North & East African Results

Introduction

On this page I will be posting the AncestryDNA results for North and East Africans with confirmed ethnic background(s). Unlike for Afro-Diasporans in the Americas these results can therefore be verified with known genealogy. This should be helpful to determine how reliable/predictive the various African AncestryDNA regions might be and also how they should be interpreted. For other African AncestryDNA results see these pages:

***Chart 1 (click to enlarge)

compilnea

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In my personal estimation AncestryDNA can report valuable information about your ancestral origins as long as you correctly interpret the data and are also aware of the relevant context and inherent limitations. Still these results might appear to be “off” at first look for those not accustomed to how AncestryDNA or DNA testing in general works. Therefore please keep in mind the following disclaimers (for a more detailed discussion see the AncestryDNA and AncestryDNA Regions pages):

  • Don’t take the geographical labeling of the regions too literallyThe regional percentages firstmost signal close genetic similarity to samples taken from the areas and/or countries after which the regions have been named by AncestryDNA. Actual origins from neighbouring areas should not be ruled out.
  • Especially for North & East Africans it seems often that (very) ancient admixture rather than any recent lineage is suggested by these AncestryDNA estimates. And in this way many of these regional scores might perhaps best be seen as genetic echoes from a (very) distant past. Beyond family tales, historical knowledge or even ethnic origin traditions.
  • Ethnicity is a construct which evolves across time due to ethnogenesis. Generally speaking therefore ethnic groups do not possess unique DNA markers. Especially in comparison with neighbouring ethnic groups or from within the same wider region. The most common scenario being a genetic gradient which causes ancestral components to gradually fan out. As can be verified from chart 1 above.
  • However by closely studying the regional combinations being reported for North and East Africans we can still learn a great deal. Inspite of individual variation, group averages do tend to provide more solid ground to make meaningful inferences when specifying someone’s ancestral origins. Also finding out where a specific region is most prominent or rather most subdued holds valuable lessons.

***Chart 2 (click to enlarge)

Stats (MOR=9)

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The above statistical data is evidently based on a very minimal sample size. It can be expected that individual variarion will be much greater. Correlating with the ethnic diversity to be found in these countries. Therefore only preliminary statements can be made in their regards (see further below). The Somalian samplesize is most robust right now. And also because of a much greater ethnic homogeneity among Somali it might actually be that these group averages are already a reasonably good approximation of the main ancestral components to be found within the Somali genepool, according to AncestryDNA. Eventhough actually also two Benadiri results are included.

In the very last section of this page i will briefly discuss the implications these results might have for Afro-Diasporans. The individual results behind these group averages can be viewed via this link:

I like to thank all these North and East Africans for having tested on AncestryDNA and sharing their results online so that it may benefit other people as well!

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East African Results

As shown in chart 2 above and also as will be seen in the screenshots below socalled “Southeastern Bantu” is the most characteristical AncestryDNA region appearing for East Africans generally speaking. For Northeast Africans a.k.a. Horners this is combined with nearly equally high amounts of “Middle Eastern” and also considerable “Africa North” scores. While – depending on ethnic background – also “Cameroon/Congo” will at times be reported with high amounts for Kenyans and no doubt also Tanzanians as well as people from Ruanda and Burundi (see this video).

One immediate observation is that the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region is a misnomer for Northeast Africans. The reporting of this region is rather due to the current lack of a separate AncestryDNA region based on Nilotic or Cushitic samples. Unlike on 23andme, which does use Maasai, Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean samples for their socalled East African category. Which produces rather different results that seem to reflect a much more recent timeframe than on AncestryDNA, at least for Horners. See also this page:

However there’s no need for an overhasty dismissal because as a secondbest option this admittedly inappropriately labeled region can still provide meaningful information. I have ranked these East African results based on the amount of highest to lowest score for “Southeastern Bantu”. And despite the obviously limited number of samples an insightful pattern seems to arise already:

  • As expected “Southeastern Bantu” peaks among Ugandans & Kenyans
  • Next in line are the Somali
  • Followed by the Ethiopian and Eritrean results

Another widely dispersed and frequently mentioned region for East Africans is socalled “Africa North”. The reporting of this region should not be taken as suggestive of recent ancestry from that area for East Africans. Rather it seems to be indicating that East Africans may partially have shared origins in common with the North African Berbers.  This ancestral component possibly is derived from one of the most ancient socalled admixture events in Northeast Africa. Probably dating from many thousands years ago. While the socalled “Middle East” portion may in fact also be quite ancient for the greater part but probably was reinforced during recent historical time periods as well.

I need more samples to establish if the following pattern is indeed valid. However it seems striking that sofar the Somali results show a somewhat higher average of “Africa North” than the Ethiopian  and the Eritrean results. Even more so because the Somali combine this with lower “Middle East” and higher “Southeastern Bantu” scores.

Also noteworthy that sofar 3 Kenyans did too receive both “Africa North” and “Middle East” scores. Even when obviously more diluted than for the Horners. For most Kenyans this will in all likelyhood represent Cushitic geneflow from ancient times. Unless your family history tells you otherwise. This finding is likely to correspond strongly with ethnic background within Kenya. Actually this ancient Cushitic component has been reported already in the Tishkoff study of 2009, for their 22 Kikuyu samples it showed up as high as 31,5%! See also the supplement Table S9 of this article (p.105):

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UGANDA (Aringa, Kakwa)

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UGANDA.jpg

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The results above show an AMAZING degree of regional homogeneity, atleast when applying the AncestryDNA format. Basically this Ugandan’s DNA shows up as practically 100% genetically most similar to the samples being used to underpin the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region. I highly suspect that the 18 samples being used for the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region are actually consisting of 3 subsets of Bantu-speaking people. One group from South Africa, the second one from Namibia and the third one from Kenya (see AncestryDNA Regions and this chart for more details). Obviously given this person’s Ugandan background, it’s his genetic similarity to the Kenyan subset which is causing this extraordinary breakdown. As will also be the case for all other results shown on this page.

Seen from this perspective the results are not surprising and actually in support of the prediction accuracy of the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region. There are however other circumstances to consider. Notably that this person’s family is not linked to any Bantu speaking ethnicity but rather to Nilo-Saharan ones (Aringa & Kakwa), located in the West-Nile Region of Uganda. Also this person’s regional ancestry is described in very different terms and proportions when performing other types of DNA testing!

On 23andme for example he is being described as a combination of East and West African, with the latter being more significant even! As i blogged about previously (on this page), this is due to misleading labeling and the inclusion of Kenyan Bantu speaking samples within the socalled “West African” category on 23andme. These Kenyan Bantu samples on 23andme might even be the same ones as used by AncestryDNA. The extra addition by 23andme of Maasai and Northeast African samples within the socalled “East African” category is however rendering this person’s breakdown more complex. As he no longer shows a clearcut similarity to just one single group of samples.

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UGA

Same Ugandan’s results on 23andme

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Possibly a good lesson to take away from all this: don’t fixate too much on the labeling of DNA categories.  Rather pay attention to the samples being used as reference populations. Strictly geographically speaking Uganda is clearly within the area described by AncestryDNA for their socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region. So in this way it would be a good fit. Admittedly “Southeastern Bantu” is misleading as this person is actually of Nilotic background. But on the other hand when deciding on an appropriate name for DNA categories there will probably always be some ambigious constructs involved and some compromise will have to be made.

More useful information can be obtained  by comparing with other results of people of verified backgrounds. In this regard it is very interesting to contrast this Ugandan result with the other East African results posted further below. As it seems that this particular outcome is confirmation that the “Southeastern Bantu” component identified for Northeast Africans is in all likelyhood actually related to Nilotic(-like) DNA, as it is also for this Ugandan. Again by proxy of course 😉

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UGANDA (Northern?)

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This second result from Uganda demonstrates how one should never underestimate the genetic variation within African countries. Especially not such ethnically and linguistically diverse ones as Uganda. Therefore it is inevitable that a single AncestryDNA region will often not suffice. Compared with the first Ugandan result above the major discrepancy lies in the astonishingly high socalled “Nigeria” score. The area in between Nigeria and Uganda is vast and characterized by plentiful genetic differentiation. However due to a lack of relevant samples AncestryDNA can only apply 9 clusters of samples to describe sometimes very localized patterns of DNA. In this case it appears that (given the lack of more fitting samples) a strong similarity was detected with AncestryDNA’s Nigerian samples.

I suspect these results belong to a person with origins from northern Uganda, quite likely Acholi because of the civil war and this persons refugee history. But I do not have any certainty about his background so therefore i can really only speculate. A recent Nigerian connection seems farfetched though as it was not mentioned by this person himself. And also i am only aware of substantial Nigerian migration into northern Sudan (because of the Hajj to Mecca). A more plausible explanation to me seems that possibly a very ancient (Proto?) Bantu  affiliation is being detected. It is often assumed that the very first waves of the Bantu expansion out of eastern Nigeria first reached Uganda, while subsequently other waves went further south and departed from Cameroon. Perhaps due to this circumstance a similarity with “Nigeria” is being picked up rather than with “Cameroon/Congo”, which might represent a more recent Bantu affiliation. As can be seen further below “Cameroon/Congo” might actually be quite frequently reported for Kenyans, Tanzanians, as well as Southern Africans. Not due to any recent connection with Cameroon or Congo but just as a genetic expression of the Bantu expansion. We will have to await more Ugandan results, but if it turns out that instead for Uganda “Nigeria” will be more frequently reported as secondary region than this might constitute a very significant finding, despite the perhaps misleading labeling. For more details see also:

The 9% socalled “Hunter-Gatherer” score is equally noteworthy. It seems to be a very solid marker of possibly even relatively recent Pygmy origins. Actually the first Ugandan person also receives Pygmy scores when performing other DNA tests, but it is likely to be much more ancient for him. Lastly the 4% “Senegal” might represent the smallest amount but it is still  interesting as this trace region appears for many other Northeast Africans as well. And in fact also for the first Ugandan result.

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KENYA 

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Impressive score for “Southeastern Bantu”. Again suggesting a strong genetic similarity to the quite likely Kenyan samples being used by AncestryDNA to determine their estimates. Regrettably i do not know the ethnic background for the person behind these testresults above. However the breakdown seems rather similar to the one shown below. Especially in regards with the additional “Africa North” and “Middle East” scores. As already mentioned these components most likely represent ancient admixture from Cushitic speaking populations. Not per se even the ones nowadays living in Kenya but possibly also from the now extinct southern Cushitic groups which are assumed to have been absorbed by Bantu speaking people when they gradually migrated into Kenya, thousands of years ago already. See also this insightful article:

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KENYA (Kikuyu)

ken3

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These results above belong to a person who also made an excellent video sharing her results (regrettably it cannot be seen anymore). As mentioned by herself especially the 11% “Middle East” seems very noticeable. However it might not be that surprising afterall. The Kikuyu have already been featured in several DNA studies and a socalled Cushitic ancestral component has been identified for them. See also the supplement Table S9 of this article (p.105):

Given that AncestryDNA is describing Cushitic speaking Somali as a combination of “Southeastern Bantu” + “Middle East’ + “Africa North”, it is to be expected that the Kikuyu will show the same combination. But of course in diluted proportions. All of this may very well be quite ancient as it seems to be widespread among the Kikuyu. Which also may explain the phenotypical similarity at times noted between Horners and Kikuyu individuals. However this person also mentions a rather recent ancestral connection with Ethiopia on her father’s side. Also she talks about the frequent intermarriages between the Kikuyu and the Maasai. So one generalizing ancestral scenario will not rule out any additional ones from known family history but rather work mutually reinforcing.

Another fascinating aspect is the mentioning of “Mali” as most prominent Trace Region. Again the country name labeling should not be taken literally ;-). However it does seem to suggest some very ancient ancestral connections across the Sahel between West and East Africa. Interestingly “Mali” and also “Senegal” appear quite frequently among the Trace regions of Somali as well.

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KENYA (1/2 Kikuyu, 1/2 Swahili )

KEN

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Very illuminating to compare this result with the two Kenyan ones above as well as the Somali ones posted below. For everyone “Southeastern Bantu” is listed as biggest region. Also some minor “North Africa” is showing up for all. However the main distinction in the African breakdown seems to lie in the 42% “Cameroon/Congo” which is not reported at all for the Somali and only below trace level for the Kenyans. It seems to function as a more genuine Bantu proxy than “Southeast Bantu”, at least in this East African context. Very useful also to compare with the AncestryDNA results for a person from Burundi who scored 61% “Southeastern Bantu” and 38% “Cameroon/Congo” (see this video).

This might imply that this person’s ethnic background (Kikiyu and Swahili) is not a perfect match to the quite likely Kenyan samples utilized by Ancestry.com. Instead practically half of his ancestry seems to fall more in line with the samples being used for the “Cameroon/Congo” region. Of course this doesn’t signal any recent origins from those countries per se as it’s first of all a genetic affinity. Again the country name labeling of the AncestryDNA regions shouldn’t be taken too literally 😉 But still it seems quite meaningful that this outcome was obtained. As it seems to indicate some shift to the west for this person’s ancestral background. Possibly dating back to the Bantu expansion from Cameroon/Nigeria several thousands years ago already! But perhaps also to be connected with his Swahili side? The Swahili slave trade routes are known to have reached the deep interior of the Congo and also involved captives from southern countries such as Zambia, and Tanzania which were transported overland to northern Swahili ports.

Intriguingly the 3% “Middle East” might on the one hand represent some ancient affiliation as it is also for Kikuyu as well as Horners. On the other hand it could also be connected with his Swahili side, by way of Arab traders who settled and intermarried on the Swahili coast. In this case it could be pretty recent and deriving from within a genealogical timeframe of about 100/1000 years.

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TANZANIA (1/2 Tanzanian & 1/2 Russian)

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This person is only half Tanzanian and i do not know her ethnic background within Tanzania. Still it’s very illuminating to see this breakdown. Her Russian side is described very accurately by AncestryDNA. As her European amount is nearly 50% we can deduce that most likely the trace amounts of West Asian as well as Asia are inherited by way of her Tanzanian father. And this might hint at a (partial) Swahili background. We can furthermore confirm that indeed also for Tanzanians it seems that “Cameroon/Congo” can show up in significant proportions. Even when as expected “Southeastern Bantu” is primary. Also very interesting to see the 3% “South-Central Hunter-Gatherers” which is most likely an ancient Pygmy component but possibly also related with the intriguing Sandawe people as well as Hadza people of Tanzania. Both of these groups speak a socalled click language and also because of other reasons they are sometimes assumed to be (distantly) connected to the Khoi-San people from Southern Africa. Eventhough it seems that genetically speaking all of these groups are quite distinctive in their own right. For more details see:

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tan1

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SOMALIA

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All of these following Somali results are basically showing a combination of “Southeastern Bantu” + “Middle East” + “Africa North”. There is no proper Northeast African category yet on Ancestry.com, (unlike on 23andme, see this page). Therefore it is good to realize that the ancestral makeup of Northeast Africans will be described by proxies. No doubt “Southeastern Bantu” becomes the default “SSA” category for Horners because “Southeastern Bantu” represents the least genetically distant SSA cluster for Northeast Africans on AncestryDNA. As already explained this is because of an absence of Nilotic (Maasai) samples among the reference populations used by AncestryDNA. Generally speaking it won’t refer to actual Bantu ancestry despite the name. Even if in fact this might still be a possibility for a subset of Somalians (the socalled Somali Bantu being a minority group). Otherwise it will just be an artefact of the limited dataset used by AncestryDNA. I believe that the HGDP database was used by Ancestry.com to underpin their “Southeastern Bantu” region.

Unfortunately i am not aware of the ethnic background of the 12 Kenyan samples in the HGDP database, beyond that they are being described as “Bantu NE” (see this overview).  The 98% score for this region as obtained by an Ugandan of Nilotic descent does however already seem to indicate that not only genetic closeness with strictly Bantu speaking people is being measured. Either way it is obvious that the sampling for this region needs to be improved in order to produce “ethnicity estimates” which are better equipped to reflect a person’s most recent ancestry instead of partially also (very) ancient migrations. Even if this information in itself can actually also be valuable (when interpreted correctly).

The Trace Regions being reported are bound to have lower confidence level but might still offer helpful clues as well. Based on its group average sofar (2.3%, see chart 2) “Senegal” is likely to be the least distant SSA cluster after “Southeastern Bantu”. Which might hint at very ancient shared origins due to (possibly Nilo-Saharan) population movements across the entire Sahel, unrelated to any Bantu migrations. Also the maximum score of 3% for the socalled “Hunter Gatherers” region (see chart 2)  might possibly be hinting at very ancient Horner connections with the Khoi-San or related people (see this paper from 2012, and this one from 2014.).

For more background information on Northeast African genetics see these insightful blogs:

The following results have been ranked from highest to lowest score for the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region. Despite some variation actually these results are quite similar. Confirming the generally high degree of homogeneity among modernday Somali despite (very) ancient admixture events.

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SOMALIA (Somali)

SOM15

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SOMALIA (Somali)

SOM4

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SOMALIA (Somali)

som5

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SOMALIA (Somali)

som10

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SOMALIA (Somali)

som7

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SOMALIA (Somali)

som8

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SOMALIA (Somali)

SOM2a

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SOMALIA (Somali)

SOM 3

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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Sofar this is the only Somali result showing a third African region above trace level. It seems no coincidence that it should be “Senegal”, as this region also appears frequently as Trace region. Aside from some very ancient signal (yet to be determined), i suppose at this increased level it could also possibly be traced back to a modernday connection with the Fula. Although from what i know the Fula are only present in Sudan and Eritrea.

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SOM6

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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som13

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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som14

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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Take note of the Trace Regions, not only the 4% “Mali” but also especially the 3% “South Central Hunter-Gatherers” is very fascinating.

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Som

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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The result below shows the lowest amount for “Southeastern Bantu” sofar, reported for an ethnic Somali. Also it is the only Somali result sofar which has “Middle East” as predominant region within the whole breakdown. It might possibly be due to some recent family connection with Yemen, but also other explanations might be valid. Amazingly the exact same regional scores are being reported for an Eritrean below!

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som9

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SOMALIA (Banaadiri/Bravanese)

som11

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These results belong to a person who is also from Somalia but with a background of mixed ethnic minority descent. Hailing from southern coastal cities which traditionally were characterized by much more cosmopolitan demographics than the homogenous nomadic Somali clans. We can instantly recognize the Indian Ocean connections by looking at the very significant  Asian proportion being reported (Pacific Islander to be included as Indians will also show this region). Otherwise however his mix is quite similar to what would be reported for an ethnic Somali. However it might very well be that the socalled “Southeastern Bantu” amount is this time including genuine Bantu origins. Also the Middle East component might this time include much more recent Arab ancestry (Omani/Yemeni) than what would be usual for ethnic Somali. For whom generally speaking this component dates back mostly from a much more ancient even prehistorical timeperiod. It would be insightful to know if this person’s DNA matches are also reflecting these more recent connections with both the Arab peninsula and Bantu speaking East Africa. See also:

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ETHIOPIA

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Sofar there are only a few Ethiopian results i have seen (see the video section for additional results). As expected they are somewhat intermediate in between the Eritrean and Somali results. However Ethiopia as a whole should display a much greater range of genetic diversity. Interestingly sofar the socalled “Africa North” regional scores are a bit subdued compared with the Somali results above.

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eth1

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ETHIOPIA (Tigray)

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These ethnicity estimates below show the lowest “Southeastern Bantu” as well as highest “Middle Eastern” scores i have seen sofar for Horners. Perhaps not all too surprising given that this person’s family originates from the northern highlands of Ethiopia in the Tigray region close to the Eritrea border.  Fascinating that the “Africa North” amount seems to be not really correlated. Rather it seems like a consistent component, which is probably tellingly more pronounced among Somali than Ethiopians and Eritreans sofar.

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eth2

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ERITREA

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I have seen two Eritrean results sofar (second one can be seen in the video section), and on average they show the lowest level of “Southeastern Bantu” as well as highest level of “Middle East”, compared with other Horners. Given Eritrea’s geographical location this could perhaps already be expected. However it should be pointed out that among Horners there will be a great deal of overlap inspite of diverging group averages.

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Eritrea

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North African  Results

As the samplesize for my North African results is still extremely limited in number i will of course refrain from making any conclusive statements. Especially given the expected much wider range of genetic diversity to be found across North Africa and also within each separate country. Still i would like to already make some preliminary remarks:

  • In clear contradiction to AncestryDNA’s regional description, native North Africans do not show predominant “Africa North” scores sofar, on average.  And certainly not 100%! The highest score sofar being “only” 55%. This is most likely to do with the Mozabite samples from AncestryDNA’s reference panel not being fully representative.
  • This socalled “Africa North” region should still however be a good indicator of Berber ancestry for North Africans, even when possibly not covering all of it. Because as expected it peaks among Maghrebis, and especially Moroccans. While sofar “Africa North” seems to be most subdued among Egyptians.
  • The European scores being reported are likely to represent a complex mixture of both recent (within a timespan of 500 years) as well as much more ancient ancestral connections and/or genetic similarities with in particular the Iberian Peninsula but also other parts of the Mediterranean (as measured by socalled “Italy/Greece”). It would be wise to remain cautious or even sceptical when considering the socalled European scores of North Africans. Unless you have valid family history to back these scores up within a genealogically relevant timeframe (such as Andalusian / Morisco refugee ancestry) .
  • This also goes for the socalled “Middle East” amounts being reported. Undoubtedly this region will correlate strongly with genuine Arab or rather West Asian origins. However because the Berbers themselves hail from West Asia originally, it could very well be that also very ancient (pre-Arab conquest) connections might be included in socalled “Middle East” scores as well. Although probably to a minor degree. For Tunisians also Phoenician origins will probably be described (in minor proportion) by this region.
  • The prevalence sofar of minor “Senegal” and “Mali” scores as additional African regions for Mahrebi’s is as expected given the well known historical connections between Upper Guinea as well as the Sahel region and especially Morocco. It serves as a confirmation of the predictiveness of these regions. Interestingly the southern Tunisian result shows a more complex breakdown, which however again is in line with the more diverse documented (slave) trade routes for that country. The same goes for the minor “Southeastern Bantu” scores for Egyptians which are also in line with both geography and history. Even when the labeling will be a misnomer and Nilotic speaking origins rather than Bantu speaking ones are far more plausible.

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MOROCCO (Atlas Berber, Ouarzazate)

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MOROCCO

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MOR8

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MOROCCO

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MOROCCO (Casablanca)

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MOROCCO 

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MOROCCO (?)

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MOROCCO (Kenitra)

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MOROCCO (Kenitra, possibly 1/2)

This is the most distinctive Moroccan result i have seen sofar. The African breakdown is dominated by the Upper Guinean regions of “Mali” and Senegal”. A very nice illustration of the primary West African lineages to be found in the Moroccan genepool. Obviously these West African lineages will still be minor compared with North African and other West-Eurasian DNA for most Moroccans. Also interestingly this person appears to be half Jewish. Moroccan Jews used to be a rather large minority, however almost all have migrated to Israel. I have no confirmation however if this person’s Jewish side is indeed Moroccan as well. The African breakdown should be inherited solely by way of a Moroccan parent though.

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mor3

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ALGERIA

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Very similar to the Moroccan results shown above. The African breakdown consisting of mainly “Africa North”. With minor but sizeable chunks of “Senegal” and “Mali”. Also again the “Middle Eastern” and “European” scores being nearly equal. Unless based on confirmed genealogy i would assume these last two scores to mostly reflect ancient migrations of a whole range of different peoples and not any recent family ties with these regions per se.

Again to repeat myself it is counterproductive to get distracted by the country name labeling. Rather consider the AncestryDNA regions to be proxies of ancestral components which have become more frequent in certain places but still show a wide dispersal in neighbouring areas as well due to ancient migrations and inter-ethnic unions occurring probably since the dawn of mankind!

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ALGERIA (Berber)

ALG2

Again basically a breakdown very similar to the Moroccan ones. Interestingly these results belong to a person who self-identifies as Berber/Amazigh. He also made an excellent video which can be seen further below in the video section or also by following this link. His other African regions are:  4% “Senegal”; 4% “Benin/Togo; and <1% "Southeastern Bantu".

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TUNISIA 

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tun2

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These results belong to a person who also made an excellent video sharing her results. It can be seen further below in the video section or by following this link. Tunisia is usually named as the most Arab influenced country within the Maghreb. Especially culturally so. However genetically speaking it might be a different story as these results seem to reflect Tunisia’s long history in all its aspects. Including the Arabization period but also going beyond into the Roman Empire as well as Carthago and the Phoenicians. And ultimately of course the still very noticeable Berber foundation. It is really striking to see how this breakdown ended up in an almost even contribution from the primary influences on how Tunisia evolved into its own mélange so to speak.

The 24% “Africa North” is really not that low when compared with the Moroccan results i have seen sofar.  And it’s indicative that the native bloodlines of Tunisia still live on, at least genetically so. The “Middle East” score no doubt includes ancestral connections resulting from the Arab conquest. However actually it could also (partially and in addition) be traced back to the Phoenicians from Lebanon. The European scores may likewise be hailing from both recent and much more ancient even prehistorical lineages. Especially the “Iberian Peninsula” score is intriguing as Tunisia does have a recorded history of Andalusian Morisco’s settling there after having been exciled from Spain.

The 6% Senegal is minor but also fascinating. The person who did the test was not aware of any black ancestors in her family tree. However this component might very well  have been inherited  through both parents or even all 4 grandparents. As minor West African admixture is likely to be widespread in the Tunisian genepool. And probably already dating back from at least the peak period of Trans-Saharan trade, around the Middle Ages. Assumptions about the nature of this admixture should be cautious as several ancestral scenario’s might be valid at the same time. Not only enslaved West Africans arrived in Tunisia but also traders/travellers of full or partial West African descent (such as the Tuareg) might have introduced these bloodlines into Tunisia.

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TUNISIA (southern region)

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TUN

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This result is very special as it belongs to a person with family origins from the southern parts of Tunisia and representing a minority of fellow Tunisians who are of predominant Sub Saharan African (SSA) backgrounds. Many of them (but not all!) are in some way connected to the history of Trans Saharan slave trade. And therefore can trace back (parts) of their ancestry to places further south of the Sahara. Although in fact this person’s Maghrebi background is clearly showing in the 11% “Africa North” and even more so the 26% “Middle East”. It is these two non-SSA components which make this person’s composition easily distinguishable from Afro-Diasporans in the Americas. As they will usually show minor European,  Amerindian or even Asian regions in addition.

However looking only at the SSA part of the breakdown it is remarkable how the wide range of African regions is reminiscent of results of Afro-descendants in the Americas. Eventhough “Nigeria” stands out with about half of the total African amount (37/73=50%), also “Southeastern Bantu” and “Senegal” (to be combined with “Mali”) are very much present. It is tempting to imagine these regions as representing the three major known sources of African captives for North Africa:

  • southern Niger/northern Nigeria, including but not perse limited to Hausa speakers. The fact that “Nigeria” stands out for this Tunisian is perhaps not so surprising as geographically this region would be nearest by when following the route by way of Ghadames, towards the southernmost tip of Tunisia.
  • Chad or even Sudan and other countries further east, involving mostly Nilo-Saharan speakers (who don’t have a separate region yet on AncestryDNA and therefore “Southeastern Bantu” acts as a proxy for their DNA markers, see also the Ugandan result posted earlier).
  • Senegal/Mali, a.k.a. the western Soudan, both Mandé speakers and Atlantic speakers, incl. the Fula. Probably more common as a source of SSA origins among Algerians and especially Moroccans as can be seen in the results above. But still also for Tunisians apparently.

The purely Sahelian connections being implied seem to be confirmed also by the notable absence of any “Ivory Coast/Ghana”, “Benin/Togo” and “Cameroon/Congo”. These regions more likely to represent coastal origins, which are instead very much present among Afro-Diasporans in the Americas.

For more background info see also:

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TransSaharan

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As a sidenote it is also interesting to mention that this person has taken numerous DNA tests: AncestryDNA, 23andme, DNA Tribes, FTDNA, DNA Land, MacDonald, Ged Match etc.. And his African regional origins were described in quite different proportions by other DNA testing companies. Serving as a warning not to take these percentages, nor the geographical labeling at facevalue! Even when it may be assumed that some of these results will be closer to the truth than others.

  • SSA: 62% on AncestryDNA, 66,7% on 23andme; 67,8% on DNA Tribes; 73% on FTDNA
  • North Africa (or equivalent categories): 11% on AncestryDNA, 26% on 23andme; 5% on DNA Tribes; 12% on FTDNA
  • East Africa (or equivalent categories): 13% on AncestryDNA, 7,9% on 23andme (unphased); 31,2% on DNA Tribes; 29% on FTDNA

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LIBYA (Arab)

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LIB1

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Very interesting breakdown of a Libyan of most likely Arab descent.  She also made an excellent video which can be seen in the video section (along with a second Libyan result) or also directly by way of this link. The predominant score of  75% “Middle East” and the rather subdued “Africa North” amount of 13% are very similar to the Egyptian results further below. However the African breakdown is more diverse. Aside from the 4% Mali this person also received 3% Cameroon/Congo, 1% Benin Togo, 1% Senegal, 1% Africa Southeastern Hunter Gatherers and less than 1% Ivory Coast Ghana. Especially the 3% Cameroon/Congo is intriguing as this is the highest score sofar i have seen for this region as reported for North Africans. Libya, like Tunisia, is somewhat in between the Maghreb and Egypt when it comes to Trans-Saharan trading routes (see map above) and therefore perhaps a greater Sub-Saharan African diversity should not be surprising.

EGYPT

Egyptians can be expected to show a great deal of variation, especially going from north to south. Still it is probably already telling that the “Middle East ” scores are truly predominating sofar. While the “Africa North” scores are in the same range as those reported for Somali. The sofar minor but still consistent “Southeastern Bantu” scores are as expected and in line with Egypt’s geographical location in Northeast Africa.  For this person directly below (who is mostly likely Muslim) it is a rather considerable amount above trace level. Also noteworthy the 8% socalled “European Jewish”. This score actually only measures genetic similarity to the Jewish samples within AncestryDNA’s reference panel. It’s most likely suggestive of distant Jewish origins from among Egypt’s own Jewish population. Or it may simply just be a case of genetic overlap caused by shared origins.

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egy4

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EGYPT

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Again a combination of “Africa North” and “Southeastern Bantu” scores above tracelevel. Interesting that “Senegal” and “Mali” should be mentioned as Trace regions. It might possibly be hinting at distant family origins directly from the western Sahel or by way of the Maghreb.

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egy3

EGYPT

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A very striking African breakdown because this time “Southeastern Bantu” is absent while “Mali” is predominant along with the expected “Africa North”. Even more so than the previous result i would say this hints at western Maghrebi connections. The minor yet more pronounced appearance of European Traceregions also would point in that direction. Although to be clear i do not have any knowledge about this person’s background besides being Egyptian. And other ancestral scenario’s might also be valid. For what it’s worth the 72% “Middle East” and the 11% “Africa North” are perfectly in line with the other Egyptian results sofar.

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egy5

EGYPT

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Very similar to the breakdown directly above. Same comments apply, except that in this case i do know that the person behind the results is Muslim.

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EGY6

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EGYPT (Copt)

Very fascinating to see these two Coptic results from Egypt which are nearly identical. The African breakdown (excl. “Africa North”) is rather minimal, compared with the previous results. It should be pointed out though that Egyptians as a whole as well as the Copts themselves will display much more variation!

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egy2

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EGYPT (Copt)

egy1

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Youtube Videos

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TANZANIA

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SOUTH SUDAN (?)

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SUDAN (Arab)

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SUDAN (Arab)

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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SOMALIA (Somali)

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ERITREA (Tigrinya)

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ETHIOPIA

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ETHIOPIA

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ETHIOPIA (Harari) 

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ALGERIA

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ALGERIA

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TUNISIA

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MOROCCO (Marrakech) 

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MOROCCO (starts at 10m:00s) 

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LIBYA

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LIBYA

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EGYPT

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Implications for Afro-Diasporans

***(click to enlarge)

***Chart 3 (click to enlarge)

HGDP database incl. Namibian samples (“Bantu S.W.”= Southwestern Bantu)

***Chart 4 (click to enlarge)

diaspora-comp-seb-br-n12

***Chart 5 (click to enlarge)

TAST - all - percentagesa

Source: Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database 2016 (http://www.slavevoyages.org)

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I will eventually provide a follow up to this page. I will then focus in greater detail on the implications for Afro-Diasporans looking into possible origins from either North or East Africa. Right now I will however already point out the following. Unless guided by wishful thinking or delusional ideology it is advisable to be very mindful of “false positives”That is DNA results which on first sight seem to suggest North or East African origins to some degree. But on closer and more critical inspection they actually are referring to much widerranging origins, including also West and Central Africa or the Iberian Peninsula. Usually this occurs because of ambigious phrasing or inadequate sampling by DNA companies but it is also caused by incorrect interpretation and having insufficient knowledge about the relevant context as well as inherent limitations of DNA testing.

Various and at times mutually exclusive ancestral scenarios will be implied by AncestryDNA results. All depending on your own family history and especially the population history of the ethnic group you belong to. The socalled “Southeastern Bantu” regional score being reported for an Eritrean will trace back to an entirely different set of ancestors than for let’s say a Jamaican. Also the timeframe implied will be vastly different. For Afro-Diasporans looking to reconnect with their true African origins only a period of atmost 500 years will be relevant. While for Northeast Africans the implied admixture event from the AncestryDNA breakdowns most likely is to be traced back many thousands of years ago!

Afterall also Southwestern Bantu origins, especially from Angola, might be referred to by this socalled “Southeastern Bantu” region. As can be seen in the map above and also the fact that this region is most likely based on Bantu speaking samples from not only Kenya and South Africa but also Namibia, which is a neighbouring country for Angola! This can be verified from the overview of the HGDP database (chart 3) which according to Ancestry’s own information was utilized for their reference panel (see AncestryDNA Regions for sources).

Another strong indication of southwestern rather than southeastern Bantu origins being prevalent for Diasporans (in the Americas)  has been established during my ongoing survey among Afro-descended nationalities. In which sofar socalled “Southeastern Bantu” reaches its highest average level among  Brazilians followed by the Mexicans. Both countries having an undeniably well attested historical connection with Angola! Furthermore, as can be verified from chart 5, Central Africa, incl. Angola, would be much more significant as a potential place of origin than Southeast Africa for practically all parts of the Americas. While for East African countries further up north (the socalled “Swahili Coast”) barely any documented evidence seems to exist1.. See also these useful map pages:

It is good to keep all of this in mind as the DNA testing science is still in full development and personal DNA-test results will be imperfect and preliminary. Any outcomes seemingly suggestive of East African ancestry among Afro-Diasporeans should therefore be evaluated critically in order to rule out any false positives. See below claims of Kenyan ancestry by an African American politician and how they were received by Kenyans (rather similarly to the claims of Zulu ancestry by Oprah Winfrey):

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However this still doesn’t rule out the possibility that in some atypical and individual cases the ancestral connection with East Africa as detected by DNA testing might be genuine afterall. Even if greatly diluted and probably only referring to the hinterland of the socalled Swahili Coast (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda). For an excellent research on this topic as well as refreshing discussion see:

As a final remark for now i like to mention that obviously it is a completely different story for Afro-Diasporans living in Asia. Due to slave trade routes as well as regular migrations across the Indian Ocean or the Red Sea they in fact do have meaningful and substantial ancestral connections with East Africa. See also this wonderful website:

***(click to enlarge)

***Chart 5 (click to enlarge)

North Africa

***(click to enlarge)

Fula

AncestryDNA results for a person of Fula descent

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Based on DNA results as well as supported by actual historical evidence minor amounts of North African ancestry seem to be somewhat more plausible for Afro-Diasporans in the Americas than East African ancestry (to the north of Mozambique). Although often only trivial amounts are being reported, if at all. And actually it is only Cape Verdeans and Hispanic Americans who tend to get the most noticeable socalled North African scores. As can be seen in the above chart taken from my Diaspora Comparison survey.

Again it is vital to understand that the genetic relationship between the Iberian Peninusula and North Africa is extremely complex and goes far beyond the usual sensationalist Moorish conquest stories. In many cases any “North African” percentage might actually have been inherited from a person who considered himself fully Spanish or Portuguese.

In addition there’s also a second ancestral scenario which involves Sahelian populations, and in particular the Fula, who also carry socalled North African genes in minor proportion. And in this way may have been the direct African ancestor behind any minimal North African score for an Afro-Diasporan. Although generally speaking this Sahelian scenario will most likely be much less relevant than the Iberian scenario. See also:

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Notes

  1. Based on the records available in the standard reference database of the Slave Voyages website this East African share in Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade might be less than 0.1% (=6324/6709327). Comparing the total number (6,324) of disembarked captives for Kilwa, Zanzibar and Mombasa, all Swahili ports to the north of Mozambique, with the total number of disembarked captives from Southeast Africa (308,775, overwhelmingly from Mozambican ports with main destination being Brazil) and all of Africa (6,709,327). Naturally all of this is according to what has been documented and excluding voyages with unknown itineraries, obviously the estimates will be higher.

***(click to enlarge)

TAST (Swahili ports, numbers, destinations specified)

Source: Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database 2016 (http://www.slavevoyages.org)

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3 gedachten over “North & East African Results

  1. I’d agree more so with your idea of an uncommon “Nigerian” affinity being found outside of the Ancestry DNA reference populations used for “South-Eastern Bantu”. This seems more likely since the Nigerian affinity is so exclusively substantial without any accompanying traces of Cameroon/Congo/Togo/Benin clusters that we’ve observed with others of Bantu descent. The lack of these aforementioned typical Bantu clusters in contrast to the detection of a Senegalese affinity, might sway in favour of a northern sahelian connection.

    Perhaps there shouldn’t be surprise of contrasting Nilotic-Ugandan results, here’s a Ugandan ethnographic map which might be foretelling of the diversity and variations to be found in the results of other future Ugandan participants.

    Regarding the surprisingly higher than average Hunter Gatherer %, I think this affinity might be related to the presence of Eastern Hunter Gatherers like the Benet more so than one of a Pygmy Hunter Gatherer(*it would do DNA companies justice to have separate clusters for these different HG affinities). The Benet can be found in North-eastern Uganda and apparently have been considered a marginalized population; I found a paper regarding their displacement from ancestral forests being chopped down. I wouldn’t doubt the range of these forest borders were continuously encroached for centuries since Bantu and later Nilotic migrations first arrived in Uganda. I didn’t know pockets of EHGs still existed in Uganda, let alone that we had indigenous resettlement issues akin to native communities in the Americas.

    Moreover, seeing as you mentioned the person’s family being recent refugees, the North would be a natural choice given the LRA uprisals within the ethnic Acholi/Luo areas.

    Thanks again for all your hard work on the blog, it’s been a great source of research for me.

    Liked by 1 persoon

    • Thanks a lot for taking the time to write down your thoughtful comment! I am truly glad that my blog can be useful and also be instrumental in piquing people’s interest to do their own additional research. I had never heard about the Benet people before! Very fascinating.

      Like

    • Hi Ben,

      You might be interested to know that i have added two Sudanese results in the video section. Intriguingly the South Sudanese breakdown has yet again a hefty socalled “Nigeria” score of 21%, as well as some minimal but still detectable 3% “Senegal”. But like you mentioned for the Ugandan she likewise doesn’t score any additional “Benin/Togo” or “Cameroon/Congo” amounts, Which makes any genuine Nigerian affinity unlikely (as their DNA, atleast for southerners, is usually described as a combination of these two regions + “Nigeria”, see Nigerian AncestryDNA results). I am inclined to think this outcome is rather reflecting some sort of Chadic pull but only additional sampling from this area might clarify.

      In contrast the Sudanese Arab does not seem to score any “Nigeria” with the mislabeled “Southeastern Bantu” being predominant on her African side as well as some secondary “Africa North”. In fact it looks like a Horner breakdown. The South Sudanese also has some minor Middle East + Africa North btw, but i am not sure if this represents a widelyspread ancestral element for the South Sudanese in general or rather that it is to be traced back to one particular recent ancestor in her familytree (she mentions a grandfather).

      Like

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