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Ancient genomes reveal complex patterns of population movement, interaction, and replacement in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Wang, Ke1
  • Goldstein, Steven2
  • Bleasdale, Madeleine2
  • Clist, Bernard3, 4
  • Bostoen, Koen3
  • Bakwa-Lufu, Paul5
  • Buck, Laura T.6, 7
  • Crowther, Alison2, 8
  • Dème, Alioune9
  • McIntosh, Roderick J.10
  • Mercader, Julio11, 2
  • Ogola, Christine12
  • Power, Robert C.2, 13
  • Sawchuk, Elizabeth2, 14
  • Robertshaw, Peter15
  • Wilmsen, Edwin N.16, 17
  • Petraglia, Michael2, 8, 18
  • Ndiema, Emmanuel12
  • Manthi, Fredrick K.12
  • Krause, Johannes1
  • And 3 more
  • 1 Department of Archaeogenetics, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.
  • 2 Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, Germany.
  • 3 UGent Centre for Bantu Studies, Department of Languages and Cultures, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.
  • 4 Institut des Mondes Africains, Paris, France.
  • 5 Institut des Musées Nationaux du Congo, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • 6 Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.
  • 7 Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA.
  • 8 School of Social Science, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia.
  • 9 Department of History, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar, Senegal.
  • 10 Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
  • 11 Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
  • 12 Department of Earth Sciences, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya.
  • 13 Institute for Pre- and Protohistoric Archaeology and Archaeology of the Roman Provinces, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Munich, Germany.
  • 14 Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA.
  • 15 Department of Anthropology, California State University, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, CA, USA.
  • 16 University of Texas-Austin, Austin, TX, USA.
  • 17 Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa.
  • 18 Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA.
Published Article
Science Advances
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Publication Date
Jun 12, 2020
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz0183
PMID: 32582847
PMCID: PMC7292641
PubMed Central


Africa hosts the greatest human genetic diversity globally, but legacies of ancient population interactions and dispersals across the continent remain understudied. Here, we report genome-wide data from 20 ancient sub-Saharan African individuals, including the first reported ancient DNA from the DRC, Uganda, and Botswana. These data demonstrate the contraction of diverse, once contiguous hunter-gatherer populations, and suggest the resistance to interaction with incoming pastoralists of delayed-return foragers in aquatic environments. We refine models for the spread of food producers into eastern and southern Africa, demonstrating more complex trajectories of admixture than previously suggested. In Botswana, we show that Bantu ancestry post-dates admixture between pastoralists and foragers, suggesting an earlier spread of pastoralism than farming to southern Africa. Our findings demonstrate how processes of migration and admixture have markedly reshaped the genetic map of sub-Saharan Africa in the past few millennia and highlight the utility of combined archaeological and archaeogenetic approaches.

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