Linguistic, cultural and genetic perspectives on human diversity in west-central Africa
This chapter presents the major results of a recent multidisciplinary study of the human diversity of west-central Africa. This diversity is examined from linguistic, cultural and population genetic (mtDNA and Y chromosome) perspectives. The study offers new insights into (i) the peopling of the Cameroon-Gabon area (the so-called “Bantu expansion”), (ii) the linguistic, cultural and genetic exchanges between the various groups of Bantu-speaking farmers over the last three millennia, and (iii) the recent and ancient relationships between these populations and Pygmy hunter-gathering groups. Evidence from mtDNA diversity suggests an initial divergence of the ancestors of contemporary Pygmies from an ancestral central African population starting not earlier than ~70,000 years ago. Evidence from both mtDNA and Y-chromosome variation suggests long-standing and asymmetrical gene flow between the two types of populations.