|Cave painting of a hunter
Cave paintings in eastern Algeria, showing hunters and
herds of animals, give us an idea of the Algerian Sahara as it was some 6,000 years ago
not a arid desert, but a grassy savanna.
The artists may have been distant ancestors of todays Berbers, a people who
have lived in the region for thousands of years.
About 2,500 years ago the
Phoenicians, a Middle-eastern seafaring people, established outposts in present-day
Algeria. 2000 years ago, Algeria was part of the Roman Empire. In the 5th
century AD, the original Vandals a fearsome Germanic group swept through
Southern Europe and into North Africa. European Christians drove the Vandals out about 100
years later, only to be driven out themselves in the 7th century, by an Arab
invasion. Berber resistance to this invasion was led by a legendary woman warrior called
Kahina. Arab conquest led to the establishment of Islam as Algerias predominant religion.
Conquest by Algeria and Turkey
In the 16th century
northern Algeria was invaded by Spain. Algerian Muslims asked for help from the Ottoman
(Turkish) Empire. As a result, most of Algeria came under Ottoman rule, which lasted over
300 years. Strands of Turkish culture including food and music became interwoven into Algerian life.
During this time, the Barbarossa (Redbeard) brothers and other pirates based in the
Algerian coastal cities defended (and enriched) Algerias ports. Piracy continued
along the "Barbary Coast", as it was known, until the early 19th
century, when the menace was finally subdued by the firepower of US and European navies.
France launched an invasion of Algeria
with an attack on the capital Algiers in 1830. The invasion met with brave and stubborn
resistance, led by the great general Abdelkadar, but by 1847 the French were in control of
the whole country. Under French rule, non-French language and culture were suppressed.
Land was claimed by French and other European settlers, and Algerian Muslims were denied
many basic rights.
In 1947, France granted Algerian
Muslims citizenship of Algeria and France. It was too little, too late. A war of
independence broke out in 1954, led by the FLN (National Liberation Front). The war
claimed at least one million Algerian lives. Finally, in 1962, the French government
offered Algerians a referendum. Six million voted for independence from France, and fewer
than 20,000 against.
today, and conflict