New Nature paper on the Bantu Expansion co-authored by several BantUGent scholars



In a new interdisciplinary study published in Nature, an international group of scientists confirms that the spread of the Bantu language family, which started in West Africa about 5,000 years ago, was mainly driven by human migration. Migrating Bantu speakers spread their languages and new ways of life throughout central, eastern and southern Africa. In the process, they established intensive contacts with populations speaking other languages who already lived in those regions, such as hunter-gatherers in the Congo rainforest and the Kalahari Desert. Most contemporary Bantu speakers have distant ancestors originating from West Africa, while a minority are descended from local populations. The expansion of Bantu languages and their speakers dramatically transformed the linguistic, cultural and biological landscape of Africa.

This new study is based primarily on modern genetic data from 1763 individuals, including 1526 Bantu speakers from 147 different language communities in 14 different African countries, as well as ancient genetic data (aDNA) from 12 individuals from the Late Iron Age. More than one-third of the new data comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), previously underrepresented in evolutionary genetic studies. Together with their Congolese partners, the Ghent research teams of Prof. Koen Bostoen (BantuFirst, Department of Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Philosophy) and Prof. Joris Delanghe (Department of Diagnostic Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences) collected modern genetic data. These genetic data were analyzed at the University of Uppsala (Sweden) under the direction of Prof. Carina Schlebusch.

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