The Founding of Carthage

The Founding of Carthage

These Phoenician merchants are bartering for settlement rights with a native community on the northwest African coast sometime during the 800s BC. If the deal works out, they get to set up a nearby colony that will become Carthage itself.

There is of course a legend that Carthage was founded by a Phoenician princess named Elissa or Dido, who cut up strips of a cowhide and laid them down to encircle the initial space of colonization. But I chose to disregard that legend and settled for a more historically probable scenario of Phoenician merchants acquiring trade and maybe land rights from the indigenous African community. But then, we may never know for sure what happened back then.

The Africans in this scene would probably be descended from the earliest speakers of the Amazigh (or “Berber”) languages, who would have colonized northernmost Africa from the drying Sahara. Although today’s Berber-speakers have a mixture of African and Mediterranean ancestry in varying proportions depending on ethnic group, I believe the very first speakers of Berber languages would have looked more African. That’s because Berber is a branch of the Afrasan/Afroasiatic phylum, which would have originated in Northeast Africa along the Sudanese to Somali coastline. Of course, as the languages spread northward towards the Gibraltar Strait, they would have assimilated people of Mediterranean background even before coming into contact with the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, etc. But that is to happen over the centuries after this scene.

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