My History explores recent DNA revelations concerning Black Sovereign’s genetic past.

Black Sovereign’s DNA Test Results

 AFRICA (86%)

  • Nigeria – 57%
  • Mali – 17%
  • Southeastern Bantu – 3%
  • Senegal – 3%
  • South-Central Hunter-Gatherers – 3%
  • Cameroon – 1%
  • Benin – less than 1%
  • Ghana – less than 1%
 EUROPE (13%)

  • Britain – 6%
  • Europe West – 5%
  • Italy – less than 1%
  • Iberian Peninsula – less than 1%
 PACIFIC ISLANDER (< 1%)

  • Melanesia – less than 1%
 

 

Africa Southeastern Bantu

Primarily located in: South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Uganda

Also found in: Nigeria, Congo

Extending through the heart of Africa, the vast region now inhabited by the Bantu was the stage for one of the greatest migrations in human history. In time, that migration would become the seedbed for a broad family of related ethnic groups and languages that would wield enormous influence on the ancient and contemporary history of Africa: from kingdoms and trade networks to colonial independence movements and Nobel Prize-winning leaders.

bantu-map

How Black Sovereign compares to the typical person native to the Africa Southeastern Bantu region

Black Sovereign : 3% … … … Typical native : 72%

 

Genetic Diversity in the Africa Southeastern Bantu Region

Individuals from the Africa Southeastern Bantu region are admixed, which means that when creating genetic ethnicity estimates for people native to this area, we frequently see see similarities to DNA profiles from other regions. We’ve found that approximately 72% of the typical Southeastern Bantu region native’s DNA comes from this region.

Examples of people native to the Africa Southeastern Bantu region

From a collection of 18 people:
bantu-bar

Other regions commonly seen in people native to the Africa Southeastern Bantu region

From a collection of 18 people:

bantu-bar2

We have used our reference panel to build a genetic profile for the Africa Southeastern Bantu region. The blue chart above shows examples of ethnicity estimates for people native to this region. For most natives, between 58% and 100% of their DNA looks similar to our profile. It’s also possible, however, to find people whose DNA shows very little similarity, some as little as 14%. For people with DNA from other regions, the most common is the neighboring Cameroon/Congo region—about 44% of people from the Africa Southeastern Bantu region have at least some DNA from Cameroon/Congo. In addition, about 39% of people from the Africa Southeastern Bantu region have some DNA from the Africa South-Central Hunter-Gatherers region. (See green chart above.)

Population History

Oddly, the Africa Southeastern Bantu region has its roots in West Africa, an area that includes Nigeria and Cameroon. In that area, perhaps 3,000 years ago, a group of Niger-Congo languages called Bantu (meaning “people”) had their origins. As West Africa’s population grew, members of the Bantu-speaking group migrated in two directions. Some went south along Africa’s west coast. Others headed east across the continent, north of the Congo River and its dense forests—a formidable natural barrier. Then they turned south. These migrations spread the Bantu languages—and the population’s genes—over a wide swath of the continent.

The Africa Southeastern Bantu region is enormous, extending more than 2,500 miles north to south. It stretches from modern-day Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in the north; encompasses Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe in its center; and finally opens into Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

Not only is it large, but this region also exhibits almost unparalleled ethnic and linguistic diversity. The Bantu language group is among the world’s most diverse, comprising more than 500 languages. All of them, from Bemba to Zulu, share linguistic features (some 250 are mutually intelligible) that originate from a common ancestral language. All told, more than 240 million people speak a Bantu language, and many more use a Bantu tongue (such as Swahili) as a second or third language.

The Bantu migrations

The earliest Bantu people arose in modern-day Cameroon and Nigeria. A Neolithic people who farmed yams and oil palms (but not grains), they lived on the edges of forests where resources were richer and they could supplement their diet with bushmeat. No archaeological evidence of metallurgy appears in the region, but a stable and somewhat varied food supply led to population growth and expansion to the east and the south.

The Eastern Bantu acquired grains and learned how to grow them as they migrated east toward the Great Lakes region—modern-day Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. There they learned how to smelt iron and make a kind of steel. The combined assets of reliable tools and the addition of cereals to the simple farming and herding skills they had practiced in Cameroon and Nigeria gave rise to large communities. Growing populations—and the mobility that herding, farming and metal-smithing provided—kept Bantu groups moving south and, in some cases, back west toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Bantu Cradle

The Western Bantu are part of the same great swath of Bantu who inhabit eastern and southern Africa. They moved south from Cameroon along the west coast of Africa in the same time frame as the Eastern Bantu (beginning about 1000 B.C.), ending up in what we know today as Angola and Namibia. As some groups moved deeper into central Africa’s rainforests and riverine environments, they added fishing to their skills.

Bantu kingdoms

Bantu communities flourished and became powerful over time as people began to specialize in trades, engage in commerce with Arabs and other merchants, and develop standing armies. Chiefdoms turned into kingdoms as power was centralized among clans and other groups. The Baganda state in the Great Lakes region became so powerful by 1000 A.D. that, some 900 years later when the British took control of Uganda, they made the Baganda their colonial administrators and overlords of smaller kingdoms in the area.

To the south lay the Great Zimbabwe civilization, with its fortress architecture and wide reach, formed by early Shona settlers. The Shona were another Bantu group whose successful use of resources and strong organization displaced the hunter-gatherer Bushmen tribes. Great Zimbabwe was dominant for about 1,000 years, from 500 to 1500 A.D. Even farther south, Zulu clans consolidated into a kingdom under the military leadership of Shaka and his successors, battling the Afrikaners and holding the British at bay for a time during the Anglo-Zulu War in 1879.

Many of the kingdoms along Africa’s east coast or with river access developed sophisticated networks of trade with Portuguese, Arab and Indian traders. Landlocked kingdoms exchanged goods with other African kingdoms and groups, many of which had embassies and ambassadors to facilitate military alliances and trade relationships.

European colonization

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bantu kingdoms that spanned eastern and southern Africa fell to relentless European colonization backed by armies, money and the technology to exploit African resources. Britain controlled the largest chunks of the Southeastern Bantu region, including South Africa, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Bechuanaland (Botswana), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Kenya, Uganda and Zanzibar. Britain tried to exploit divisions between groups and manipulate existing native administrations as part of a policy called “indirect rule.”

Portugal, Germany and Belgium had much more centralized colonial administrations. Portugal colonized Mozambique and Angola. Germany claimed German East Africa (modern-day Tanzania, minus Zanzibar), German West Africa (Namibia), Rwanda and Burundi. Belgium claimed the Congo and, after 1916, Rwanda and Burundi.

African independence movements

After a long period of resistance to the colonial regimes, a wave of independence movements swept Africa in the 1960s and ’70s. Freedom, along with new roads, trains and planes, improved the mobility of many Africans and connected them to the world. As a result of post-colonial trade and cultural relationships, many African communities have been established in European cities. With those emigrations came the spread of Bantu genes far beyond Africa’s borders.

The region today

The countries in the Southeast Bantu region are culturally vibrant, highly diverse, resource-rich and hungry for opportunity. However, Africa’s progress is curbed by struggles with poverty, war, corruption, political and ethnic strife, disease, indebtedness, limited access to education and medical care, and undiversified economies driven by subsistence or cash crops.

Yet there are bright spots. Uganda managed to turn around one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates through education. South Africa is a country with modern banking, transportation and manufacturing sectors that can build nearly everything it needs. Namibia has remained a peaceful multiparty democracy since its independence from South Africa in 1990. Angola and Mozambique, not many years free from brutal civil wars, have economies growing at double-digit rates.

The Southeastern Bantu region shares a genetic thread spanning thousands of miles and several thousand years. Part of that genetic inheritance, as the region’s history shows, is a deep resilience.

Note that genetic ethnicity estimates are based on individuals living in this region today. While a prediction of genetic ethnicity from this region suggests a connection to the groups occupying this location, it is not conclusive evidence of membership to any particular tribe or ethnic group.

Did You Know?

During the transatlantic slave trade, more than 1 million slaves were sent from Angola to the New World.