Shedding light on the Bantu migration

Published: 2019-10-30


Facilitated by the SciLifeLab NGI, researchers from Portugal, Sweden, Germany and Mozambique discovered the first genetic evidence of a rapid north-south dispersal of Bantu people along the Indian Ocean Coast, which was earlier suggested based on the geographic location of previous archaeological findings.

The Bantu expansion started in west central Africa around 5,000 years ago and constitutes of a large migratory movement spreading people and languages over the sub-Saharan region. Despite linguistic and archeological evidence the genetic relationship between the Bantu populations remains poorly understood.

In a recent study, enabled by the SciLifeLab NGI, researchers investigated different Bantu speaking populations located at the edge of the Bantu expansion. This was done by generating genome wide data from 200 individuals from 12 Mozambican and 3 Angolan populations.

Together with existing data the results confirmed a “late split” between West and East Bantu speakers, following a joint passage through the rainforest. The Bantu speakers from eastern Africa also display genetic similarities to the Mozambican population forming a gradient of relatedness from the coastal border between Kenya and Tanzania to South Africa. 

The study, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, provides the first genetic evidence that a rapid dispersal of the Bantu people took place along the Indian Ocean Coast.