Newly Discovered Y-Chromosome SNP Among Tanzanian, Nambibian, Botswanan, Angolan Men Correlates With The Arrival Of Pastoralism In Southern Africa

According to this press release, a new paper reports on the discovery of a 10,000 year old SNP on the Y-chromosomes of men from Tanzania and southern Africa. It will be appearing in PNAS‘ online early edition tomorrow (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0801184105). The SNP is thought to have originated in eastern Africa,

“The team analyzed Y chromosomes from men in 13 populations in Tanzania in eastern Africa and in the Namibia-Botswana-Angola border region of southern Africa. They discovered a novel mutation shared by some men in both locations, which implied those men had a common ancestor. Further analysis showed the novel mutation arose in eastern Africa about 10,000 years ago and was carried by migration to southern Africa about 2,000 years ago. The mutation was not found in Bantu-speakers, suggesting that a different group – Nilotic-language speakers – first brought herds of animals to southern Africa before the Bantu migration.

This new genetic evidence correlates well with pottery, rock art and animal remains that suggest pastoralists – herders who migrated to new pasture with their flocks – first tended sheep and cattle in southern Africa around 2,000 years ago. The genetic finding also helps explain linguistic similarities between peoples in the two regions.”

You may know that previous research based upon archaeology, skeletal morphology, linguistics and mtDNA has suggested that prehistoric people in eastern and southern Africa were virtually isolated between 30,000 and 1,500 years ago, with only two known migrations between the regions during that time frame. One of the authors of this paper, Brenna Henn, acknowledges this over at the Spitton. She writes,

“Our new genetic study, while still supporting the archaeological record for the timing and place of the origins of pastoralism in sub-Saharan Africa, puts a new twist on the current thinking. It suggests that a small group of men actually migrated into southern Africa about 2,000 years ago. These men probably married into local hunter-gatherer populations, contributing their livestock and cultural knowledge of pastoralism.”

6 thoughts on “Newly Discovered Y-Chromosome SNP Among Tanzanian, Nambibian, Botswanan, Angolan Men Correlates With The Arrival Of Pastoralism In Southern Africa

  1. That’s pretty interesting because Hotentotes were actually cattle-herders when Europeans found them and, if that would have been a Bantu influence, guess they would have incorporated farming rather than just pastoralism.

    Wonder if it might also explain the Bushmen mural art, that reminds so much of Neolithic Saharan style.

    I also wonder which haplogroup was actually involved. Guess we’ll have to wait.

  2. Yeah the Khoi were most definitely pastoralists as well as agriculturalists prior to European contact, Luis. Do you remember this paper, “Maternal traces of deep common ancestry and asymmetric gene flow between Pygmy hunter-gatherers and Bantu-speaking farmers“? As the paper implies, the mtDNA analysis indicated the shared ancestry of Khoisan and Bantu peoples is pretty deep — but what about the paternal lineage? I guess that’s where this new paper comes in.


  3. I was persuaded they were only or primarily pastoralists – and haven’t found anything that denies it (Wikipedia for instance only mentions pastoralism, not a word about agriculture).

    The Bantu-Pygmy mtDNA lineage is no surprise. I am not too versed in African Genetics’ small print but they do share even a Y-DNA haplogroup (B specifically, different subclades). Khoi-San are a different issue though, their paternal and maternal specific lineages are the oldest ones separated from the common tree of Humankind and shared only (at good philogenetic distance) with some East Africans, specially from Sudan. This finding emphasizes the Eastern African affinities, even if the origin seems more southerner and the arrival of later time.

    As the paper implies, the mtDNA analysis indicated the shared ancestry of Khoisan and Bantu peoples is pretty deep — but what about the paternal lineage?

    The paper of Quintana-Murci does not deal with the Khoisan, only with Bantu and Pygmy. The Khoisan are a totally different story. The paternal lineage, as mentioned before, of most Pygmies is haplogroup B, clade that is shared with many Bantu and other Black Africans (different subclades).

  4. I know previous work has indicated that Pygmy and Khoisan populations are very differentiated, but some Khoisan groups have B2b Pygmy traces.

  5. Good try but a load of dis information. First and formost the arrival of cattle in Southern Africa also cincide with the arrival of Sorgum, in other words they were brought by the same people. This will take you to the Eastern Rift Valley where you had such a cultural economic or social formation. The key factor is not Bantu Nilotic or who ever, it was a new form of industrial culture as far as food productiuon or sustenance was concerned. It was an assimilation of food production and pastraolism it had Nilotic Cushitic and Bantu Admixtures from where it originated (East African Eastern Rift Valley) before coming to South Africa. When it came here to South Africa the carriers were the people who today have eveolved to be Tswana/Sothos and so if you check the linguistics you have Cushitic and Nilotic borrowed words , words like Khosi, Cushiti Tsipi (Iron Cushitic) Liromo (spear Nilotic) Koko (Nilotic grandmother) Noka (Cushitic River) Thaba (Cushitic Mountain) the list is long. And you have customs of age sets circumsision and many other which you have from the Nilotic and Cushitic people of the Eastern Rift valleys. Lastly the rondaval habitat tells it all it hails from the Mali River areas of the Sahael and so is your sorgum which moved West to the great Cultural combine of the Lake Chad basin then to the Sudan of Nilotic occupation to the Cushits of Eastern Ethiopia and East Africa who basically at that time were pure pastoarist then you got the new people of East Africa namely the mixtures that produced the Titeg people who are a Nilotic and Cushitic people and the Thigtu or Kikuyu, Meru Kamba Chagga Bantu people who basically are a mixture of Bantu agriculturist, early Nilotic agriculturist and cushitic pastoarist. That mixture moved south to form the sedentary Bantu people of the high veld. Please note that the Khoi folks have the same geographical origin, East Africa but they departed before the advant of cattle there, and so their limitation to cattle. The real people who got cattle here besides the Tswanas it is the Himba whose atire is exactle the same as Rendiles of East Africa but the language is purely Bantu, the Hereros and Hambukushu of Botswana and Namibia. Get me at for more.

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