Darfur is conjectured to have been part of the Proto-Afro-Asiatic Urheimat in distant prehistoric times (c. 10,000 BC), though there are numerous other theories that exclude Darfur.
Most of the region is a semi-arid plain and thus insufficient for supporting a large and complex civilization. While the Marrah Mountains offer plentiful water, the Daju people created the first known Darfurian civilization based in the mountains, though they left no records beside a list of kings. The Tunjur displaced the Daju in the fourteenth century and introduced Islam. The Tunjur sultans intermarried with the Fur and sultan Musa Sulayman (reigned c.1596 to c.1637) is considered the founder of the Keira dynasty. Darfur became a great power of the Sahel under the Keira dynasty, expanding its borders as far east as the Atbarah River and attracting immigrants from Bornu and Bagirmi. During the mid-18th century the country was wracked by conflict between rival factions, and external war with Sennar and Wadai. In 1875, the weakened kingdom was destroyed by the Egyptian ruler set up in Khartoum, largely through the machinations of Sebehr Rahma, a slave-trader, who was competing with the dar over access to ivory in Bahr el Ghazal to the south of Darfur.
The Darfuris were restive under Egyptian rule, but were no more predisposed to accept the rule of the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, when in 1882 his Emir of Darfur, who was from the Southern Darfur Arab Rizeigat tribe led by Sheikh Madibbo, defeated the Ottoman forces led by Slatin Pasha (that had just invaded Egypt earlier that year) in Darfur. When Ahmad's successor, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, himself an Arab of Southern Darfur from Ta’isha tribe, demanded that the pastoralist tribes provide soldiers, several tribes rose up in revolt. Following the overthrow of Abdallahi at Omdurman in 1899 by the Anglo-Egyptian forces, the new Anglo-Egyptian government recognized Ali Dinar as the sultan of Darfur and largely left the Dar to its own affairs except for a nominal annual tribute. During World War I, the British, being concerned that the sultanate might fall under the influence of the Ottoman Empire, invaded and incorporated Darfur into the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1916. Under colonial rule, financial and administrative resources were directed to the tribes of central Sudan near Khartoum to the detriment of the outlying regions such as Darfur.
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