September 10, 2004

Racial Affinities of Prehistoric East Africans

Afrocentrists and Nordicists alike tend to assert that early East Africans were "Negroid". Since East Africa was the source of multiple migrations of early humans out of Africa, this allows the former to assert a "Negroid" stage in the evolution of Eurasians, or to postulate a later (mythological) stage of "Negroid" East African culture-bearers. Nordicists of the other hand, dissatisfied with the paucity to non-existence of genuine Sub-Saharan African genetic markers in Southeastern Europe have insinuated that Y-haplogroup E3b which originated in East Africa 26ky ago is "Negroid" or that mtDNA haplogroup M1 which according to some also originated in East Africa in Paleolithic times is also "Negroid".

W.W. Howells' study of world craniometric variation is especially relevant to the racial affinity of East Africans before the expansion of Negroids into the region. Howells studied some 2,500+ skulls from 28 populations of recent Homo sapiens based on 57 metric variables [1], including skulls from the Teita tribe of East Africa. These recent Teita tribesmen (and women) clustered with other Sub-Saharan Africans, indicating that (as is obvious) recent Kenyans belong primarily to the Negroid race.

Howells then studied prehistoric East Africans and other humans from around the world to determine whether or not they show any affinities with living races [2]. He did this to examine whether the morphological complexes of modern races can be discerned in remote times. Using the same multivariate approach he studied the Elmenteita, Nakuru and Willey's Kopje skulls from Kenya. His conclusion was that there is no racial continuity between recent Negroid East African skulls and these prehistoric remains, as the following passage illustrates ([2, p. 41]:

(...) The DISPOP [Dienekes: DISPOP is Howells' program] results here are not indicative of anything, except a general non-African nature for all these skulls. Display of POPKIN distances (infra) reinforces this and seems to find nearer neighbors among such more generalized populations as Peru, Guam, or Ainu, but also Europeans or even Easter Island.

Remembering that the Teita series (Bantu speakers of southeastern Kenya), and the recent East African skulls in table 4 above, do clearly exhibit African affiliations, it is fair to say, contra Rightmire, that there seems to be no clear continuity here in late prehistory. On the broad scale, looking at an "Out-of-Africa" scenario, one would expect that, in some region between southern and northeastern Africa, some differentiation would have been taking place within a Homo sapiens stock, evolving into something beginning to approximate later Sub-Saharan peoples on the one hand, and evolving in another direction on the other hand. East Africa would be a likely locale for appearance of the latter. So anyone is welcome to argue that this is what Elmenteita et al. are manifesting. The ensuing picture for East Africa, that is to say, would later have beeen changed through replacement by the expansion of Bantu or other "Negroid" tribes.

[1] Howells WW (1989) Skull shapes and the map: craniometric analyses in the dispersion of modern Homo. Peabody Museum Papers 79:1-189.
[2] Howells WW (1995) Who's Who in skulls: ethnic identification of crania from measurements. Peabody Museum Papers 82:1-108.

No comments: