The Berbers

Of the various nomads and settlers who inhabited North Africa in Neolithic times, the Berbers survived as Tunisia’s indigenous race. They are thought to be descended from southern European migrants, who came to the region in 6000-2500 BC and spread along the North African coast from Egypt to Morocco. A semi-nomadic people, they lived in tribal groups and moved camp when necessary to trade or to find new pasture for their sheep and goats.

The Berbers had no written language and we have few records of the early tribes, but some ancient ruins do exist, such as the Mausoleum of Ateban at Dougga and citadels in the south of the country. The old Berber language has many dialects and is still spoken by a few people today, but most often survives in place names. Despite their fierce independence, over the centuries they adopted the religion of the dominant invader. Some Berber kingdoms, such as the Numidian, became quite powerful, and made strong allies or formidable enemies to the succession of conquerors who sought to rule Tunisia. The first of these were the Phoenicians.