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Most present states in Africa originate from a process of decolonization in the 20th century.
According to the Romans, Africa lay to the west of Egypt, while "Asia" was used to refer to Anatolia and lands to the east.A definite line was drawn between the two continents by the geographer Ptolemy (85–165 AD), indicating Alexandria along the Prime Meridian and making the isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea the boundary between Asia and Africa.As Europeans came to understand the real extent of the continent, the idea of "Africa" expanded with their knowledge.Other etymological hypotheses have been postulated for the ancient name "Africa": During the mid-20th century, anthropologists discovered many fossils and evidence of human occupation perhaps as early as 7 million years ago (BP=before present).Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most-populous continent.At about 30.3 million km² (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers six per cent of Earth's total surface area and 20.4 per cent of its total land area.
The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, both the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos.
It contains 54 fully recognized sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition.
Algeria is Africa's largest country by area, and Nigeria by population. ergaster – with the earliest Homo sapiens (modern human) found in Ethiopia being dated to circa 200,000 years ago.
Africa, particularly central Eastern Africa, is widely accepted as the place of origin of humans and the Hominidae clade (great apes), as evidenced by the discovery of the earliest hominids and their ancestors, as well as later ones that have been dated to around seven million years ago, including Sahelanthropus tchadensis, Australopithecus africanus, A. Africa hosts a large diversity of ethnicities, cultures and languages.
In the late 19th century European countries colonized most of Africa.