Background: Unraveling the ancestry of 'Afro-American' communities is hampered by the complex demographic processes that took place during the Transatlantic Slave Trade (TAST) and the (post-)colonization periods. 'Afro-Bolivians' from the subtropical Yungas valleys constitute small and isolated communities that live surrounded by the predominant Native American community of Bolivia. By genotyping >580,000 SNPs in two 'Afro-Bolivians', and comparing these genomic profiles with data compiled from more than 57 African groups and other reference ancestral populations (n = 1,161 in total), we aimed to disentangle the complex admixture processes undergone by 'Afro-Bolivians'.
Results: The data indicate that these two genomes constitute a complex mosaic of ancestries that is approximately 80 % of recent African origin; the remaining ~20 % being European and Native American. West-Central Africa contributed most of the African ancestry to 'Afro-Bolivians', and this component is related to populations living along the Atlantic coast (i.e. Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria). Using tract length distribution of genomic segments attributable to distinct ancestries, we could date the time of admixture in about 400 years ago. This time coincides with the maximum importation of slaves to Bolivia to compensate the diminishing indigenous labor force needed for the development of the National Mint of Potosí.
Conclusions: Overall, the data indicate that the genome of 'Afro-Bolivians' was shaped by a complex process of admixture occurring in America among individuals originating in different West-Central African populations; their genomic mosaics received additional contributions of Europeans and local Native Americans (e.g. Aymaras).