Monday, March 26, 2012

African Genetic History: Three Papers


1.  Working toward a synthesis of archaeological, linguistic, and genetic data for inferring African population history

Laura B. Scheinfeldt, Sameer Soi, and Sarah A. Tishkoff
Published online 2010 May 5

Abstract:
"Although Africa is the origin of modern humans, the pattern and distribution of genetic variation and correlations with cultural and linguistic diversity in Africa have been understudied. Recent advances in genomic technology, however, have led to genomewide studies of African samples. In this article, we discuss genetic variation in African populations contextualized with what is known about archaeological and linguistic variation. What emerges from this review is the importance of using independent lines of evidence in the interpretation of genetic and genomic data in the reconstruction of past population histories."



2.  The Fulani are not from the Middle East

Clyde Winters
Published online 2010 August 3

"In a recent issue of PNAS, Scheinfeldt et al. maintained that, although Fulani mtDNA is consistent with a West African origin, the linguistic and nonrecombinant portion of the Y chromosome (NRY) supports a Middle Eastern origin for this population. Although this is their opinion, the linguistic and genetic evidence fails to support this conclusion."

"The Fulani speak a Niger-Congo language. They probably came to West Africa from Nubia. Welmers explained that the Niger-Congo homeland was in the vicinity of the upper Nile valley, not Niger Basin. The archaeological evidence supports this view, indicating that only in the past 3 ky did people begin to occupy the Niger Basin."



3.  Reply to Winters:  The Origin of the Fulani Remain Unknown

Laura B. Scheinfeldt, Sameer Soi, and Sarah A. Tishkoff
Published online 2010 August 3
(Link)

"We would like to first point out that we never interpreted any genetic data in our review article to support a Middle Eastern or European origin for the Fulani. We agree with Winters that the Fulani do not originate from the Middle East or Europe. Furthermore, we do not maintain that there is a predominance of Eurasian markers in the Fulani; we merely point out that there is some evidence of shared recent ancestry (i.e., gene flow) between the Fulani and Eurasian populations based on the presence of particular mtDNA (J1b, U5, H, and V) and NRY (R-M173) haplogroups, and the T-13910 European-specific lactase persistence allele in the Fulani. The combined linguistic and genetic data, however, support an African origin for the Fulani, as we discuss in our work. "

2 comments:

  1. Winters is sometimes way off base. Part of his quote above reflects that where he states: "The Fulani speak a Niger-Congo language. They probably came to West Africa from Nubia. Welmers explained that the Niger-Congo homeland was in the vicinity of the upper Nile valley, not Niger Basin. The archaeological evidence supports this view, indicating that only in the past 3 ky did people begin to occupy the Niger Basin."

    People have occupied the Niger Basin since 70kya and while 3kya is a decent estimate for the time at which the Bantu languages that belong to the Niger-Congo language family expanded, the Niger-Congo languages were almost certainly preesnt in the Niger basin much earlier.

    The argument of Welmers regarding a Nile basin origin of the Niger-Congo languages, while not entirely indefensible in the absence of records and in light the the existence of the Kordofan languages there and the known later intrusion of other languages in the space, is highly implausible and the population genetic data do not really support that narrative either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I also think that Winters is off base here.

      There's quite a lot of information on the Niger Congo (More properly Niger Kordorfian) expansion. Some of this is covered in the 2011 Tishkoff paper. The data speaks to the Sahel being used by Niger Congo speakers as a bi-directional corridor predating the westward expansion of Nilo-Saharan speakers.

      Delete

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