Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News



Kalahari Desert genetics and geography

07 Sep 2016
Share on Facebook

An article in - Genetics of African KhoeSan populations maps to Kalahari Desert geography - reports on the key factors influencing the genetic makeup of human groups in southern Africa; geography and ecology.

Kalahari Desert genetics and geography
Landscape of the Richtersveld Community Conservancy, South Africa. Image: Brenna Henn

As discussed in the journal Genetics, a publication of the Genetics Society of America, by investigating the ancestries of twenty-two KhoeSan groups, including new samples from the Nama and the ≠Khomani, researchers conclude that the genetic clustering of southern African populations is closely tied to the ecogeography of the Kalahari Desert region.

Fine-Scale Human Population Structure in Southern Africa Reflects Ecogeographic Boundaries 
C. Uren et al,
Genetics (2016).DOI: 10.1534/genetics.116.187369

The name KhoeSan refers to several 'indigenous populations' in southern Africa; KhoeSan people speak 'click' languages and include both hunter-gatherer groups and pastoralists. They are genetically distinct and strikingly isolated from all other African populations, suggesting they were among the first groups to diverge from the ancestors of all humans. 

A Nama man in the Richtersveld, South Africa. Image: Justin Myrick

Much scientific interest has focused on the KhoeSan as researchers try to reconstruct this early divergence; however, little genetic material was collected until the past decade.

Brenna Henn, of Stony Brook University in New York, has been studying southern African population genetics for over a decade. 

Article continues below

She states that in the past all indigenous southern Africans have been placed into a single group - often called 'Bushmen'. However, the KhoeSan includes many distinct populations. She and her team set out to explore genetic diversity between the KhoeSan groups in the area.

Genetic patterns determined by geography and language - Henn states that genetic differences between human populations are strongly correlated with their linguistic histories, and both of these factors are also linked with geography. Indeed, the ecology and geography together are likely a better explanation for the genetic differentiation between groups than either linguistic differences or method of subsistence (hunting/gathering or farming). Ecogeography is the key.

Kalahari Desert genetics and geography

The Khomani San community in the southern Kalahari Desert, South Africa. Image: Brenna Henn

Henn and her colleagues analyzed genetic information from the KhoeSan. They collected genome-wide data from three south African populations: the Nama, the ≠Khomani San, and the South African Coloured (SAC) group. Their analysis also included samples from 19 other southern African populations. The research revealed that the geography of the Kalahari Desert was closely tied to the population structure. The outer rim of the Kalahari Desert presented a barrier to genetic mixing, while populations that live within the Kalahari basin mixed more freely.

This meant a more complex history for the KhoeSan populations than originally thought. Rather than a north-south divergence pattern, five primary ancestries were identified in the region, based on a geographically complex set of migration events responsible for the heterogeneity.

Despite research restrictions -  there were more KhoeSan populations who were not sampled due to difficulties such as complex politics of the region in the post-Apartheid era - the strands of information such as linguistics, subsistence, geography, genetics and archaeology are providing a greater understanding of the genetic makeup of human groups in southern Africa, even if they are not always easily reconciled. Henn states that to fully understand the huge amount of diversity in southern Africa populations - the groups speak differently, look distinct, and have divergent genetic histories - much more research is required.

Visit the South Africa Rock Art Archive:


** Like Page below to receive our articles on Facebook **
23 May 2017
24 Jan 2017
Bradshaw FoundationAboutiShopBook ReviewSite MapMailing ListDonateFacebookTwitterContact
If you have enjoyed visiting this section of the website please consider adding a link
Bradshaw Foundation © MMXI
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation