Africas first herders spread pastoralism by mating with foragers

Ancient sheep, goat and cattle herders made Africa their home by hooking up with the continents native hunter-gatherers, a study suggests.

DNA analysis shows that African herders and foragers mated with each other in two phases, says a team led by archaeologist Mary Prendergast of Saint Louis University in Madrid. After entering northeastern Africa from the Middle East around 8,000 years ago, herders swapped DNA with native foragers between roughly 6,000 and 5,000 years ago. Herders possessing some forager heritage then trekked about halfway down the continent and mated with eastern African foragers around 4,000 years ago, the scientists report online May 30 in Science.

Present-day herders, such as the Dinka in South Sudan, still live in eastern Africa. But how pastoralism spread into the region has been a mystery. In particular, it has been difficult to tell whether ancient African hunter-gatherers mated with early herders or simply adopted their livestock practices. The new study supports an emerging view from ancient DNA studies that human cultural evolution has often featured mating across groups with different traditions and lifestyles.

Prendergast and her colleagues analyzed tooth and bone DNA from 41 individuals whose remains were previously found at herding and foraging sites in Kenya and Tanzania with ages ranging between about 4,000 and 100 years old. Those genetic data were compared with DNA previously collected by other researchers from present-day African herders as well as DNA extracted from roughly 6,000-year-old remains of Middle Eastern farmers — the closest population to northeastern Africa at that tRead More – Source