The prehistoric Khoesan relationship with the modern population of southern Africa using biological distance

Lander, Stacey Lee
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The population history of southern Africa is complex, especially with regard to the relationships between the indigenous Khoesan peoples and the migrating Bantu-speakers. Previous genetic, archaeological and bioanthropological studies suggested interactions between them, especially during the last 2,000 years. Current genetic research highlights the genetic distinctness of the Khoesan and their admixture with other South African populations, but their early population dynamics have not been fully investigated. This project used biodistance analyses to explore population interactions through time and over geographical space in southern Africa. This included Smith’s Mean Measure of Divergence statistic for cranial nonmetric and dental nonmetric data, as well as R-matrix theory for the dental metric data. Samples included skeletal specimens of Later Stone Age (n=303), Iron Age (n=105), modern Khoesan peoples (n=261) and modern Bantu-speakers (n=176). Two different groups of modern Khoesan individuals were also analysed, which incorporated known-in-life crania (n=24) and dental casts of living individuals (n=237). Substantial admixture was identified in the cranial and dental samples of modern Khoesan, with indications of both prehistoric and recent interactions with Bantu-speaking groups. The prehistoric cranial comparisons indicate the genetic exchanges began prior to 2,000 BP, with the levels of interaction increasing over time according to both the cranial and dental results. This suggests the migrating Bantu-speakers may have assimilated with other Later Stone Age groups in central Africa, implying that the morphology of the Iron Age groups may have already reflected their Khoesan admixture upon arrival in southern Africa. Once settled, these Iron Age peoples mainly interacted with those Later Stone Age groups in close geographical proximity (according to the cranial and dental results), while the more mobile Later Stone Age groups, from more distant geographical regions, show less interaction with the Iron Age peoples. Finally, differing from previous dental research, the cranial results of this study revealed two distinct geographical areas of similarity for the Later Stone Age samples
A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Health Sciences, School of Anatomical Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 2020