Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Physical map of Africa.Africa is the world's second-largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30,370,000 km² (11,730,000 sq mi) including its adjacent islands, it covers 5.9% of the Earth's total surface area, and 20.3% of the total land area. With over 840,000,000 people (as of 2005) in 61 territories, it accounts for more than 12% of the world's human population.
The name Africa came into Western use through the Romans, who used the name Africa terra — "land of the Afri" (plural, or "Afer" singular) — for the northern part of the continent, as the province of Africa with its capital Carthage, corresponding to modern-day Tunisia. The Afri were a tribe — possibly Berber — who dwelt in North Africa in the Carthage area. The origin of Afer may be connected with Phoenician `afar, dust (also found in most other Semitic languages); some other etymologies that have been postulated for the ancient name 'Africa' that are much more debatable include:
  • the Latin word aprica, meaning "sunny";

  • the Greek word aphrike, meaning "without cold". The historian Leo Africanus (1495-1554) attributed the origin to the Greek word phrike (φρίκη, meaning "cold and horror"), combined with the negating prefix a-, so meaning a land free of cold and horror. However, the change of sound from ph to f in Greek is datable to about the first century, so this is unlikely to be the origin.

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