Ancient West African foragers in the context of African population history

Nature. 2020 Jan;577(7792):665-670. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-1929-1. Epub 2020 Jan 22.


Our knowledge of ancient human population structure in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly prior to the advent of food production, remains limited. Here we report genome-wide DNA data from four children-two of whom were buried approximately 8,000 years ago and two 3,000 years ago-from Shum Laka (Cameroon), one of the earliest known archaeological sites within the probable homeland of the Bantu language group1-11. One individual carried the deeply divergent Y chromosome haplogroup A00, which today is found almost exclusively in the same region12,13. However, the genome-wide ancestry profiles of all four individuals are most similar to those of present-day hunter-gatherers from western Central Africa, which implies that populations in western Cameroon today-as well as speakers of Bantu languages from across the continent-are not descended substantially from the population represented by these four people. We infer an Africa-wide phylogeny that features widespread admixture and three prominent radiations, including one that gave rise to at least four major lineages deep in the history of modern humans.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Archaeology
  • Black People / genetics*
  • Black People / history*
  • Burial
  • Cameroon
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromosomes, Human, Y / genetics
  • DNA, Ancient / analysis
  • Feeding Behavior / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Markers / genetics
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • History, Ancient
  • Human Migration / history*
  • Humans
  • Language / history
  • Male
  • Pan troglodytes / genetics
  • Phylogeny*
  • Principal Component Analysis


  • DNA, Ancient
  • Genetic Markers