Though Berbers are the original inhabitants of North Africa, no one really knows where they came from. Genetic evidence seems to indicate that the Berbers are descended from several waves of immigration into the area, some dating as far back as 50,000 years. These immigrants came from diverse areas such as the Caucusus and the African coast of the Red Sea. Since Berbers are a mixture of different ethnic groups, the term "Berber" refers more to the language spoken and not necessarily to a specific race.
Berbers are first mentioned in writing by the ancient Egyptians who fought against the Lebu (Libyans) on their western borders. In 945 B.C. the Lebu conquered Egypt and founded the 26th dynasty. Berbers also led the Islamic conquest of Spain in A.D. 711. Famous Berbers include the Roman emperor Septimus Severus; Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan traveler and explorer; and French soccer star Zinedine Zidane.—Marisa Larson