Am J Phys Anthropol DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.22227
Mitochondrial DNA Diversity in Two Ethnic Groups in Southeastern Kenya: Perspectives from the Northeastern Periphery of the Bantu Expansion
Ken Batai et al.
The Bantu languages are widely distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Genetic research supports linguists and historians who argue that migration played an important role in the spread of this language family, but the genetic data also indicates a more complex process involving substantial gene flow with resident populations. In order to understand the Bantu expansion process in east Africa, mtDNA hypervariable region I variation in 352 individuals from the Taita and Mijikenda ethnic groups was analyzed, and we evaluated the interactions that took place between the Bantu- and non-Bantu-speaking populations in east Africa. The Taita and Mijikenda are Bantu-speaking agropastoralists from southeastern Kenya, at least some of whose ancestors probably migrated into the area as part of Bantu migrations that began around 3,000 BCE. Our analyses indicate that they show some distinctive differences that reflect their unique cultural histories. The Taita are genetically more diverse than the Mijikenda with larger estimates of genetic diversity. The Taita cluster with other east African groups, having high frequencies of haplogroups from that region, while the Mijikenda have high frequencies of central African haplogroups and cluster more closely with central African Bantu-speaking groups. The non-Bantu speakers who lived in southeastern Kenya before Bantu speaking groups arrived were at least partially incorporated into what are now Bantu-speaking Taita groups. In contrast, gene flow from non-Bantu speakers into the Mijikenda was more limited. These results suggest a more complex demographic history where the nature of Bantu and non-Bantu interactions varied throughout the area.