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Anouk Zijlma

How Africa Got It's Name

By August 31, 2011

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Map of Africa from 1890The BBC posted a very interesting feature on "Mapping Africa" and how you can trace the history of Africa by studying maps dating as far back as the fourteenth century.  And if anyone was interested in how Africa got its name -  it appears that the continent was named after a group of Tunisian berbers, the "Afri" or who lived near Carthage and traded with the Romans. And so behold, the Romans called it "Afri- terra" the land of the Afri, which became "Africa".  There are several other theories as to how Africa got its name, but this one seems to hold the most water.

Another interesting point made by the BBC presentation, is the striking detail found on a map of Africa dating back to 1625. The continent is filled with rivers, mountains, and ethnic and linguistic groups. Compare it to a map drawn up by the British in 1905, where the only details that appeared to matter to cartographers of the day were trade routes and land that the British, French, Belgian and Portuguese powers laid claim to. There's a whole middle section in a map from 1905 that is basically void of any detail, giving rise to the notion of "dark Africa".  A free for all, open to exploitation. The natural boundaries of mountains and rivers you see on maps of the 17th century, were replaced by straight lines and arbitrary borders created by the economic super powers of the day. There is really nothing "African" about them. And these are largely the boundaries that have been left to Africans today.

More About: BBC Map Presentation l Maps of Africa l African History

February 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm
(1) ZIggy says:

Your answer is incorrect and basically a lie! Roman conquered parts of Ethiopia and called it Africa based off a Roman conqeror name Scipio Africanus, the correct name is Kush or Ethiopia prior to this lie everyone is telling across the internet!

July 8, 2012 at 9:42 am
(2) x says:

Africanus was named after Africa. Africa is the Greek andLatin translation for Afru ika. Meaning mother land

February 5, 2013 at 9:38 pm
(3) flaules says:

Good clear up Ziggy, couldn’t have said it better.

February 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm
(4) goafrica says:

From my understanding, Scipio’s name was changed to Africanus after he won his battle there. His original name was Publius Cornelius Scipio.

March 13, 2013 at 12:06 am
(5) darkHero says:

even now you still trying to lay claim on my continent.
as far as I know and everybody can prove no one know exactly how Africa name came by.

March 19, 2013 at 6:06 am
(6) Hananiya Bitrus Africa says:

yeah am pretty sure God gave the Tunisians Berbers or whoever coined the name the inspiration to do that. lol

April 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm
(7) Preatorius says:

Africanus was named after Africa, because he defeated Hannibal.

The true origin is Egyptian af-rui-ka, “to turn toward the opening of the Ka.” The Ka is the energetic double of every person and “opening of the Ka” refers to a womb or birthplace.

Since the Egyptian civilizations preceded the Romans and Greeks on the continent, I think is probably the best answer.

June 4, 2013 at 7:40 pm
(8) Dei says:

(Egypt).That name is another story

June 23, 2013 at 12:23 pm
(9) blackman says:

thi lady is lying through her teeth like she was send to confuse people, lie, lie, lies, Scipio Africanus was a bloody white man, its not Africa and never was, its Ham/Kush or ethopia

July 31, 2013 at 6:33 pm
(10) big knowledge says:

First of all Africa name does not exist. The name that
Was given by God is the land of Ham.The youngest son of Noah.

August 31, 2013 at 9:59 am
(11) I'm not twisted says:

Africa got its name from a Roman ie German. After the battle of Cannae. The king of Rome at that time was so proud of his work he named it after him (Scipio Africanud).

Remember king Tut was blackman. King Solomon was a Blackmsn. Tutankamun was Black.
Africa’s true name is Alkrbulsn

December 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm
(12) King Husham says:

The continent known as “Africa” has had many names over several eras. You must remember, the names of territories on this land are literally peoples names. Ham, Kush, Egypt,Put,Israel, and etc. They were simply the people there; ie “Whose land is this?” Answer: this is the land of “Ham”. After so much war, names have been changed and forgotten.

February 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm
(13) Mr. Holipsism says:

Scipio was the eldest son of Publius Cornelius Scipio. So, please…stop it with the “Africa was named after a Roman General” garbage. I defy any of you to show me Africanus being attached to his name before the defeat of Hannibal. So common sense would tell you that Africa didn’t get its name from him because if it did it would be called SCIPIO.


February 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm
(14) truthseakersrus says:

Ziggy you are wrong. Scipio got his name from the land, not vice versa. I could be wrong but it sounds like you are retorting something you heard from some guy who read some book.

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