History of Algeria

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The fertile coastal plain of North Africa, especially west of Tunisia, is often called the Maghreb (or Maghrib). North Africa served as a transit region for people moving towards Europe or the Middle East. Thus, the region's inhabitants have been influenced by populations from other areas. Out of this mix developed the Berber people, whose language and culture, although pushed from coastal areas by conquering and colonizing Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines, dominated most of the land until the spread of Islam and the coming of the Arabs. The most significant forces in the country's history have been the spread of Islam, Arabization, Ottoman and French colonization, and the struggle for independence. Modern Algeria is mainly Arabic-speaking, but a large portion of the population still speaks Berber, surviving from Neolithic times.

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Prehistory

Early inhabitants of the central Maghreb left behind significant remains including remnants of hominid occupation from c. 200,000 BC 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, richly depicted in the Tassili n'Ajjer cave paintings in southeastern Algeria, predominated in the Maghrib 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.

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