While it’s not surprising to learn that a country’s or continent’s current name is different from what the indigenous people used, it’s not every day that you find out what the original name was. That’s because a lot of information gets lost over time – especially as different civilizations move in and take over. However, experts revealed the original name of the continent of Africa: Alkebulan.
How Did They Find Out?
According to The World Atlas, historians were able to discern the original name of the continent by assessing older documents that were written by indigenous people. In these documents, people from different nations including those from Corphye, Ortigia, Libya, and Ethiopia referred to the African continent as Alkeulan.
The word is thought to have its origin in a mixture of Arabic and indigenous languages. Since its full origin is unknown, scholars can only guess at its true meaning. However, it’s possible that it means “mother of mankind” or “the garden of Eden” based on various sources.
Where Did The Name ‘Africa’ Come From?
In Africa’s Original Name: Unraveling The Mysterious History Of How Africa Got Its Name, African Folder’s Enoch Kenyatta states that there are three possible theories for the name ‘Africa’. These theories stem from the language of the people who occupied the continent at the time the name became popular.
The first theory is that the Phoenicians used their word ‘Afri’ to describe the dusty environment as that is their word for ‘dust’. The Pheonicians were the first people known to travel to Africa so that’s a possibility.
The second option is that the name came from the Berbers who are an indigenous people living in North Africa. Their word, ‘ifriqiya,’ means ‘land of the Berbers.’ Finally, the last theory is that the name ‘Africa’ comes from the Latin word ‘afar,’ which means ‘without cold.’ It’s assumed that even people who hadn’t been there would assume that Africa had a tropical climate because of its location.
This is a part of our new series – “Hidden Gems in Black History” where we highlight uncommon facts throughout Black history. Join us every day of Black History Month for interesting facts about Black people and places that you likely haven’t heard before!