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The use of the term has been criticized because it refers to the South only by cartography conventions and projects a connotation of inferiority; a vestige of colonialism, which some say, divided Africa into European terms of homogeneity.
In northern Somalia was Barbara or the Bilad al-Barbar ("Land of the Berbers"), which was inhabited by the Eastern Baribah or Barbaroi, as the ancestors of the Somalis were referred to by medieval Arab and ancient Greek geographers, respectively.
Extensive walled sites and settlements have recently been found in Zilum, Chad.
According to paleontology, early hominid skull anatomy was similar to that of their close cousins, the great African forest apes, gorilla and chimpanzee, but they had adopted a bipedal locomotion and freed hands, giving them a crucial advantage enabling them to live in both forested areas and on the open savanna at a time when Africa was drying up, with savanna encroaching on forested areas. By 3 million years ago several australopithecine hominid species had developed throughout southern, eastern and central Africa.
They were tool users rather than tool manufacturers.
Prior to the introduction of the camel, the use of oxen, mule, and horses for desert crossing was common, and trade routes followed chains of oases that were strung across the desert.
The trans-saharan trade was in full motion by 500 BCE with Carthage being a major economic force for its establishment.