The history of Berlin starts with its foundation in the 13th century.It became the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg in 1417, and later of Brandenburg-Prussia, and the Kingdom of Prussia.Prussia grew rapidly in the 18th and 19th century, and formed the basis of the German Empire in 1871.After 1900 Berlin became a major world city, known for its leadership roles in science, the humanities, music, museums, higher education, government, diplomacy and military affairs. During World War II, it was virtually destroyed by bombing, artillery, and ferocious street-by-street fighting.It was split between the victors, and lost its world leadership roles.With the reunification of Germany in 1990, Berlin was restored as a capital and as a major world city. It may have roots in the language of West Slavic inhabitants of the area of today's Berlin, and may be related to the Old Polabian stem berl-/birl- ("swamp"). The oldest human traces, mainly arrowheads, in the area of later Berlin are dating to the 9th millennium BC.During neolithic times a large number of villages existed in the area.During Bronze Age it belonged to the Lusatian culture.
After the Semnones left around 200 AD, the Burgundians followed.A large part of the Germanic tribes left the region around 500 AD.In the 6th century Slavic tribes, the later known Hevelli and Sprevane, reached the region.Today their traces can mainly be found at plateaus or next to waters.Their main settlements were today's Spandau and Köpenick.No Slavic traces could be found in the city center of Berlin.In the 12th century the region came under German rule as part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, founded by Albert the Bear in 1157.At the end of the 12th century German merchants founded the first settlements in today's city center, called Berlin around modern Nikolaiviertel and Cölln, on the island in the Spree now known as the Spreeinsel or Museum Island.It is not clear which settlement is older and when they got German town rights.Berlin is mentioned as a town for the first time in 1251 and Cölln in 1261.The year 1237 was later taken as the year of founding.