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J Anthropol Sci. 2010;88:73-92.

Genetics and southern African prehistory: an archaeological view.

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1
School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. peter.mitchell@st-hughs.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Southern African populations speaking languages that are often - but inaccurately - grouped together under the label 'Khoisan' are an important focus of molecular genetic research, not least in tracking the early stages of human genetic diversification. This paper reviews these studies from an archaeological standpoint, concentrating on modern human origins, the introduction of pastoralism to southern Africa and admixture between the region's indigenous foragers and incoming Bantu-speaking farmers. To minimise confusion and facilitate correlation with anthropological, linguistic and archaeological data it emphasises the need to use ethnolinguistic labels accurately and with due regard for the particular histories of individual groups. It also stresses the geographically and culturally biased nature of the genetic studies undertaken to date, which employ data from only a few 'Khoisan' groups. Specific topics for which the combined deployment of genetic and archaeological methods would be particularly useful include the early history of Ju-Hoan- and Tuu-speaking hunter-gatherers, the expansion of Khoe-speaking populations, the chronology of genetic exchange between hunter-gatherers and farmers, and the origins of the Sotho/Tswana- and Nguni-speaking populations that dominate much of southern Africa today.

PMID:
20834051
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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