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The History of Djibouti: From Prehistoric Times to Independence




Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Somalia to the southeast, Eritrea and the Red Sea to the north and northwest, Ethiopia to the west and south, and the Gulf of Aden to the east. The territory was part of the Land of Punt in antiquity. Djibouti gained its independence on June 27, 1977, after being a French colony for over 100 years.

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The Djibouti area, along with other localities in the Horn region, was later the seat of the medieval Adal and Ifat Sultanates. In the late 19th century, the colony of French Somaliland was established following treaties signed by the ruling Somali and Afar Sultans with the French. It was subsequently renamed to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967. A decade later, the Djiboutian people voted for independence, officially marking the establishment of the Republic of Djibouti.

The history of Djibouti dates back to prehistoric times. The Bab-el-Mandeb region has often been considered a primary crossing point for early hominins following a southern coastal route from East Africa to South and Southeast Asia. The Djibouti area has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations arrived in the region during this period from the family’s proposed urheimat (“original homeland”) in the Nile Valley or Near East. Other scholars propose that the Afroasiatic family developed in situ in the Horn, with its speakers subsequently dispersing from there.

The remains of an Palaeoloxodon recki elephant were discovered in Gobaad plain (between Dikhil and Lake Abbe), visibly butchered using basalt tools found nearby. These remains would date from 1.4 million years BC. Subsequently identified other sites of these cuts, probably the work of Homo ergaster. An Acheulean site (from 800,000 to 400,000 years BC), where stone was cut, was excavated in Gombourta, between Damerdjog and Loyada, 15 km south of Djibouti. Finally, in Gobaad, a Homo erectus jaw was found dating from 100,000 BC.

In conclusion, Djibouti has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times. It has been inhabited since Neolithic times and has been part of various sultanates before becoming a French colony. After gaining independence in 1977, it became known as Republic of Djibouti.