In this post I am going to examine the descendants of Shem and Ham according to the Bible. I will be exploring oral accounts and scientific and visual evidence of who they were and where they lived also. This post will also explore the modern descendants and what they might look like now and the theories surrounding them.
Through researching where the ancestors of West African slaves come from I found that many of the tribes share an oral history passed down and even have copies of the Torah or Hebrew Bible that they state they brought from Israel. Some dispute this and it is quite possible that some Africans did move to Israel and then back to Africa. Other tribes as they are proclaiming could have always been in Africa from the beginning.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of black people and who they descend from I think of Ham. This is an opinion that has been slowly fed to the population over years. We descend from Ham and Ham was cursed however there are some of the opinion that this was fabricated to justify slavery. The entire Nation of Ham was not cursed and only the biblical figure Canaan was technically cursed and if you actually check the bible you will see the error in this conception.
King James Bible And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
The curses that would befall Israel if they did not follow the most high on the other hand were
According to Jeremiah 17:4 the children of Israel would be discontinued from their heritage (language, culture, possessions etc…), which would leave room for the question, “Since the children of Israel were discontinued from their heritage, how would they know who they are; and how do we know they exist?”
According to the Hebrew Scriptures the children of Israel are cursed by the sins of their fathers (Matthew 27:24-25) and scattered among all nations until the fullness of the Gentiles (None Israelites) comes (see Romans 11:25, Luke 21:24).
Deuteronomy 28:46 – And they (the curses) shall be upon thee for a sign and a wonder and upon thy seed (children) forever.
This shows us that these curses written in the Scriptures would identify who the children of Israel are because there would be no other way to identify them.
deut 28:16 Cursed shall you be in the city and cursed shall you be in the field.
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” – Luke 21:24
African history has been white washed and although in this society we state that colour doesn’t matter there continues to be a white washing of history. There has been an attempt to destroy and play down the significance of the African and Asian race in contributing to history. Examples slightly off point before we get into this post, include the removal of the nose on African statues to try to make their race unidentifiable.
There has been a visual misinterpretation of biblical figures such as promoting a white Jesus.
Yet the Pope and many parts of Europe pray to a black Madonna Mary and Jesus.
The Persians & Asyrians took the Hebrews into captivity and they went into exile.
ELAM עֵילָם mBiblical Possibly means either “hidden” or “eternity” in Hebrew. This was the name of several characters in the Old Testament, including a son of Shem who was the ancestor of the Elamite peoples.
What would be a lookalike to this image below, now??
How about these descendants?
These tribes are found in Arabia and Asia
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome. 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs– we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!
Watch the link below of the Egyptian man forced to classify as white
this post will be exploring the descendants of Ham and Shem highlighting how they mixed to create the Afro Asiatic Africa and Middle East that we know of today.
Firstly we know that Ham Shem and Japheth were brothers and Noah was their father and everyone in the world descends from this family according to the Bible. Therefore as scientists have proven we descend from a common ancestor.
Multiple Trajectories of Islam in Africa Islam had already spread into northern Africa by the mid-seventh century A.D., only a few decades after the prophet Muhammad moved with his followers from Mecca to Medina on the neighboring Arabian Peninsula (622 A.D./1 A.H.). Arab conquest of Spain and the push of Arab armies as far as the Indus River culminated in an empire that stretched over three continents, a mere hundred years after the Prophet’s death. Between the eighth and ninth centuries, Arab traders and travelers, then African clerics, began to spread the religion along the eastern coast of Africa and to the western and central Sudan (literally, “Land of Black people”), stimulating the development of urban communities. Given its negotiated, practical approach to different cultural situations, it is perhaps more appropriate to consider Islam in Africa in terms of its multiple histories rather then as a unified movement.The first converts were the Sudanese merchants, followed by a few rulers and courtiers (Ghana in the eleventh century and Mali in the thirteenth century). The masses of rural peasants, however, remained little touched. In the eleventh century, the Almoravid intervention, led by a group of Berber nomads who were strict observers of Islamic law, gave the conversion process a new momentum in the Ghana empire and beyond. The spread of Islam throughout the African continent was neither simultaneous nor uniform, but followed a gradual and adaptive path. However, the only written documents at our disposal for the period under consideration derive from Arab sources (see, for instance, accounts by geographers al-Bakri and Ibn Battuta).
Islamic Influence on African Societies
Islamic political and aesthetic influences on African societies remain difficult to assess. In some capital cities, such as Ghana and Gao, the presence of Muslim merchants resulted in the establishment of mosques. The Malian king Mansa Musa (r. 1312–37) brought back from a pilgrimage to Mecca the architect al-Sahili, who is often credited with the creation of the Sudano-Sahelian building style. Musa’s brother, Mansa Sulaiman, followed his path and encouraged the building of mosques, as well as the development of Islamic learning. Islam brought to Africa the art of writing and new techniques of weighting. The city of Timbuktu, for instance, flourished as a commercial and intellectual center, seemingly undisturbed by various upheavals. Timbuktu began as a Tuareg settlement, was soon integrated into the Mali empire, then was reclaimed by the Tuareg, and finally incorporated into the Songhai empire. In the sixteenth century, the majority of Muslim scholars in Timbuktu were of Sudanese origin. On the continent’s eastern coast, Arabic vocabulary was absorbed into the Bantu languages to form the Swahili language. On the other hand, in many cases conversion for sub-Saharan Africans was probably a way to protect themselves against being sold into slavery, a flourishing trade between Lake Chad and the Mediterranean. For their rulers, who were not active proselytizers, conversion remained somewhat formal, a gesture perhaps aimed at gaining political support from the Arabs and facilitating commercial relationships. The strongest resistance to Islam seems to have emanated from the Mossi and the Bamana, with the development of the Ségou kingdom. Eventually, sub-Saharan Africans developed their own brand of Islam, often referred to as “African Islam,” with specific brotherhoods and practices.
There is a lot of information out there regarding the Kingdom of Kush which the Bible states was the boundary of Noah’s son through Ham. The Kingdom of Kush stretched to Egypt Ethiopia and Sudan and some suggest through to Arabia and further East.
On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
Mizraim A son of Ham, and father of various African races, Genesis 10:6, but particularly of the Egyptians, to whom his name was given. Mizraim is also the Hebrew word for Egypt in the Bible, and this country is still called Misr in Arabic.
So from this we can see that Eber related to Benjamin and Gad and Nehemiah. All of the “Negroes” we learnt according to the bible were not from Ham in the sense of starting a lineage. Eber became the progenitor of the original Jews and Arabs. The Semites. The Jews or Yudahians came from Joktar Peleg and Eber.
The path some of the Hebrews took from Jerusalem to West Africa the tribes Ashanti Yoruba mentioned below in what looks like the Songhai empire area.
The Jamaican Akan Root
You are Judah! your Root is Akan
Ours is the story of the scriptures.
The prophecies of the Bible accurately describes the series of migrations of the Hebrew Israelites throughout the continent of Africa, especially to West Africa, where the infamous trans-Atlantic slave trade took place. Many of the tribes of West Africa, such as the Ashanti, Fulani, Akan, Yoruba , etc., have oral histories stating that they are descendants of the nation of Israel, and their cultural practices are exactly the same as described in the bible. Therefore, many of the Africans captured and transported to America and throughout the western hemisphere were Hebrew Israelites. History and prophecy validates the claim of many African-Americans that they are actual descendants of the so-called lost tribes of Israel. The Prophecies and Historical Evidence of the Migration of the Scattered Tribes of Israel in Africa
The recent discovery of the Israelite tribe in South Africa named the ‘LEMBA’ tribe, has sparked renewed interest in this subject. If we read and discern the ‘biblical prophecies’ that describe the ‘scattering’ (diaspora)’ of the nation of Israel (the Hebrew Israelites), we will discover that GOD (YAHWEH) has fulfilled his promise to ‘scatter his people Israel throughout ‘ALL’ nations and countries’ and among ‘all tribes,’ especially throughout the continent of Africa.
“And the LORD shall ‘scatter’ (disperse) you among ‘all people’ (tribes), from the one end of the earth even unto the other.” Deuteronomy 28:64.
The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem are comprised of approximately 2,000 men, women and children residing in three development towns – – Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe Ramon – – in southern Israel. We maintain a vibrant culture which includes a communal lifestyle, a vegan diet, a system of preventive health care and high moral standards – – a holistic approach to life based on righteousness. Our intent is to live according to the laws and prophecies of God.
As a direct result of their disobedience to the laws and commandments of God, the ancient Hebrew Israelites were held captive by various nations including the Egyptians, Assyrians and Babylonians. In 70 C.E. the remnants of The African Hebrew Israelites were driven from Jerusalem by the Romans into different parts of the world, including Africa. Many Hebrew Israelites migrated to West Africa where they, once again, were carried away captive – this time by Europeans on slave ships – to the Americas along with other African tribes people.
In 1966 our spiritual leader, Ben Ammi, had a vision that it was time for the Children of Israel who remained in America (the land of their captivity) to return to the Holy Land (the land of their origin).
In 1967, after almost two thousand years in the Diaspora, four hundred Hebrew Israelites were inspired by the spirit of God to make an exodus from America. According to plan, they settled in Liberia’s interior to purge themselves of the negative attributes they had acquired in the captivity. After spending a two-and-one-half year period in Liberia, The African Hebrew Israelites were prepared to make the last portion of their journey home, returning to Israel in 1969.
(Nehemiah Chap. 1) Aramaic to English Old Testament
5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.
7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.
8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, [If] ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:
9 But [if] ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, [yet] will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.
Understanding The Good News: The Eve’s Erhverhs
And it shall come to pass in that day, that Yahweh shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, from lower Egypt, and from upper Egypt, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
The Eve’s Erhverhs is one of the titles given to the Ewe people spread across West Africa. Ethnic groups such as the Ewe of Ghana and Togo, the Ga-Dangme of Ghana and the Yoruba of Nigeria are a part of what scholars call Eve’s Erhverh’s. The ancestors of these groups migrated from Israel after the destruction of the first and second temples and due to other wars and tragedy’s. Sadly, after centuries of living a relatively peaceful life in West Africa they were captured and shipped in the millions to the “new world” in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
In Spanish, we find another more familiar word that also has the same meaning:
Negro: Mid 16th century: via Spanish and Portuguese from Latin niger, nigr- black. – Oxford Dictionary
Spanish is a Latin based language, and Latin was spoken by the Roman conquerors that the Hebrews referred to as Gentiles (Matthew 20:19). The early uses of the word niger and later negro, were not racist, but were more descriptive of skin color. When slaves were brought to the Americas, the descriptive terms were later turned into racial slurs meant to degrade slaves and their descendants.
Simeon– He was surnamed Niger, pronounced “nee-jer”, which means “black skin” in Latin.
Saul – Later renamed Paul, he was from the tribe of Benjamin, and was mistaken for an Egyptian (Acts 21:38).
It is a Nation. The word Biafra is coind from two IGBO WORDS ‘bia’ which means COME and ‘fara’ which means LIVE. The people are part of the AFAR ethnic group in the horn of Africa, although CHRISTIANS. They are also from NRI KINGDOM and part of the LOST TRIBE OF ISRAEL.They were amalgameted to be part of Nigeria in 1914 by the British government led by Frederick Lugard. The people of Biafra do not see themselves as NIGERIANS. Between 6 July 1967 and 15 January 1970, about 3.5 million Biafrans were killed in a genocide war led by the British and the Nigerian government when they seceded from Nigeria.They lost the war and were once more integrated into Nigeria.They own the eastern and southern part of Nigeria. They are still seeking for their freedom Independence from Nigeria. The nationality is Biafran.
A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth
The film, titled “Black Jews, Juifs noir en Afrique,” focuses on a dozen African tribes – in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other countries – each with a Jewish story. Some claim to be descendants of the Bible’s 10 Lost Tribes. Others believe that their ancestors were Jews who emigrated from Judea to Yemen looking for gold.
Rabbinical authorities have not accepted any of the groups as Jewish under halakhah, Jewish law, although all the tribes strive to be recognized as such at some level or another.
Edith Bruder, who has been studying these Jewish groups for more than a decade and wrote the book “The black Jews of Africa, history, identity, religion,” turned to Gavron for the film, which is expected to be released in the coming months.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, you can find ‘Judaic’ tribes in Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa, Zimbabwe and even in Sao Tome and other countries. There are many of them,” Bruder said. “It is really a vast subject.”
The two women are documenting Sabbath celebrations in remote African villages, Ghanaian Jews practicing circumcision and Jewish-African traditional marriage ceremonies. They have even been deep into the forests filming black Jews preparing their “kosher” meals – in their own tradition, the way the Torah explains it simply – not mixing the meat of the veal with its mother’s cow milk.
(burnt faces). The country which the Greeks and Romans described as “AEthiopia” and the Hebrews as “Cush” lay to the south of Egypt, and embraced, in its most extended sense, the modern Nubia, Sennaar, Kordofan and northern Abyssinia , and in its more definite sense the kingdom of Meroe. ( Ezekiel 29:10 ) The Hebrews do not appear to have had much practical acquaintance with Ethiopia itself, though the Ethiopians were well known to them through their intercourse with Egypt. The inhabitants of Ethiopia were a Hamitic race. ( Genesis 10:6 ) They were divided into various tribes, of which the Sabeans were the most powerful. The history of Ethiopia is closely interwoven with that of Egypt. The two countries were not unfrequently united under the rule of the same sovereign. Shortly before our Saviours birth a native dynasty of females, holding the official title of Candace (Plin. vi. 35), held sway in Ethiopia, and even resisted the advance of the Roman arms. One of these is the queen noticed in ( Acts 8:27 )
Modern discoveries prove their close racial and linguistic connection with Southern Arabia and particularly with the kingdom of Sheba (the Sabeans), that most powerful people whose extensive architectural and literary remains have recently come to light. The Sabean inscriptions found in Abyssinia go back some 2,600 years and give a new value to the Bible references as well as to the constant claim of Josephus that the queen of Sheba was a “queen of Ethiopia.” The Falashas are a Jewish community living near Lake Tsana, of the same physical type and probably of the same race as other Abyssinians. Their religion is a “pure Mosaism” based upon the Ethiopic version of the Pentateuch, but modified by the fact that they are ignorant of the Hebrew language (Jewish Encyclopedia). It is uncertain when they became Jews. The older scholars thought of them as dating back to the Solomonic era, or at least to the Babylonian captivity. Since the researches of Joseph Halevy (1868), some date within the Christian era has seemed preferable, notwithstanding their ignorance of Talmudic rules. However, the newly discovered fact that a strong Jewish community was flourishing at Syene in the 6th century BC makes it clear that Jewish influence may have been felt in Ethiopia at least that early. Although Abyssinians are noted for their strict adherence to ancient custom, Jewish characteristics are prominent all over the entire country. The opening formula of the king in every official letter–“The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has Conquered!”–is no more Jewish than scores of ordinary phrases and customs. Although it is barely possible that some rites, like circumcision and observance of the Sabbath, may have been received from the ancient Egyptians or Christian Coptics (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge Encyclopedia) yet a strong Hebrew influence cannot be denied. All travelers speak of the “industry” of the Falashas and of the “kindliness and grave courtesy” of the Abyssinians. Besides those named above there are many communities of mixed races in Ethiopia, but the ancient basis is invariably Negro, Semitic or Egyptian
relating to or denoting a family of languages that includes Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic and certain ancient languages such as Phoenician and Akkadian, constituting the main subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic family.
relating to the peoples who speak Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Arabic.
Shem and Ham have been mixing for centuries and sharing and debating and fighting over scriptures and land.
Akadaney, Niger. Old Fulani Woman, with Earrings and Bead Necklaces..
Ishmael the Shemite and Egyptian
(28) Concerning Kedar . . .–The name belonged to a tribe of the Bedouin type, descended from Ishmael (Genesis 25:13), and at this time conspicuous as supplying the markets of Tyre with sheep and goats (Ezekiel 27:21). In PP. 120:5 it appears as the representative of the fierce nomadic life of the Arabians. Hazor appears as the name of many cities in Palestine (Joshua 11:1; Joshua 15:23;Joshua 19:36), but the combination with Kedar points to quite a different region. The probable explanation is that Jeremiah uses the term (as a like word, haz?rein, is used in Isaiah 42:11 for the “villages” of Kedar) for the region in which the Kedar Arabs had ceased to be nomadic, and had made a permanent settlement. According to Niebuhr (Assur u. Bab., p. 210) it answers to the modern Hadschar in the angle formed by the southern course of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf.
And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
And, behold, Amariah the chief priest [is] over you in all matters of the LORD; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the ruler of the house of Judah, for all the king’s matters: also the Levites [shall be] officers before you. Deal courageously, and the LORD shall be with the good.
And in the seventh year Jehoiada strengthened himself, and took the captains of hundreds, Azariah the son of Jeroham, and Ishmael the son of Jehohanan, and Azariah the son of Obed, and Maaseiah the son of Adaiah, and Elishaphat the son of Zichri, into covenant with him.
Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.
Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know [it]: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?
Now it came to pass in the seventh month, [that] Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.
But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren.
Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, [was] it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: [and] Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with [them that were] slain.
Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that [were] in Mizpah, [even] the king’s daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.
Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that [were] with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after [that] he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, [even] mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon:
Mohammed himself, who was to unite the whole of Arabia, thus appears to have had a prominent African-Kushitic lineage. According to al-Jahiz a renowned Black Arab writer and philosopher of Ethiopian origin who had lived in Baghdad, “…the guardian of the sacred Kaaba–Abd al-Muttalib, “fathered ten Lords, Black as the night and magnificent.” One of these men was Abdallah, the father of Muhammad.
JA Rogers, one of the most pre-eminent of Black African historians had the following to say of Muhammad(pbuh):
“Mohamet, himself, was to all accounts a Negro. A contemporary of his describes him as “large mouthed,” and “bluish-colored, with hair that was neither straight nor curly…Mohamet’s mother was also African. His grandfather, Abd el Motalib, is spoken of as being “very dark.”…A Negroid strain, more or less predominant, ran through the whole. As Keane says, “All who accepted the Koran became merged with the conquerors in a common Negroid population.”
Diop in “Orgin of Civillization” stated forthrightly that:
“….the entire arab people, including the Prophet [Muhammad(pbuh)] is mixed with Negro blood. All educated Arabs are conscious of that fact.”
Ethiopia and the Black Muslim Arabs
In the 5th and 6th century, the pre-eminece of Ethiopia was still putative in the Arabia and surrounding regions. As such, Mecca was teeming with millions of Black Cushitic Arabian and Ethiopian scientists, engineers, soilders, philosophers, writers, social revolutionaries. Besides the probable Ethiopian origins of Muhammed, Islam was deeply associated with Ethiopia, and was overwhelmingly influenced by Ethiopia in terms of the formation of its basic tenets, the elaboration of its doctrine and the development of its philosophy. According to tradition, the first Muslim killed in battle was Mihdja–a Kushitic Black Arab. Another Black Arab that greatly influenced Islam was Bilal, probably of Ethiopian-Yemenite extraction, who was such a pivotal figure in the development of Islam that he has been referred to as “a third of the faith.
” Many of the earliest Muslim converts were original descendants of the ancient Black Arabs,or they were African soliders, administrators, scientist that stayed over from the 70,000 man Ethiopian army that ruled Yemen in these times. In fact, the very survival of the Islamic faith in its most susceptible periodwas due tothe intervention of the Ethiopian King of Axum, who saved the earliest followers of Muhammed seeking refuge in Ethiopia from persecution in Arabia. They were given safety, succor and further education and instruction by the Priests of Ethiopia.
These early teachings underlaid the elaboration and further development of Islamic thought and they remain fundamental in Islamic teachings of today. It is therefore no wonder that Muhammed had instructed his followers to always be kind and considerate to the Ethiopians because they are a kindred nation of great righteousness.
John G Jackson, another pillar of Black History stated in his book “The Story of The Moors In Spain” that:
“At the present time Arabia is inhabited by two distinct races, namely the descendents of the old Adite,Kushite, or Ethiopian race, known under various appellations, and dwelling cheify at the south, the east, and the central parts of the country, but formerly supreme throughout the whole peninsula; and the semitic Arabians—Mohamet’s(pbuh) race—found cheifly in the Hejaz and at the north. In some districts of the country, these races more or less mixed and since the rise of Mohametanism, the language of the Semites, known to us as Arabic, has almost wholly superceded the old Ethiopian or Kushite tongue….”
I will be constantly updating this post so feel free to check back at a later date for added information and links.
Researchers studied 121 African populations, four African American populations and 60 non-African populations for patterns of variation at 1327 DNA markers. The study traced the genetic structure of Africans to 14 ancestral population clusters that correlated with ethnicity and shared cultural and/or linguistic properties. The research team demonstrated that there is more genetic diversity in Africa than anywhere else on earth.
They also determined that the ancestral origin of humans was probably located in southern Africa, near the South Africa-Namibian border. Extrapolating the data, scientists were able to map ancient migrations of populations and determined that the exit point of modern humans out of Africa was near the middle of the Red Sea in East Africa. They also provide evidence for ancient common ancestry of geographically diverse hunter-gatherer populations in Africa, including Pygmies from central Africa and click-speaking populations from southern and eastern Africa, suggesting the possibility that the original pygmy language may have contained clicks. Overall, they demonstrate remarkable correspondence between cultural, linguistic, and genetic diversity in Africa.
The San people of southern Africa, who have lived as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years, are likely to be the oldest population of humans on Earth, according to the biggest and most detailed analysis of African DNA. The San, also known as bushmen, are directly descended from the original population of early human ancestors who gave rise to all other groups of Africans and, eventually, to the people who left the continent to populate other parts of the world.
Homo sapiens, known casually as “modern humans”, are thought to have first evolved around 195,000 years ago in east Africa – the earliest remains from that time were uncovered near the Omo River in Ethiopia.
It is thought that by 150,000 years ago these early modern humans had managed to spread to other parts of Africa and fossilised remains have been found on the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.
The earliest homo sapien remains found outside of Africa were discovered in Israel and are thought to be around 100,000 years old. They are remains of a group that left Africa through what is now the Sahara desert during a brief period when the climate grew wetter, turning the desert green with vegetation. This excursion, however, failed and the population died out when the climate started to dry out again.
While there are 14 ancestral populations in Africa itself, just one seems to have survived outside of the continent.
The latest genetic research has shown that it was not until around 70,000 years ago that humans were able to take advantage of falling sea levels to cross into Arabia at the mouth of the Red Sea, which is now known as the Gate of Grief.
In 2011, archaeologists working with Gamo tribesman in the highlands of southwest Ethiopia discovered Mota Cave, 14 metres wide and 9 metres high, overlooking a nearby river. A year later, they excavated a burial of an adult male, his body extended and hands folded below his chin. Radiocarbon dating suggested that the man died around 4,500 years ago — before the proposed time of the Eurasian migrations and the advent of agriculture in eastern Africa.
Advances in ancient DNA technology allow researchers to reap DNA from ever older bones, and the cool, constant temperatures of caves are kind to the molecule. So a team co-led by Ron Pinhasi, an archaeologist at University College Dublin, tested the Mota man’s bones for intact DNA and found enough to sequence his genome 12 times over1.
The man’s genome is, unsurprisingly, more closely related to present-day Ethiopian highlanders known as the Ari than to any other population the team examined, suggesting a clear line of descent for the Ari from ancient human populations living in the area. But further genetic studies show that the Ari also descend from people that lived outside Africa, which chimes with a previous study that discovered a ‘backflow’ of humans into Africa from Eurasia around 3,000 years ago. (Humans first migrated from Africa some 60,000 to 100,000 years ago.)
The man found in Mota cave is related to the Ari, modern-day Ethiopian highlanders.
Using genetic evidence from Eurasian ancient genomes and present-day populations, the researchers determined that the migrant ancestors of the Ari were closely related to early farmers who moved into Europe from the Near East around 9,000 years ago. Co-author Marcos Gallego Llorente, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Cambridge, UK, suggests that Middle Eastern farmers later moved south to Africa, bringing new crops to the continent such as wheat, barley and lentils. The team also found vestiges of these migrants’ DNA in people all across sub-Saharan Africa — probably carried by later migrations, such as the expansion of Bantu-speaking groups from West Africa to other parts of the continent around 1,000 years ago.
Genetic studies have shown that after the great migration out of Africa, which happened about 60,000 years ago, some people later returned to the continent.
But this study shows that about 3,000 years ago there was a much larger migration than had been thought.
The Neolithic farmers from western Eurasia who, about 8,000 years ago, brought agriculture to Europe then began to return to Africa.
“We know now that they probably corresponded to a quarter of the people that already lived in East Africa (at that time). It was a major backflow, a very sizeable movement of people,” said Dr Manica.
It is unclear what caused this move – potentially changes happening in the Egyptian empire – but it has left a genetic legacy.
“Quite remarkably, we see in Ethiopia about 20% – so a fifth – of the genome of people living there right now is actually of Eurasian origin, it actually comes from these farmers,” explained Dr Manica.
Pontus Skoglund knew there had to be more to the story. So the Harvard University evolutionary geneticist and his colleagues obtained DNA from 15 ancient Africans from between 500 and 6000 years ago, some before the Bantu expansion. In addition, Skoglund’s team got DNA data from 19 modern populations across Africa for comparison, including from large groups like the Bantu and smaller ones like the Khoe-San and the Hadza.
For the most part, the ancient DNA was most similar to that of people living in the same places where the bones were found, Skoglund reported. But some interesting exceptions showed intermingling among various groups. “It’s really exciting to see in Africa that there was already this ancient admixture,” says Simon Aeschbacher, a population geneticist from the University of Bern who was not involved with the work. “There must have been population movements in early Africa.”
The ancient genomes indicate that Southern Africans split off from Western Africans several thousand years ago, and subsequently evolved key adaptations that honed their taste buds and protected them from the sun. Around 3000 years ago, herders—possibly from today’s Tanzania—spread far and wide, reaching Southern Africa centuries before the first farmers. But modern Malawians, who live just south of Tanzania, are likely descended from West African farmers rather than local hunter-gatherers, Skoglund says. Indeed, the analysis suggests that West Africans were early contributors to the DNA of sub-Saharan Africans. But even these DNA donors were a hodgepodge of what are now two modern groups—the Mende and the Yoruba. And one ancient African herder showed influence from even farther abroad, with 38% of their DNA coming from outside Africa.
Another study focused on Southern Africa, where some researchers think modern Homo sapiens evolved. Evolutionary geneticist Carina Schlebusch and her colleagues at Uppsala University in Sweden partially sequenced seven ancient genomes: three from 2000-year-old hunter-gatherers and four from 300- to 500-year-old farmers. They also included modern DNA in their analyses.
The more modern farmers did have Bantu DNA in their genomes, but the ancient hunter-gatherers predated the spread of the Bantu, she and her colleagues reported last month on the preprint server bioRxiv. Their other findings parallel Skoglund’s discoveries: Nine percent to 22% of the DNA of these farmers’ modern descendants—including the southern Khoe-San—comes from East Africans and Eurasian herders.
Schlebusch’s analysis reaches even deeper into human history than does Skoglund’s, as her team used the ancient and modern genomes to estimate that the hunter-gatherers she studied split off from other groups some 260,000 years ago, about the age of the oldest H. sapiens fossil.
Research by geneticists and archaeologists has allowed them to trace the origins of modern homo sapiens back to a single group of people who managed to cross from the Horn of Africa and into Arabia. From there they went on to colonise the rest of the world.
Genetic analysis of modern day human populations in Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and South America have revealed that they are all descended from these common ancestors.
It is thought that changes in the climate between 90,000 and 70,000 years ago caused sea levels to drop dramatically and allowed the crossing of the Red Sea to take place.
The findings are to be revealed in a new BBC Two documentary series,The Incredible Human Journey, that traces the prehistoric origins of the human species.
Dr Peter Forster, a senior lecturer in archaeogenetics at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge who carried out some of the genetic work, said: “The founder populations cannot have been very big. We are talking about just a few hundred individuals.”