The genetic legacy of the expansion of Bantu-speaking peoples in Africa

Cesar A. Fortes-Lima, Concetta Burgarella, Rickard Hammarén, Anders Eriksson, Mário Vicente, Cecile Jolly, Armando Semo, Hilde Gunnink, Sara Pacchiarotti, Leon Mundeke, Igor Matonda, Joseph Koni Muluwa, Peter Coutros, Terry S. Nyambe, Justin Cirhuza Cikomola, Vinet Coetzee, Minique de Castro, Peter Ebbesen, Joris Delanghe, Mark StonekingLawrence Barham, Marlize Lombard, Anja Meyer, Maryna Steyn, Helena Malmström, Jorge Rocha, Himla Soodyall, Brigitte Pakendorf, Koen Bostoen, Carina M. Schlebusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The expansion of people speaking Bantu languages is the most dramatic demographic event in Late Holocene Africa and fundamentally reshaped the linguistic, cultural and biological landscape of the continent1–7. With a comprehensive genomic dataset, including newly generated data of modern-day and ancient DNA from previously unsampled regions in Africa, we contribute insights into this expansion that started 6,000–4,000 years ago in western Africa. We genotyped 1,763 participants, including 1,526 Bantu speakers from 147 populations across 14 African countries, and generated whole-genome sequences from 12 Late Iron Age individuals8. We show that genetic diversity amongst Bantu-speaking populations declines with distance from western Africa, with current-day Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as possible crossroads of interaction. Using spatially explicit methods9 and correlating genetic, linguistic and geographical data, we provide cross-disciplinary support for a serial-founder migration model. We further show that Bantu speakers received significant gene flow from local groups in regions they expanded into. Our genetic dataset provides an exhaustive modern-day African comparative dataset for ancient DNA studies10 and will be important to a wide range of disciplines from science and humanities, as well as to the medical sector studying human genetic variation and health in African and African-descendant populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-547
Number of pages8
Issue number7995
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Multidisciplinary


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