe, especially the Riffians and the Kabyles in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Some proportion of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands are descended from the aboriginal Guanches--usually considered to have been Berber—among whom a few Canary Islander customs, such as the eating of gofio, originated.

Though stereotyped in the West as nomads, most Berbers were in fact traditionally farmers, living in mountains relatively close to the Mediterranean coast, or oasis dwellers; but the Tuareg and Zenaga of the southern Sahara, were nomadic. Some groups, such as the Chaouis, practiced transhumance.

In January 2010, Morocco's Berbers get their own TV channel [28].

Political tensions have arisen between some Berber groups (especially the Kabyle) and North African governments over the past few decades, partly over linguistic and cultural issues; for instance, in Morocco, giving children Berber names was banned.

History outside the Maghreb

Berbers set up colonies in Mauritania[29] near the Malian imperial capital of Timbuktu.[30]

Origins based on genetics

The population genetics of North Africans has been heavily influenced by geography. The Sahara desert to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the North were important barriers to gene flow in prehistoric times. However Eurasia and Africa form a single land mass at the Suez. At the Straits of Gibraltar, Africa and Europe are separated by only 15 km (9 mi). At periods of low sea-levels, such as during a glacial maximum, islands that are currently submerged would appear in the Mediterranean and possibly in between the Gibraltar straits. These may have encouraged humans to "island hop" between Africa and Europe. During wetter phases of the Sahara, Sub-Saharan Africans would have expanded into North Africa. West Asian populations would have also been attracted to a wet Sahara. West Asian populations could also migrate into Africa via the coastal regions of the Mediterranean.

As a result of these geographic influences, the genetic profile of Berber populations is a complex mosaic of European, Sub-Saharan African and West Asian influences. Though North Africa has experienced gene-flow from the surrounding regions, it has also experienced long periods of genetic isolation, allowing a distinctive genetic markers to evolve in Berber populations.

Current scientific debate is concerned with determining the relative contributions of different periods of gene flow to the current gene pool of North Africans. Anatomically modern humans are known to have been present in North Africa during the Upper Paleolithic 45,000 years ago as attested by the Aterian culture. With no apparent continuity, 22,000 years ago, the Aterian was succeeded by the Iberomaurusian culture which shared similarities with Iberian cultures. The Iberomaurusian was succeeded by the Capsian, a pre-neolithic culture. About 9,000 years ago the Saharan entered a wet phase which attracted Neolithic peoples from the Near East and Sub-Saharan Africans. In historic times, North Africa was invaded by several peoples including Phoenicians (814–146 BCE), Romans (146–439 BCE), Vandals (439–534 BCE),and Byzantines (534–647 BCE). In the 7th Century a migration of Bedouin peoples from the Arabian peninsula brought Arabic languages into North Africa.[31]


Haplogroup E is the most prevalent haplogroup amongst the Berbers accounting for up to 87% of Y-chromosomes among some Berber populations. Haplogroup E is thought to have emerged in Sub-Saharan Africa and would have later dispersed into North Africa . The major sub-clades of haplogroup E found amongst Berbers belong to E1b1b1 which is believed to have emerged in East Africa. Common subclades include, E1b1b1a, E1b1b1b and E1b1b1*. E1b1b1b is distributed along a west-to-east cline with frequencies as high as 80% in Northwest Africa. E1b1b1a has been observed at low to moderate frequencies among Berber populations with significantly higher frequencies observed in Northeast Africa relative to Northwest Africa.[32][33] Haplogroup E1a has also been detected at frequencies of 1.6-3.4%. E1a is typically observed in Sub-Saharan populations, however its presence among Berber populations is thought to be ancient as it has been detected in Iberia and among remains of Aboriginals from the Canary Islands. Haplogroup E1b1a has also been observed at low frequencies. E1b1a is most frequent in sub-saharan Africa and is thought to have expanded recently following the adoption of agriculture and Iron-working. It is thus believed to be a recent introduction into the Berber gene-pool. Eurasian haplogroups such as haplogroup J and haplogroup R1 have been observed at low to moderate frequencies.[32]

E1b1b1b (E-M81); formerly E3b1b, E3b2

E1b1b1b (E-M81) is the most common Y chromosome haplogroup in North Africa, dominated by its sub-clade E-M183. It is thought to have originated in North Africa 5,600 years ago. The parent clade E1b1b originated in East Africa.[34][35] Colloquially referred to as the Berber marker for its prevalence among Mozabite, Middle Atlas, Kabylian and other Amazigh groups, E-M81 is also quite common among North African groups. It reaches frequencies of up to 80% in the Maghreb. This includes the Saharawish for whose men Bosch et al. (2001) reports that approximately 76% are M81+.

This haplogroup is also found of some amounts in the Iberian Peninsula,[36] probably due to ancient migrations during the Islamic, Roman, and Carthaginian empires, as well as the influence of Sephardic Jews.[37] In Iberia generally it is more common than E1b1b1a (E-M78),[38] unlike in the rest of Europe, and as a result this E-M81 is found throughout Latin America[39] and among Hispanic men in USA.[40] As an exceptional case in Europe, this sub-clade of E1b1b1 has also been observed at 40% the Pasiegos from Cantabria.[35]

In smaller numbers, E-M81 men can be found in Sudan, Lebanon, Turkey, and amongst Sephardic Jews.

There are two recognized sub-clades, although one is much more important than the other.

Sub Clades of E1b1b1b (E-M81):
  • E1b1b1b1 (E-M107). Underhill et al. (2000) found one example in Mali.
  • E1b1b1b2 (E-M183). Individuals with the defining marker for this clade, M81, also test positive, in tests so far, for M183. As of 23rd October 2008, the SNP M165 is currently considered to define a subclade, "E1b1b1b2a"[41].

Mitochondrial DNA

Berber woman

mtDNA, by contrast, is inherited only from the mother.According to Macaulay et al. 1999, "one-third of Mozabite Berber mtDNAs have a Near Eastern ancestry, probably having arrived in North Africa ∼50,000 years ago, and one-eighth have an origin in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe appears to be the source of many of the remaining sequences, with the rest having arisen either in Europe or in the Near East." [Maca-Meyer et al. 2003] analyze the "autochthonous North African lineage U6" in mtDNA, concluding that:

The most probable origin of the proto-U6 lineage was the Near East. Around 30,000 years ago it spread to North Africa where it represents a signature of regional continuity. Subgroup U6a reflects the first African expansion from the Maghreb returning to the east in Paleolithic times. Derivative clade U6a1 signals a posterior movement from East Africa back to the Maghreb and the Near East. This migration coincides with the probable Afroasiatic linguistic expansion.

A genetic study by Fadhlaoui-Zid et al. 2004[42] argues concerning certain exclusively North African haplotypes that "expansion of this group of lineages took place around 10,500 years ago in North Africa, and spread to neighbouring population", and apparently that a specific Northwestern African haplotype, U6, probably originated in the Near East 30,000 years ago but has not been highly preserved and accounts for 6-8% in southern Moroccan Berbers, 18% in Kabyles and 28% in Mozabites. Rando et al. 1998 (as cited by [4]) "detected female-mediated gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa to NW Africa" amounting to as much as 21.5% of the mtDNA sequences in a sample of NW African populations; the amount varied from 82% (Tuaregs) to 4% (Rifains). This north-south gradient in the sub-Saharan contribution to the gene pool is supported by Esteban et al.[43] Nevertheless, individual Berber communities display a considerably high mtDNA heterogeneity among them. The Berbers of Jerba Island, located in South Eastern Tunisia, display an 87% Eurasian contribution with no U6 haplotypes,[44] while the Kesra of Tunisia, for example, display a much higher proportion of typical sub-Saharan mtDNA haplotypes (49%),[45] as compared to the Zriba (8%). According to the article, "The North African patchy mtDNA landscape has no parallel in other regions of the world and increasing the number of sampled populations has not been accompanied by any substantial increase in our understanding of its phylogeography. Available data up to now rely on sampling small, scattered populations, although they are carefully characterized in terms of their ethnic, linguistic, and historical backgrounds. It is therefore doubtful that this picture truly represents the complex historical demography of the region rather than being just the result of the type of samplings performed so far."

Additionally, recent studies have discovered a close mitochondrial link between Berbers and the Saami of Scandinavia which confirms that the Franco-Cantabrian refuge area of southwestern Europe was the source of late-glacial expansions of hunter-gatherers that repopulated northern Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum and reveals a direct maternal link between those European hunter-gatherer populations and the Berbers.[45][46] With regard to Mozabite Berbers, one-third of Mozabite Berber mtDNAs have a Near Eastern ancestry, probably having arrived in North Africa ∼50,000 years ago, and one-eighth have an origin in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe appears to be the source of many of the remaining sequences, with the rest having arisen either in Europe or in the Near East."[47]

According to the most recent and thorough study about berber mtDNA from Coudray et al. 2008 that analysed 614 individuals from 10 different regions (Morocco (Asni, Bouhria, Figuig, Souss), Algeria (Mozabites), Tunisia (Chenini-Douiret, Sened, Matmata, Jerba) and Egypt (Siwa))[48] the results may be summarized as follows :

  • Total Eurasian lineages (H, HV, R0, J, T, U (without U6), K, N1, N2, X) : 50-90%
  • Total sub-Saharan lineages (L0, L1, L2, L3, L4-L5) : 5-45
  • Total North African lineages (U6, M1) : 0-35

The Berber mitochondrial pool is characterized by an "overall high frequency of Western Eurasian haplogroups, a somehow lower frequency of sub-Saharan L lineages, and a significant (but differential) presence of North African haplogroups U6 and M1".[49] And according to Cherni et al. 2008 "the post-Last glacial maximum expansion originating in Iberia not only led to the resettlement of Europe but also of North Africa".[50]

Autosomal DNA

Berbers display a heterogeneous autosomal profile but in general autosomal markers are predominantly European or Eurasian with a minor but significant Sub-Saharan African component. As a result, Berber populations possess a genetic profile that is intermediate between Europeans and Sub-Saharan Africans. Analysis of HLA markers has shown that Berbers have a close genetic relationship with Mediterranean Europeans but also possess some characteristics of Sub-Saharan Africans.[51][52]


The Berber languages form a branch of Afro-Asiatic, and thus descended from the proto-Afro-Asiatic language; on the basis of linguistic migration theory, this is believed by some historical linguists (notably Igor Diakonov and Christopher Ehret) to have originated in east Africa no earlier than 12,000 years ago, although Alexander Militarev argues instead for an origin in the Middle East. Ehret specifically suggests identifying the Capsian culture with speakers of languages ancestral to Berber and/or Chadic, and sees the Capsian culture as having been brought there from the African coast of the Red Sea. It is still disputed which branches of Afro-Asiatic are most closely related to Berber, but most linguists accept at least one of Semitic and Chadic as among its closest relatives within the family (see Afro-Asiatic languages.)

The Nobiin variety of Nubian contains several Berber loanwords, according to Bechhaus-Gerst, suggesting a former geographical distribution extending further southeast than the present.

There are between 30 and 40 million speakers of Berber languages in North Africa (see population estimation), principally concentrated in Morocco, Algeria, Mali, Niger, and Libya, and with smaller communities as far east as Egypt and as far south as Burkina Faso.

Their dialects, the Berber languages, form a branch of the Afroasiatic linguistic family comprising many closely related varieties, including Tarifit, Kabyle and Tashelhiyt, with a total of roughly 30-40 million speakers. A frequently used generic name for all Berber languages is Tamazight, though this may also be used to refer specifically to Central Morocco Tamazight or Tarifit.

Ethnic groups

Religions and beliefs

Berbers are mostly Sunni Muslim, while the Mozabites of the Saharan Mozabite Valley are mostly Ibadite. Until the 1960s, there was also an important Jewish Berber community in Morocco,[53] but emigration reduced their number to only a few individuals nowadays. Historically, the small minority of Christian Berbers assimilated into French culture and moved to France after independence (with some pied-noirs being of Berber or part-Berber blood), leaving no more than minuscule numbers in North Africa. However, the Kabyle community in Algeria has decent sized Christian minorities both Protestant and Roman Catholic.

Greek-Berber beliefs

The well-known connections between the ancient Berbers and the ancient Greeks were in Cyrenaica where the Greeks had established colonies. The Greeks influenced the eastern Berber pantheon, but they were also influenced by the Berber culture and beliefs. Generally, the Libyan-Greek relationships knew two different periods. In the first period, the Greeks had peaceful relationships with the Libyans. Later, there existed wars between them. These social relationships were mirrored in their beliefs.

Before the battle of Irassa (570 BC)

Athena, was considered by some ancient historians, like Herodotus, to have been of Libyan origin.
Medusa is believed to have originated from Libya
The Medracen Tomb, probably dating to the second century BC, is located near Lambaesis in Algeria[54]

The first notable appearance of the Libyan influence on the Cyrenaican-Greek beliefs is the name Cyrenaica itself. This name was originally the name of a legendary (mythic) Berber woman warrior who was known as Cyre. Cyre was ,according to the legend, a courageous lion-hunting woman. She gave her name to the city Cyrene. The emigrating Greeks made her as their protector besides their Greek god Apollo.[55]

The Greeks of Cyrenaica seemed also to have adopted some Berber customs and intermarried with the Berber women. Herodotus (Book IV 120) reported that the Libyans taught the Greeks how to yoke four horses to a chariot. The Cyrenaican Greeks built temples for the Libyan god Amon instead of their original god Zeus. They later identified their supreme god Zeus with the Libyan Amon.[56] Some of them continued worshipping Amon himself. Amon's cult was so widespread among the Greeks that even Alexander the Great decided to be declared as the son of Zeus in the Siwan temple by the Libyan priests of Amon.[57]

The ancient historians mentioned that some Greek deities were of Libyan origin. The daughter of Zeus Athena was considered by some ancient historians, like Herodotus, to have been of Libyan origin. Those ancient historians stated that she was originally honored by the Berbers around Lake Tritonis where she has been born from the god Poseidon and Lake Tritonis, according to the Libyan legend. Herodotus wrote that the Aegis and the clothes of Athena are typical for Libyan woman.

Herodotus stated also that Poseidon (an important Greek sea god) was adopted from the Libyans by the Greeks. He emphasized that no other people worshipped Poseidon from early times than the Libyans who spread his cult:

[..]these I think received their naming from the Pelasgians, except Poseidon; but about this god the Hellenes learnt from the Libyans, for no people except the Libyans have had the name of Poseidon from the first and have paid honour to this god always.[58]

Some other Greek deities were related to Libya. The goddess Lamia was believed to have originated in Libya, like Medusa and the Gorgons. The Greeks seem also to have met the god Triton in Libya. The Greeks may have believed that the Hesperides was situated in modern Morocco. Some scholars situate it in Tangier where Antaios lived, according to some myths. The Hesperides were believed to be the daughters of Atlas a god that is associated with the Atlas mountains by Herodotus. The Atlas mountain was worshipped by the Berbers.

After the Battle of Irassa

Antaeus is depicted with long hair and beard, contrary to Heracles.

The Greeks and the Libyans began to break their harmony in the period of the Battus II.[59] Battus II began secretly to invite other Greek groups to Libya. The Libyans considered that as a danger that has to be stopped. The Berbers began to fight against the Greeks, sometimes in alliance with the Egyptians and other times with the Carthaginians. Nevertheless, the Greeks were the victors. Some historians believe that the myth of Antaios was a reflection of those wars between the Libyans and Greeks.[60] The legend tells that he was the undefeatable protector of the Libyans. He was the son of the god Poseidon and Gaia. He was the husband of the Berber goddess Tinjis. He used to protect the lands of the Berbers until he was slain by the Greek hero Heracles who married Tingis and fathered the son Sufax (Berber-Greek son). Some Libyan kings, like Juba I, claimed to be the descendants of Sufax. While some sources described him as the king of Irassa, Plutarch reported that the Libyans buried Antaios in Tangier:

In this city (Tangier) the Libyans say that Antaeus is buried; and Sertorius had his tomb dug open, the great size of which made him disbelieve the Barbarians...(Plutarch, The Parallel Lives)[61]

In the Greek iconography, Antaeus was clearly distinguished from the Greek appearance. He was depicted with long hair and beard that was typical for the Eastern Libyans.

Important Berbers in Islamic history

Yusuf ibn Tashfin (c. 1061 - 1106) was the Berber Almoravid ruler in North Africa and Al-Andalus (Morrish Iberia).

He took the title of amir al-muslimin (commander of the Muslims) after visiting the Caliph of Baghdad 'amir al-moumineen" ("commander of the faithful")and officially receiving his support. He was either a cousin or nephew of Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar, the founder of the Almoravid dynasty. He united all of the Muslim dominions in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Portugal and Spain) to the Kingdom of Morocco (circa 1090), after being called to the Al-Andalus by the Emir of Seville.

Alfonso was defeated on October 23, 1086, at the battle of Sagrajas, at the hands of Yusuf ibn Tashfin, and Abbad III al-Mu'tamid.

Yusuf bin Tashfin is the founder of the famous Moroccan city Marrakech (in Berber Murakush, corrupted to Morocco in English). He himself chose the place where it was built in 1070 and later made it the capital of his Empire. Until then the Almoravids had been desert nomads, but the new capital marked their settling into a more urban way of life.

Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn Tumart (c. 1080 - c. 1130), was a Berber religious teacher and leader from the Masmuda tribe who spiritually founded the Almohad dynasty. He is also known as El-Mahdi (المهدي) in reference to his prophesied redeeming. In 1125 he began open revolt against Almoravid rule.

The name "Ibn Tumart" comes from the Berber language and means "son of the earth."[62]

Tariq ibn Ziyad (died 720), known in Spanish history and legend as Taric el Tuerto (Taric the one-eyed), was a Berber Muslim and Umayyad general who led the conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Spanish history. He was initially the deputy of Musa ibn Nusair in North Africa, and was sent by his superior to launch the first thrust of an invasion of the Iberian peninsula. Some claim that he was invited to intervene by the heirs of the Visigothic King, Wittiza, in the Visigothic civil war.

On April 29, 711, the armies of Tariq landed at Gibraltar (the name Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name Jabal Tariq, which means mountain of Tariq, or the more obvious Gibr Al-Tariq, meaning rock of Tariq). Upon landing, Tariq is said to have burned his ships then made the following speech, well-known in the Muslim world, to his soldiers:

O People ! There is nowhere to run away! The sea is behind you, and the enemy in front of you: There is nothing for you, by God, except only sincerity and patience. (as recounted by al-Maqqari).

Ibn Battuta (born February 24, 1304; year of death uncertain, possibly 1368 or 1377) was a Berber[63] Sunni Islamic scholar and jurisprudent from the Maliki Madhhab (a school of Fiqh, or Sunni Islamic law), and at times a Qadi or judge. However, he is best known as a traveler and explorer, whose account documents his travels and excursions over a period of almost thirty years, covering some 73,000 miles (117,000 km). These journeys covered almost the entirety of the known Islamic world, extending from present-day West Africa to Pakistan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and China, a distance readily surpassing that of his predecessor, near-contemporary Marco Polo.

Abu Ya'qub Yusuf (died on July 29, 1184) was the second Almohad caliph. He reigned from 1163 until 1184. He had the Giralda in Seville built.

Abu Yaqub al-Mustansir Yusuf Caliph of Morocco from 1213 until his death. Son of the previous caliph, Muhammad an-Nasir, Yusuf assumed the throne following his father's death, at the age of only 16 years.

Ziri ibn Manad (died 971), founder of the Zirid dynasty in the Maghreb.

Ziri ibn Manad was a clan leader of the Berber Sanhaja tribe who, as an ally of the Fatimids, defeated the rebellion of Abu Yazid (943-947). His reward was the governorship of the western provinces, an area that roughly corresponds with modern Algeria north of the Sahara.

Muhammad Awzal was a religious Berber poet. He is considered the most important author of the Tashelhiyt (southern Morocco Berber language) literary tradition. He was born around 1670 in the village of al-Qasaba in the region of Sous, Morocco and died in 1748/9 (1162 of the Egira).

Muhammad al-Jazuli From the tribe of Jazulah which was settled in the Sus area of Morocco between the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains. He is most famous for compiling the Dala'il al-Khayrat, an extremely popular Muslim prayer book.

Important Berbers in Christian history

Before the arrival of Islam into the region, most Berber groups were Christians, and a number of Berber theologians were important figures in the development of western Christianity. In particular, the Berber Donatus Magnus was the founder of a Christian group known as the Donatists. The 4th century Catholic Church viewed the donatists as heretics and the dispute led to a schism in the Church dividing North African Christians.[64]

The Romano-Berber theologian known as Augustine of Hippo (modern Chaoui city of Annaba, Algeria), who is recognized as a saint and a Doctor of the Church by Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion, was an outspoken opponent of Donatism.[65]

Of all the fathers of the church, St. Augustine was the most admired and the most influential during the Middle Ages... Augustine was an outsider - a native North African whose family was not Roman but Berber... He was a genius - an intellectual giant.[66]

Many believe that Arius, another early Christian theologian who was deemed a heretic by the Catholic Church, was of Libyan and Berber descent.

Another Berber cleric, Saint Adrian of Canterbury, travelled to England and played a significant role in its early medieval religious history.

Berber culture

Architecture of Bejaia
Mosaic of El Jem
Tomb of Massinissa
Torre del Oro, Sevilla; built by the berber dynasty of the Almohads
Agdal wall, and gardens; Meknes

Traditionally, men take care of livestock. They migrate by following the natural cycle of grazing, and seeking water and shelter. They are thus assured with an abundance of wool, cotton and plants used for dyeing. For their part, women look after the family and handicrafts - first for their personal use, and secondly for sale in the souqs in their locality. The Berber tribes traditionally weave kilims. The tapestry maintains the traditional appearance and distinctiveness of the region of origin of each tribe, which has in effect its own repertoire of drawings. The textile of plain weave is represented by a wide variety of stripes, and more rarely by geometrical patterns such as triangles and diamonds. Additional decorations such as sequins or fringes, are typical of Berber weave in Morocco. The nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Berbers is very suitable for weaving kilims. The customs and traditions differ from one region to another.[67][citation needed]

The social structure of the Berbers is tribal. A leader is appointed to command the tribe. In the Middle Ages, many women had the power to govern, such as Kahina and Tazoughert Fatma in Aurès, Tin Hinan in Hoggar, Chemci in Aït Iraten, Fatma Tazoughert in the Aurès. Lalla Fatma N'Soumer was a Berber woman in Kabylia who fought against the French.

The majority of Berber tribes currently have men as heads of the tribe. In Algeria, the el Kseur platform in Kabylia gives tribes the right to fine criminal offenders. In areas of Chaoui, tribal leaders enact sanctions against criminals.[68] The Tuareg have a king who decides the fate of the tribe and is known as Amenokal. It is a very hierarchical society. The Mozabites are governed by the spiritual leaders of Ibadism. The Mozabites lead communal lives. During the crisis of Berriane, the heads of each tribe resolved the problem and began talks to end the crisis between the Maliki and Ibadite movements.[69] In marriages, the man selects the woman, and depending on the tribe, the family often makes the decision. In comparison, in the Tuareg culture, the woman chooses her future husband. The rites of marriage are different for each tribe. Families are either patriarchal or matriarchal, according to the tribe.


Berber cuisine is a traditional cuisine which has evolved little over time. It differs from one area to another within North Africa.

Principal Berber foods are:

  • Couscous, a pasta dish
  • Tajine, a dish made in various forms
  • Pastilla
  • bread made with traditional yeast
  • "Bouchiar" (fine yeastless wafers soaked in butter and natural honey)
  • "Bourjeje" (pancake containing flour, eggs, yeast and salt)
  • "Tahricht" (sheep offal: brains, tripe, lungs, and heart): these organ meats are rolled up with the intestines on an oak stick and cooked on embers in specially designed ovens. The meat is coated with butter to make it even tastier. This dish is served mainly at festivities.

Although they are the original inhabitants of North Africa, and in spite of numerous incursions by Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans and French, Berbers lived in very contained communities. Having been subject to limited external influences, these populations lived free from acculturating factors.

Couscous and Tajine are the principal dishes for special feasts and celebrations. Couscous was invented in the Kabylie region of Algeria.[citation needed]

Some notable Berber dishes


Berber music, the traditional music of North Africa, has a wide variety of regional styles. The best known are the Moroccan music, the popular Kabyle and chawi music of Algeria, and the widespread Tuareg music of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali.

The instruments used are the bendir (large drums) and Gambra (a flute), which accompanying songs and dances.


Singer Idir.

Traditional Kabylian music consists of vocalists accompanied by a rhythm section, consisting of t'bel (tambourine) and bendir (frame drum), and a melody section, consisting of a ghaita (bagpipe) and ajouag (flute).

Kabylian music has been popular in France since the 1930s, when it was played at cafés. As it evolved, Western string instruments and Arab musical conventions, like large backing orchestras, were added.

By the time raï, a style of Algerian popular music, became popular in France and elsewhere in Europe, Kabylian artists began using less traditional instruments and formats. Hassen Zermani's all-electric Takfarinas and Abdelli's work with Peter Gabriel's Real World helped bring Kabylian music to new audiences, while the murder of Matoub Lounes inspired many Kabylians to rally around their popular musicians.


There are three varieties of Berber folk music: village and ritual music, and the music performed by professional musicians. Village music is performed collectively for dancing, including ahidus and ahouach dances. Instruments include flutes and drums. These dances begin with a chanted prayer. Ritual music is performed at regular ceremonies to celebrate marriages and other important life events. Ritual music is also used as protection against evil spirits. Professional musicians (imdyazn) travel in groups of four, led by a poet (amydaz). The amydaz performs improvised poems, often accompanied by drums and rabab (a one-stringed fiddle), along with a bou oughanim who plays a double clarinet and acts as a clown for the group.

The Chleuh Berbers have professional musicians called rwais who play in ensembles consisting of lutes, rababs and cymbals, with any number of vocalist. The leader, or rayes, leads the choreography and music of the group. These performances begin with an instrumental astara on rabab, which also gives the notes of the melody which follows. The next phase is the amarg, or sung poetry, and then ammussu, a danced overture, tammust, an energetic song, aberdag, a dance, and finally the rhythmically swift tabbayt. There is some variation in the presentation of the order, but the astara always begins, and the tabbayt always ends.


Genetic influence

Genetic influences on Europe

Neolithic expansion
pink vector showing neolithic expansion from North Africa to Britain

There are a number of genetic markers which are characteristic of Horn African and North African populations which are to be found in European populations signifying ancient and modern population movements across the Mediterranean. These markers are to be found particularly in Mediterranean Europe but some are also prevalent, at low levels, throughout the continent. The spread of the Megaliths and its Cultures seem to have been carried, or kept maritime connections with, the Mediterranean and Northern Africans.[citation needed]

Y-chromosome DNA

The general parent Y-chromosome Haplogroup E1b1b (formerly known as E3b), which originated in either the Horn of Africa[70] or the Near East,[41] is by far the most common clade in North and Northeast Africa, and is also common throughout the majority of Europe, particularly in the Mediterranean and South Eastern Europe. E1b1b reaches its highest concentration in Greece and the Balkan region, but also enjoys a significant presence in other regions such as Hungary, Italy, France, Iberia and Austria. [5].[70]

Outside of North and Northeast Africa, E1b1b's two most prevalent clades are E1b1b1a (E-M78, formerly E3b1a) and E1b1b1b (E-M81, formerly E3b1b).

E1b1b1a is the most common subclade of E1b1b and is present throughout Europe. It was originally thought to have been a marker of Neolithic migrations (perhaps coinciding with the introduction of Agriculture into Europe) from Anatolia to Europe, via the Balkans, where it enjoys the highest frequency. However, Cruciani's latest study suggests that it actually arrived into the Balkans from Western Asia during the Palaeolithic, and then spread throughout Europe much later (circa 5300 years ago) due to a population expansion originating from within the Balkans.

A study from Semino (published 2004) showed that Y-chromosome haplotype E1b1b1b (E-M81), is specific to North African populations and almost absent in Europe except the Iberia (Spain and Portugal) and Sicily.[70] Another 2004 study showed that E1b1b1b is found present, albeit at low levels throughout Southern Europe (ranging from 1.5% in Northern Italians, 2.2% in Central Italians, 1.6% in southern Spaniards, 3.5% in the French, 4% in the Northern Portuguese, 12.2% in the southern Portuguese and 41.2% in the genetic isolate of the Pasiegos from Cantabria).[71] The findings of this latter study contradict a more thorough analysis Y-chromosome analysis of the Iberian peninsula according to which haplogroup E1b1b1b surpasses frequencies of 10% in Southern Spain. The study points only to a very limited influence from northern Africa and the Middle East both in historic and prehistoric times.[72] The absence of microsatellite variation suggests a very recent arrival from North Africa consistent with historical exchanges across the Mediterranean during the period of Islamic expansion, namely of Berber populations.[70] A study restricted to Portugal, concerning Y-chromosome lineages, revealed that "The mtDNA and Y data indicate that the Berber presence in that region dates prior to the Moorish expansion in 711 AD... Our data indicate that male Berbers, unlike sub-Saharan immigrants, constituted a long-lasting and continuous community in the country".[73]

Haplotype V(p49/TaqI), a characteristic North African haplotype, may be also found in the Iberian peninsula, and a decreasing North-South cline of frequency clearly establishes a gene flow from North Africa towards Iberia which is also consistent with Moorish presence in the peninsula.[74] This North-South cline of frequency of halpotype V is to be observed throughout the Mediterranean region, ranging from frequencies of close to 50% in southern Portugal to around 10% in southern France. Similarly, the highest frequency in Italy is to be found in the southern island of Sicily (28%).[75][76]

A wide ranging study (published 2007) using 6,501 unrelated Y-chromosome samples from 81 populations found that: "Considering both these E-M78 sub-haplogroups (E-V12, E-V22, E-V65) and the E-M81 haplogroup, the contribution of northern African lineages to the entire male gene pool of Iberia (barring Pasiegos), continental Italy and Sicily can be estimated as 5.6%, 3.6%, and 6.6%, respectively."[76]

A very recent study about Sicily by Gaetano et al. 2008 found that "The Hg E3b1b-M81, widely diffused in northwestern African populations, is estimated to contribute to the Sicilian gene pool at a rate of 6%." and "confirms the genetic affinity between Sicily and North Africa".[77]

According to the most recent and thorough study about Iberia by Adams et al. 2008 that analysed 1140 unrelated Y-chromosome samples in Iberia, a much more important contribution of northern African lineages to the entire male gene pool of Iberia was found : "mean North African admixture is 10.6%, with wide geographical variation, ranging from zero in Gascony to 21.7% in Northwest Castile".[78][79]

Mitochondrial DNA

Genetic studies on Iberian populations also show that North African mitochondrial DNA sequences (haplogroup U6) and sub-Saharan sequences (Haplogroup L), although present at only low levels, are still at much higher levels than those generally observed elsewhere in Europe.[80][81][82] Haplogroup U6 have also been detected in Sicily and South Italy at very low levels.[83] It happens also to be a characteristic genetic marker of the Saami populations of Northern Scandinavia.[84] It is difficult to ascertain that U6's presence is the consequence of Islam's expansion into Europe during the Middle Ages, particularly because it is more frequent in the north of the Iberian Peninsula rather than in the south. In smaller numbers it is also attested too in the British Isles, again in its northern and western borders. It may be a trace of a prehistoric neolithic/megalithic expansion along the Atlantic coasts from North Africa, perhaps in conjunction with seaborne trade. One subclade of U6 is particularly common among Canarian Spaniards as a result of native Guanche (proto-Berber) ancestry.

Genetic influences on Latin America

As a consequence of Spanish and Portuguese colonization of Latin America, E-M81 is also found throughout Latin America[85][86][87] and among Hispanic men in USA.[88](dependent on race)

See also


  • Brett, Michael; & Fentress, Elizabeth (1997). The Berbers (The Peoples of Africa). ISBN 0-631-16852-4. ISBN 0-631-20767-8 (Pbk).
  • The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 by Christopher Ehret
  • Egypt In Africa by Celenko
  • Stone Age Races of Northwest Africa by L. Cabot-Briggs
  • The people of Africa (People of the world series) by Jean Hiernaux
  • Britannica 2004
  • Encarta 2005
  • Blanc, S. H., Grammaire de la Langue Basque (d'apres celle de Larramendi), Lyons & Paris, 1854.
  • Cruciani, F; La Fratta; Santolamazza; Sellitto; Pascone; Moral; Watson; Guida et al. (May 2004). "Phylogeographic analysis of haplogroup E3b (E-M215) y chromosomes reveals multiple migratory events within and out of Africa.". American journal of human genetics 74 (5): 1014–22. doi:10.1086/386294. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 15042509. 
  • Entwhistle, W. J. The Spanish Language, (as cited in Michael Harrison's work, 1974.) London, 1936
  • Gans Eric Lawrence, The Origin of Language, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1981.
  • Geze, L., Elements de Grammaire Basque, Beyonne, 1873.
  • Hachid, Malika, Les Premiers Berberes EdiSud, 2001
  • Hagan, Helene E., The Shining Ones: an Etymological Essay on the Amazigh Roots of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation. (XLibris, 2001)
  • Hagan, Helene E. Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols, (XLibris, 2006)
  • Harrison, Michael, The Roots of Witchcraft, Citadel Press, Secaucus, N.J., 1974.
  • Hualde, J. I., Basque Phonology, Routledge, London & New York, 1991.
  • Martins, J. P. de Oliveira, A History of Iberian Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1930.
  • Myles, S; Bouzekri; Haverfield; Cherkaoui; Dugoujon; Ward (Jun 2005). "Genetic evidence in support of a shared Eurasian-North African dairying origin.". Human genetics 117 (1): 34–42. doi:10.1007/s00439-005-1266-3. ISSN 0340-6717. PMID 15806398. 
  • Nebel, A; Landau-Tasseron; Filon; Oppenheim; Faerman (Jun 2002). "Genetic evidence for the expansion of Arabian tribes into the Southern Levant and North Africa.". American journal of human genetics 70 (6): 1594–6. doi:10.1086/340669. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 11992266. 
  • Osborn, Henry Fairfield, Men of the Old Stone Age, New York, 1915-1923.
  • Renan, Ernest, De l'Origine du Langage, Paris, 1858; La Societe' Berbere, Paris, 1873.
  • Ripley, W. Z., The Races of Europe, D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1899.
  • Ryan, William & Pitman, Walter, Noah's Flood: The new scientific discoveries about the event that changed history, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1998.
  • Saltarelli, M., Basque, Croom Helm, New York, 1988.
  • Semino, O; Magri; Benuzzi; Lin; Al-Zahery; Battaglia; Maccioni; Triantaphyllidis et al. (May 2004). "Origin, diffusion, and differentiation of Y-chromosome haplogroups E and J: inferences on the neolithization of Europe and later migratory events in the Mediterranean area.". American journal of human genetics 74 (5): 1023–34. doi:10.1086/386295. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 15069642. 
  • Silverstein, Paul A. Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2004.


  1. ^ a b Berber (people). Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ a b Q&A: The Berbers. BBC News.
  3. ^ North African Genes in Iberia studied by Y-Chromosome DNA Haplotype 5
  4. ^ a b Morocco's Berbers Battle to Keep From Losing Their Culture. San Francisco Chronicle. March 16, 2001.
  5. ^ Berbers: The Proud Raiders. BBC World Service.
  6. ^ Journée d'étude Africa Antiqua sur l'historiographie de l'Afrique du Nord. Voir les remarques de M. Lenoir en fin de compte rendu
  7. ^ Brett, M.; Fentress, E.W.B. (1996). The Berbers. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 5–6. 
  8. ^ Maddy-weitzman, B. (2006). "Ethno-politics and globalisation in North Africa: The berber culture movement*" (PDF). The Journal of North African Studies 11 (1): 71–84. doi:10.1080/13629380500409917. Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  9. ^ (French) INALCO report on Central Morocco Tamazight: maps, extension, dialectology, name
  10. ^ Mohand Akli Haddadou, Le guide de la culture berbère, Paris Méditerranée, 2000, p.13-14
  11. ^ Brian M. Fagan, Roland Oliver, Africa in the Iron Age: c 500 BCE to 1400 CE p. 47
  12. ^ Ibn Khaldoun, Histoire des Berbères et des dynasties musulmanes de l'Afrique septentrionale
  13. ^ European slaves in North Africa, Washington Times, 10 March 2004
  14. ^ The Last Christians Of North-West Africa: Some Lessons For Orthodox Today
  15. ^ a b The Berbers, BBC World Service | The Story of Africa
  16. ^ Histoire de l'émigration kabyle en France au XXe siècleréalités culturelles ... De Karina Slimani-Direche
  17. ^
  18. ^ Les cultures du Maghreb De Maria Angels Roque, Paul Balta, Mohammed Arkoun
  19. ^ Histoire de l'émigration kabyle en France au XXe siècle réalités culturelles ... De Karina Slimani-Direche
  20. ^ Dialogues d'histoire ancienne à l'Université de Besançon, Centre de recherches d'histoire ancienne
  21. ^ Les cultures du Maghreb de Maria Angels Roque, Paul Balta et Mohammed Arkoun
  22. ^ a b Histoire des Berbères et des dynasties musulmanes de l'Afrique Septentrionale De Ibn Khaldūn, William MacGuckin
  23. ^,M1
  24. ^,M1
  25. ^ Spain - AL ANDALUS, U.S. Library of Congress
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Historical Dictionaries : North Africa
  30. ^ Berbers and Blacks: Impressions of Morocco, Timbuktu and Western Sudan, David Prescott Barrows
  31. ^ Rando (1998). "Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Northwest African populations reveals genetic exchanges with European, Near-Eastern, and sub-Saharan populations". Annals of Human Genetics. 
  32. ^ a b Semino et al., O; Magri, C; Benuzzi, G; Lin, AA; Al-Zahery, N; Battaglia, V; MacCioni, L; Triantaphyllidis, C et al. (2004). [ "Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area"]. American journal of human genetics 74 (5): 1023–34. doi:10.1086/386295. PMID 15069642. PMC 1181965. 
  33. ^ Kujanova, Martina; Pereira, Luísa; Fernandes, VeróNica; Pereira, Joana B.; Černý, Viktor (2009). "Near Eastern Neolithic genetic input in a small oasis of the Egyptian Western Desert". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140 (2): 336. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21078. PMID 19425100. 
  34. ^ Arredi et al. (2004)
  35. ^ a b Cruciani F, La Fratta R, Santolamazza P et al. (May 2004). "Phylogeographic analysis of haplogroup E3b (E-M215) y chromosomes reveals multiple migratory events within and out of Africa". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 74 (5): 1014–22. doi:10.1086/386294. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 15042509. 
  36. ^ According to Adams et al. (2008) that analysed 1140 unrelated Y-chromosome samples in Iberia : "mean North African admixture is 10.6%, with wide geographical variation, ranging from zero in Gascony to 21.7% in Northwest Castile".
  37. ^ Gonçalves et al. (2005)
  38. ^ See for example Flores et al. (2004).
  39. ^ See the remarks of genetic genealogist Robert Tarín for example. We can add 6.1% (8 out of 132) in Cuba, Mendizabal et al. (2008); 5.4% (6 out of 112) in Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), "The presence of chromosomes of North African origin (E3b1b-M81; Cruciani et al., 2004) can also be explained by a Portuguese-mediated influx, since this haplogroup reaches a frequency of 5.6% in Portugal (Beleza et al., 2006), quite similar to the frequency found in Rio de Janeiro (5.4%) among European contributors.", Silva et al. (2006)
  40. ^ 2.4% (7 out of 295) among Hispanic men from California and Hawaii, Paracchini et al. (2003)
  41. ^ a b Y-DNA Haplogroup E and its Subclades - 2008
  42. ^ Fadhlaoui-Zid K, Plaza S, Calafell F, Ben Amor M, Comas D, Bennamar El gaaied A (May 2004). "Mitochondrial DNA heterogeneity in Tunisian Berbers". Ann. Hum. Genet. 68 (Pt 3): 222–33. doi:10.1046/j.1529-8817.2004.00096.x. ISSN 0003-4800. PMID 15180702. 
  43. ^ Esteban E, González-Pérez E, Harich N et al. (Mar 2004). "Genetic relationships among Berbers and South Spaniards based on CD4 microsatellite/Alu haplotypes". Ann. Hum. Biol. 31 (2): 202–12. doi:10.1080/03014460310001652275. ISSN 0301-4460. PMID 15204363. 
  44. ^ Loueslati BY, Cherni L, Khodjet-Elkhil H et al. (January 2006). "Islands inside an island: reproductive isolates on Jerba island". Am. J. Hum. Biol. 18 (1): 149–53. doi:10.1002/ajhb.20473. ISSN 1042-0533. PMID 16378336. 
  45. ^ a b Cherni L, Loueslati BY, Pereira L, Ennafaâ H, Amorim A, El Gaaied AB (February 2005). "Female gene pools of Berber and Arab neighboring communities in central Tunisia: microstructure of mtDNA variation in North Africa". Hum. Biol. 77 (1): 61–70. doi:10.1353/hub.2005.0028. ISSN 0018-7143. PMID 16114817. 
  46. ^ Achilli A, Rengo C, Battaglia V et al. (May 2005). "Saami and Berbers--an unexpected mitochondrial DNA link". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 76 (5): 883–6. doi:10.1086/430073. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 15791543. 
  47. ^ Macaulay et al. (1999), The Emerging Tree of West Eurasian mtDNAs: A Synthesis of Control-Region Sequences and RFLPs, Am. J. Hum. Genet. 64:232–249, 1999
  48. ^ Data from Achilli et al. 2005; Brakez et al. 2001; Cherni et al. 2005; Fadhlaoui-Zid et al. 2004; Krings et al.1999; Loueslati et al. 2006; Macaulay et al. 1999; Olivieri et al. 2006; Plaza et al. 2003; Rando et al. 1998; Stevanovitchet al. 2004; Coudray et al.2008; Cherni et al. 2008
  49. ^ Coudray C, Olivieri A, Achilli A et al. (March 2009). "The complex and diversified mitochondrial gene pool of Berber populations". Annals of Human Genetics 73 (2): 196–214. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1809.2008.00493.x. ISSN 0003-4800. PMID 19053990. 
  50. ^ Cherni L, Fernandes V, Pereira JB et al. (June 2009). "Post-last glacial maximum expansion from Iberia to North Africa revealed by fine characterization of mtDNA H haplogroup in Tunisia". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 139 (2): 253–60. doi:10.1002/ajpa.20979. ISSN 0002-9483. PMID 19090581. 
  51. ^ Piancatelli, D.; Canossi, A.; Aureli, A.; Oumhani, K.; Del Beato, T.; Di Rocco, M.; Liberatore, G.; Tessitore, A. et al. (2004). "Human leukocyte antigen-A, -B, and -Cw polymorphism in a Berber population from North Morocco using sequence-based typing". Tissue Antigens 63 (2): 158. doi:10.1111/j.1399-0039.2004.00161.x. PMID 14705987. 
  52. ^ Hajjej, A.; Kaabi, H.; Sellami, M. H.; Dridi, A.; Jeridi, A.; El Borgi, W.; Cherif, G.; Elgaaied, A. et al. (2006). "The contribution of HLA class I and II alleles and haplotypes to the investigation of the evolutionary history of Tunisians". Tissue Antigens 68 (2): 153. doi:10.1111/j.1399-0039.2006.00622.x. PMID 16866885. 
  53. ^ [1]
  54. ^ Montagu Colvin, Howard. Architecture and the After-life. 1991, page 26
  55. ^ K. Freeman Greek city state- N.Y. 1983, p. 210.
  56. ^ Oric Bates, The Eastern Libyans.
  57. ^ Mohammed Chafik, revue Tifinagh...
  58. ^ Herodotus Book 2: Euterpe 50
  59. ^ the word Battus is believed to be originally a Berber word meaning King in the Berber language
  60. ^ Oric Bates. The Eastern Libyans, Franc Cass Co. p. 260
  61. ^ Plutarch, The Parallel Lives: The Life of Sertorius.
  62. ^ Encyclopaedia of the Orient - Ibn Tumart
  63. ^ Ross E. Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta - A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century, University of California, 2004 ISBN 0-520-24385-4.
  64. ^ "The Donatist Schism. External History." History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. 311-600 CE. [2]
  65. ^ Augustine's Letter to the Donatists (Letter 76).
  66. ^ Cantor, Norman (1993). The Civilization of the Middle Ages. Harper. p. 74. ISBN 0060925531. 
  67. ^ ABC Amazigh. An editorial experience in Algeria, 1996-2001 experience, Smaïl Medjeber
  68. ^ Elwaten, Hassan Moali, 31 August 2008, to honor the tribe
  69. ^ / Hadj-Brahim nechat-Member-of-Elwaten, Salima Tlemçani, 18 June 2008
  70. ^ a b c d Semino O, Magri C, Benuzzi G et al. (May 2004). "Origin, diffusion, and differentiation of Y-chromosome haplogroups E and J: inferences on the neolithization of Europe and later migratory events in the Mediterranean area". American Journal of Human Genetics 74 (5): 1023–34. doi:10.1086/386295. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 15069642. 
  71. ^ Cruciani et al., 2004, Phylogeography of the Y-Chromosome Haplogroup E3b
  72. ^ Reduced Genetic Structure for Iberian Peninsula: implications for population demography. (2004)
  73. ^ Gonçalves R, Freitas A, Branco M et al. (July 2005). "Y-chromosome lineages from Portugal, Madeira and Açores record elements of Sephardim and Berber ancestry". Annals of Human Genetics 69 (Pt 4): 443–54. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8817.2005.00161.x. ISSN 0003-4800. PMID 15996172. 
  74. ^ Lucotte G, Gérard N, Mercier G (October 2001). "North African genes in Iberia studied by Y-chromosome DNA haplotype 5". Human Biology 73 (5): 763–9. doi:10.1353/hub.2001.0066. ISSN 0018-7143. PMID 11758696. 
  75. ^ Gérard N, Berriche S, Aouizérate A, Diéterlen F, Lucotte G (June 2006). "North African Berber and Arab influences in the western Mediterranean revealed by Y-chromosome DNA haplotypes". Human Biology 78 (3): 307–16. doi:10.1353/hub.2006.0045. ISSN 0018-7143. PMID 17216803. 
  76. ^ a b Cruciani F, La Fratta R, Trombetta B et al. (June 2007). "Tracing past human male movements in northern/eastern Africa and western Eurasia: new clues from Y-chromosomal haplogroups E-M78 and J-M12" (Free full text). Molecular Biology and Evolution 24 (6): 1300–11. doi:10.1093/molbev/msm049. ISSN 0737-4038. PMID 17351267. 
  77. ^ Di Gaetano C, Cerutti N, Crobu F et al. (January 2009). "Differential Greek and northern African migrations to Sicily are supported by genetic evidence from the Y chromosome". European Journal of Human Genetics 17 (1): 91–9. doi:10.1038/ejhg.2008.120. ISSN 1018-4813. PMID 18685561. "The co-occurrence of the Berber E3b1b-M81 (2.12%) and of the Mid-Eastern J1-M267 (3.81%) Hgs together with the presence of E3b1a1-V12, E3b1a3-V22, E3b1a4-V65 (5.5%) support the hypothesis of intrusion of North African genes. (...) These Hgs are common in northern Africa and are observed only in Mediterranean Europe and together the presence of the E3b1b-M81 highlights the genetic relationships between northern Africa and Sicily. (...) Hg E3b1b-M81 network cluster confirms the genetic affinity between Sicily and North Africa.". 
  78. ^ Adams SM, Bosch E, Balaresque PL et al. (December 2008). "The genetic legacy of religious diversity and intolerance: paternal lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula". American Journal of Human Genetics 83 (6): 725–36. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.11.007. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 19061982. 
  79. ^ "The study shows that religious conversions and the subsequent marriages between people of different lineage had a relevant impact on modern populations both in Spain, especially in the Balearic Islands, and in Portugal", The religious conversions of Jews and Muslims have had a profound impact on the population of the Iberian Peninsula, Elena Bosch, 2008
  80. ^ Plaza S, Calafell F, Helal A et al. (July 2003). "Joining the pillars of Hercules: mtDNA sequences show multidirectional gene flow in the western Mediterranean". Annals of Human Genetics 67 (Pt 4): 312–28. doi:10.1046/j.1469-1809.2003.00039.x. ISSN 0003-4800. PMID 12914566. "Haplogroup U6 is present at frequencies ranging from 0 to 7% in the various Iberian populations, with an average of 1.8%. Given that the frequency of U6 in NW Africa is 10%, the mtDNA contribution of NW Africa to Iberia can be estimated at 18%. This is larger than the contribution estimated with Y-chromosomal lineages (7%) (Bosch et al. 2001).". 
  81. ^ Pereira L, Cunha C, Alves C, Amorim A (April 2005). "African female heritage in Iberia: a reassessment of mtDNA lineage distribution in present times". Human Biology 77 (2): 213–29. doi:10.1353/hub.2005.0041. ISSN 0018-7143. PMID 16201138. "Although the absolute value of observed U6 frequency in Iberia is low, it reveals a considerable North African female contribution, if we keep in mind that haplogroup U6 is not very common in North Africa itself and virtually absent in the rest of Europe. Indeed, because the range of variation in western North Africa is 4-28%, the estimated minimum input is 8.54%". 
  82. ^ González AM, Brehm A, Pérez JA, Maca-Meyer N, Flores C, Cabrera VM (April 2003). "Mitochondrial DNA affinities at the Atlantic fringe of Europe". American Journal of Physical Anthropology 120 (4): 391–404. doi:10.1002/ajpa.10168. ISSN 0002-9483. PMID 12627534. "Our results clearly reinforce, extend, and clarify the preliminary clues of an 'important mtDNA contribution from northwest Africa into the Iberian Peninsula' (Côrte-Real et al., 1996; Rando et al., 1998; Flores et al., 2000a; Rocha et al., 1999)(...) Our own data allow us to make minimal estimates of the maternal African pre-Neolithic, Neolithic, and/or recent slave trade input into Iberia. For the former, we consider only the mean value of the U6 frequency in northern African populations, excluding Saharans, Tuareg, and Mauritanians (16%), as the pre-Neolithic frequency in that area, and the present frequency in the whole Iberian Peninsula (2.3%) as the result of the northwest African gene flow at that time. The value obtained (14%) could be as high as 35% using the data of Corte-Real et al. (1996), or 27% with our north Portugal sample.". 
  83. ^ Achilli A, Olivieri A, Pala M et al. (April 2007). "Mitochondrial DNA variation of modern Tuscans supports the near eastern origin of Etruscans". American Journal of Human Genetics 80 (4): 759–68. doi:10.1086/512822. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 17357081. "1.33% (3/226) in Calabria and 1.28% in Campania". 
  84. ^ Achilli A, Rengo C, Battaglia V et al. (May 2005). "Saami and Berbers--an unexpected mitochondrial DNA link". American Journal of Human Genetics 76 (5): 883–6. doi:10.1086/430073. ISSN 0002-9297. PMID 15791543. 
  85. ^ See the remarks of genetic genealogist Robert Tarín for example. We can add 6.1% (8 out of 132) in Cuba
  86. ^ Mendizabal I, Sandoval K, Berniell-Lee G et al. (Jul 2008). "Genetic origin, admixture, and asymmetry in maternal and paternal human lineages in Cuba" (Free full text). BMC Evolutionary Biology 8: 213. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-8-213. PMID 18644108. PMC 2492877. "The presence of chromosomes of North African origin (E3b1b-M81; Cruciani et al., 2004) can also be explained by a Portuguese-mediated influx, since this haplogroup reaches a frequency of 5.6% in Portugal (Beleza et al., 2006), quite similar to the frequency found in Rio de Janeiro (5.4%) among European contributors". 
  87. ^ Silva DA, Carvalho E, Costa G, Tavares L, Amorim A, Gusmão L (Nov 2006). "Y-chromosome genetic variation in Rio de Janeiro population". American Journal of Human Biology 18 (6): 829–37. doi:10.1002/ajhb.20567. ISSN 1042-0533. PMID 17039481. 
  88. ^ Coco C, Magistrelli P, Granone P, Roncolini G, Picciocchi A (February 1992). "Conservative surgery for early cancer of the distal rectum". Diseases of the Colon and Rectum 35 (2): 131–6. doi:10.1007/BF02050667. ISSN 0012-3706. PMID 1735314. "2.4% (7 out of 295) among Hispanic men from California and Hawaii". 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BERBERS, the name under which are included the various branches of the indigenous " Libyan " race of North Africa. Since the dawn of history the Berbers have occupied the tract between the Mediterranean and the Sahara from Egypt to the Atlantic. The origin of the name is doubtful. Some believe it to be derived from the word (36p(apoc (barbarians), employed first by the Greeks and later by the Romans. Others attribute the first use of the term to the Arab conquerors. However this may be, tribal titles, Barabara and Beraberata, appear in Egyptian inscriptions of 1700 and 1300 B.C., and the Berbers were probably intimately related with the Egyptians in very early times. Thus the true ethnical name may have become confused with Barbari, the designation naturally used by classical conquerors. To the Egyptians they were known as " Lebu," " Mashuasha," " Tamahu," " Tehennu " and " Kahaka "; a long list of names is found in Herodotus, and the Romans called them Numidae, Gaetuli and Mauri, terms which have been derived respectively from the Greek voµaSes (nomads), the name Gued'oula, of a great Berber tribe, and the Hebrew mahur (western). To speak of more modern times there can be enumerated the Zouaoua and Jebalia (Tripoli and Tunisia); the Chauwia, Kabyles and Beni-Mzab (Algeria); the Shluh (Chlouah), Amazigh and Berbers (Morocco); the Tuareg, Amoshagh, Sorgu, &c. (Sahara). These tribes have many subtribes, each with a distinctive name. Among the Azgar, an important division of the Tuareg, one of the noble or free tribes, styled Aouraghen, is said to descend from a tribe named Avrigha. The Avrigha, or Afrigha, in ancient times occupied the coast lands near Carthage, and some scholars derive the word Africa from their name (see Roman Africa). In regard to the ethnic relations of the Berbers there has been much dispute. The antiquity of their type is evidenced by the monuments of Egypt, where their ancestors are pictured with the same comparatively blond features which many of them still display. The aborigines of the Canary Islands, the Guanches, would seem almost certainly, from the remains of their language, to have been Berbers. But the problem of the actual origin of the Berber race has not yet been solved. Perhaps the most satisfactory theory is that of Sergi, who includes the Berbers in the " Mediterranean Race." General L. L. C. Faidherbe regards them as indigenous Libyans mingled with a fair-skinned people of European origin. Dr Franz Pruner-Bey, Henri Duveyrier and Prof. Flinders Petrie maintain that they are closely related to the ancient Egyptians. Connexion has been traced between the early Libyan race and the Cro-Magnon and other early European races and, later, the Basque peoples, Iberians, Picts, Celts and Gauls. The megalithic monuments of Iberia and Celtic Europe have their counterparts in northern Africa, and it is suggested that these were all erected by the same race, by whatever name they be known, Berbers and Libyans in Africa, Iberians in Spain, Celts, Gauls and Picts in France and Britain.

In spite of a history of foreign conquest - Phoenician, Greek, Roman, Vandal, Arab and French - the Berber physical type and the Berber temperament and nationality have persisted since the stone age. The numerous invasions p g have naturally introduced a certain amount of foreign blood among the tribes fringing the Mediterranean, but those farther inland have preserved their racial purity to a surprising degree. Though considerable individual differences of type may be found in every village, the Berbers are distinctively a " white " race, and the majority would, if clad in European costume, pass unchallenged as Europeans. Dark hair and brown or hazel eyes are the rule; blue-eyed blonds are found, but their frequency has been considerably overstated. The invaders who have most affected the Berber race are the Arabs, but the two races, with a common religion, often a common government, with the same tribal groupings, have failed to amalgamate to any great extent. This fact has been emphasized by Dr R. G. Latham, who writes: " All that is not Arabic in the kingdom of Morocco, all that is not Arabic in the French provinces of Algeria, and all that is not Arabic in Tunis, Tripoli and Fezzan, is Berber." The explanation lies in a profound distinction of character. The Arab is a herdsman and a nomad; the Berber is an agriculturist and a townsman. The Arab has built his social structure on the Koran, which inculcates absolutism, aristocracy, theocracy; the Berber, despite his nominal Mahommedanism, is a democrat, with his Jemda or " Witangemot " and his Kanum or unwritten code, the Magna Carta of the individual's liberty as opposed to the community's good. The Kanum forbids no sort of exercise of individual will, so long as it is not inimical to the right or rights of other individuals. The Arabizing of the Berbers is indeed limited to little beyond the conversion of the latter to Islam. The Arab, transported to a soil which does not always suit him, so far from thriving, tends to disappear, whereas the Berber becomes more and more aggressive, and yearly increases in numbers. At present he forms at least three-fifths of the population in Algeria, and in Morocco the proportion is greater. The difference between the Berber and the Arab of the Barbary States is summed up by Dr Randall-Maclver in the following words: - " The Berber gives the impression of being, as he is, the descendant of men who have lived in sturdy independence, self-governing and self-reliant.

The Arab is the degenerate offspring of a race which only from its history and past records can claim any title to respect. Cringing, venal, avaricious, dishonest, the Arab combines all the faults of a vicious nature with those which a degraded religion inculcates or encourages. The Berber, on the other hand, is straightforward, honest, by no means averse to money-making, but not unscrupulous in the methods which he employs to this end, intelligent in a degree to which the ordinary Arab never approaches, and trustworthy as no Arab can be." The Berber's village is his state, and the government is vested in an assembly, the Jemda, formed of all males old enough to observe the fast of Ramadan. By them are deter mined all matters ofeace or war, legislation taxation p ? g ?

and justice. The executive officer is the Amin, a kind of mayor, elected from some influential family in which the dignity is often in practice hereditary. He owes his position to the good-will of his fellows, receives no remuneration, and resigns as soon as he loses the confidence of the people. By him are appointed certain Temman (sing. Tamen) who act as overseers, though without executive powers, in the various quarters of the village. The poorest Berber has as great a voice in affairs as the richest. The undue power of the Jemda is checked by vendetta and a sort of lynch law, and by the formation of parties (sofs), within or without the assembly, for trade, political and other purposes. The Berbers are a warlike people who have never been completely subjugated. Every boy as soon as he reaches sixteen is brought into the Jemda and given weapons which he carries till he is sixty. Though each village is absolutely independent as far as its internal affairs are concerned, two or mere are often connected by administrative ties to form an Arsh or tribe. A number of these tribes form a Thakebilt or confederation, which is an extremely loose organization. An exception to this form of government is constituted by the Tuareg, whose organization, owing to their peculiar circumstances of life, is monarchical. Wars are declared by special messengers; the exchange of sticks or guns renders an armistice inviolable. In some tribes a tablet, on which is inscribed the name of every man fit to bear arms, is placed in the mosque. The Berbers, though Mahommedans, do not often observe the prescribed ablutions; they break their fast at Ramadan; and eat wild boar's flesh and drink fig brandy. On the other hand, saints, both male and female, are paid more reverence by Berbers than by Arabs. Around their tombs their descendants settle, and thus sacred villages, often of considerable size, spring up. Almost every village, too, has its saint or prophet, and disputes as to their relative sanctity and powers cause fierce feuds. The hereditary caste known as Marabouts are frequently in open. opposition to the absolute authority of the Jemda. They are possessed of certain privileges, such as exemption from the chief taxes and the duty of bearing arms. They, however, often take a foremost part in tribal administration, and are frequently called upon to perform the office of arbitrators in questions of disputed policy, &c. In the Jemda, too, the Marabout at times takes the place of honour and keeps order. The Berbers, if irreligious, are very superstitious, never leaving their homes without exorcizing evil spirits, and have a good and evil interpretation for every day of the week. Many Berbers still retain certain Christian and Jewish usages, relics of the pre-Islamitic days in North Africa, but of their primitive religion there is no trace. They are seldom good scholars, but those under French rule take all the advantage they can of the schools instituted by the government. Their social tendencies are distinctly communistic; property is often owned by the family in common, and a man can call upon the services of his fellow villagers for certain purposes, as the building of a house. Provision for the poor is often made by the community.

The dress of the Berbers was formerly made of home-woven cloth, and the manufacture of woollen stuffs has always been. one of the chief occupations of their women. The men wear a tunic reaching to the knees, the women a longer customs. garment. For work the men use a leather apron, and in the cold season and in travelling a burnous, usually a family heirloom, old and ragged; the women, in winter, throw a coloured cloth over their shoulders. The men's hair is cut short but their beards are allowed to grow. In some districts there are peculiar customs, such as the wearing of small silver nose-rings, seen in El-Jofra. The Berbers' weapons are those of the Arab: the long straight sword, the slightly curved and highly ornamented dagger, and the long gun. Berbers are not great town-builders. Their villages, however, are often of substantial appearance: with houses of untrimmed stones, occasionally with two storeys, built on hills, and invariably defended by a bank, a stone wall or a hedge. Sometimes their homes are mere huts of turf, or of clay tiles, with mortar made from lime and clay or cow-dung. The sloping roof is covered with reeds, straw or stones. The living room is on the right, the cattle-stall on the left. The dwelling is surrounded by a garden or small field of grain. The second storey is not added till a son marries. In the villages of the western Atlas the greater part of the upper storey consists of a sort of rough verandah. In this mountain district the natives spend the winter in vaults beneath the houses, and, for the sake of warmth, the tenements are built very close. Agriculture, which is carried on even in the mountain districts by means of laboriously constructed terraces, is antiquated in its methods. The plough, often replaced on the steeper slopes by the hoe, is similar to that depicted in ancient Egyptian drawings, and hand irrigation is usual. A sickle, toothed like a saw, is used for reaping. Corn is trodden by oxen, and kept in osier baskets narrowing to the top, or clay granaries. The staple crop is barley, but wheat, lentils, vetches, flax and gourds are also cultivated. Tobacco, maize and potatoes have been introduced; and the aloe and prickly pear, called in Morocco the Christian fig, are also found. The Kabyles understand grafting, have fine orchards and grow vines. The Beni-Abbas tribe in the Algerian Atlas is famed for its walnuts, and many tribes keep bees, chiefly for the commercial value of the wax. The Berber diet largely consists of cucumbers, gourds, water-melons and onions, and a small artichoke (Cynara humilis) which grows wild. At the beginning and end of their meal they drink a strongly sweetened liquid-made from green tea and mint. Teadrinking probably became a habit in Morocco about the beginning of the 19th century; coffee came by way of Algiers. At feasts the food is served on large earthenware dishes with high basket-work covers, like bee-skeps but twice as high.

The Berbers have many industries. They mine and work iron, lead and copper. They have olive presses and flour mills, and their own millstone quarries, even travelling into make lime, tiles, woodwork for the houses, domestic utensils and agricultural implements. They weave and dye several kinds of cloth, tan and dress leather and manufacture oil and soap. Without the assistance of the wheel the women produce a variety of pottery utensils, often of very graceful design, and decorated with patterns in red and black. Whole tribes, such as the Beni-Sliman, are occupied in the iron trade; the Beni-Abbas made firearms before the French conquest, and even cannon are said to have been made by boring. Before it was proscribed by the French, the manufacture of gunpowder was general. The native jewellers make excellent ornaments in silver, coral and enamel. In some places wood-carving has been brought to considerable perfection; and native artists know how to engrave on metal both by etching and the burin. In its collective industry the Berber race is far superior to the Arab. The Berbers are keen traders too, and, after the harvest, hawk small goods, travelling great distances.

A Berber woman has in many ways a better position than her Arab sister. True, her birth is regarded as an event of no moment, while that of a boy is celebrated by great rejoicings, and his mother acquires the right to wear on her forehead the tafzint, a mark which only the women who have borne an heir can assume. Her husband buys and can dismiss her at will. She has most of the hard work to do, and is little better than a servant. When she is old and past work, especially if she has not been the mother of a male child, she is often abandoned. But she has a voice in public affairs; she has laws to protect her, manages the household and goes unveiled; she has a right to the money she earns; she can inherit under wills, and bequeath property, though to avoid the alienation of real property, succession to it is denied her. But most characteristic of her social position is the Berber woman's right to enter into a sacred bond or agreement, represented by the giving of the anaya. This is some symbolic object, stick or what not, which passes between the parties to a contract, the obligations under which, if not fulfilled by the contracting parties during their lives, become hereditary. Female saints, too, are held in high honour; and the Berber pays his wife the compliment of monogamy. The Kabyle women have stood side by side with their husbands in battle. Among many Berber tribes the law of inheritance is such that the eldest daughter's son succeeds. South of Morocco proper, Gerhard Rohlfs, who travelled extensively in the region (c. 1861-1867), states that a Berber religious corporation, the Savia Karlas, was ruled over by a woman, the chief's wife. The Berbers consult their women in many matters, and only one woman is really held in low esteem. She, curiously, is the kuata or " go-between," even though her services are only employed in the respectable task of arranging marriages. Berber women are intelligent and hard-working, and, when young, very pretty and graceful. The Berbers, unlike the Arabs, do not admire fat women. Among the Kabyles the adulteress is put to death, as are those women who have illegitimate children, the latter suffering with their mothers.

Though Arabic has to a considerable extent displaced the Berber language, the latter is still spoken by millions of people from Egypt to the Atlantic and from the Mediterranean to the Sudan. It is spoken nowhere else, though, as has been said, place-names in the Canary Islands and other remains of the aboriginal language there prove it to have been the native tongue. Although the Berber tongue shows a certain affinity with Semitic in the construction both of its words and sentences Berber is quite distinct from the Semitic languages; and a remarkable fact is that in spite of the enormous space over which the dialects are spread and the thousands of years that some of the Berber peoples have been isolated from the rest, these dialects show but slight differences from the long-extinct Hamitic speech from which all are derived. Whatever these dialects be called, the Kabyle, the Shilha, the Zenati, the Tuareg or Tamashek, the Berber language is still essentially one, and the similarity between the forms current in Morocco, Algeria, the Sahara and the far-distant oasis of Siwa is much more marked than between the Norse and English in the sub-Aryan Teutonic group. The Berbers have, moreover, a writing of their own, peculiar and little used or known, the antiquity of which is proved by monuments and inscriptions ranging over the whole of North Africa.

The various spoken dialects, though apparently very unlike each other, are not more dissimilar than are Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian, and their differences are doubtless attributable to the lack of a literary standard. Even where different words are used, there is evidence of a common stem from which the various branches have sprung. The great difficulty of satisfactory comparison arises from the fact that few of the Beber dialects possess any writings. The Tawahhid (The Unity of God), said to have been written in Moroccan Berber and believed to be the oldest African work in existence, except Egyptian and Ethiopic, was the work of the Muwahhadi leader, Ibn Tumart the Mandi, at a time when the officials of the Kairawan mosque were dismissed because they could not speak Berber. Most of the writings found, however, have been in the form of inscriptions, chiefly on ornaments. A collection of the various signs of the alphabet has shown thirty-two letters, four more than Arabic. De Slane, in his notes on the Berber historian Ibn Khaldun, shows the following points of similarity to the Semitic class: - its tri-literal roots, the inflections of the verb, the formation of derived verbs, the genders of the second and Arab districts to build mills for the Arabs. They 3' third persons, the pronominal affixes, the aoristic style of tense, the whole and broken plurals and the construction of the phrase. Among the peculiar grammatical features of Berber may be mentioned two numbers (no dual), two genders and six cases, and verbs with one, two, three and four radicals, and imperative and aorist tense only. As might be expected the Berber tongue is most common in Morocco and the western Sahara - the regions where Arab dominion was least exercised. When Arabic is mentioned as the language of Morocco it is seldom realized how small a proportion of its inhabitants use it as their mother tongue. Berber is the real language of Morocco, Arabic that of its creed and government.

Bibl10graphy. - General A. Hanoteau and A. Letourneux, La Kabylie et les coutumes kabyles (3 vols., Paris, 1872-1873); D. Randall-Maelver and Antony Wilkin, Libyan Notes (London, 1901); Antony Wilkin, Among the Berbers of Algeria (London, 1900); G. Sergi, The Mediterranean Race (London, 1901), and Africa, Antropologia della Stirpe Comitica (Turin, 1897); Henri Duveyrier, Exploration du Sahara (1864), Les Progres de la geographie en Algerie (1867-1871), Bull. de la Soc. Khediviale de Geog. (1876); E. Renan, ' ` La Societe Berbbre," Revue des deux mondes, vol. for 1873 M. G. Olivier, " Recherches sur l'origine des Berberes," Bull. de l'Acad. d'Hippone (1867-1868); F. G. Rohlfs, Reise durch Marokko (1869); Quer durch Afrika (1874-1875); General Faidherbe, Collection complete des inscriptions numidiques (lybiques) (1870), and Les Dolmens d'Afrique (1873); H. M. Flinders Petrie in The Academy, 10th of April 1895; Jules Lionel, Races berberes (1894); Sir H. H. Johnston, " A Journey through the Tunisian Sahara," Geog. Journal, vol. xi., 1898; De Slane's translation of Ibn Khaldun, Hist. des Berberes (Algiers, 1852); W. Z. Ripley, Races of Europe (London, 1900); Dr Malbot, " Les Chaouias " in L'Anthropologie, 18 97 (p. 14) General Faidherbe and Dr Paul Topinard, Instructions sur l'anthropologie de l'Algerie (Paris, 1874); E. T. Hamy, La Necropole berbere d'Henchir el-'Assel (Paris, 1896), and Cites et necropoles berberes de l'Enfida (Tunisie moyenne) (ib. 1904).

Berber dictionaries: - Venture de Paradis (Paris, 1844); Brosselard (ib. 1844); Delaporte (ib. 1844, by order of minister of war); J. B. Creusat, Essai de dictionnaire francais-kabyle (Algiers, 1873); A. Hanoteau, Essai de grammaire de la langue tamachek, &c. (Paris, 1860); Minutoli, Siwah Dialect (Berlin, 1827).

Folklore, &c.: - J. Riviere, Recueil de contes populaires de la Kabylie (1882); R. Basset, Contes populaires berberes (1887); P. le Blanc de Prebois, Essai de contes kabyles, avec traduction en francais (Batna, 1897); H. Stumine, Marchen der Berbern von Tamazratt in Sildtunisien (Leipzig, 1900).

<< Berberine

Berceuse >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Berbers (inflected Berberse)

  1. Berber


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address