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Four Iron Age women from KwaZulu-Natal: biological anthropology, genetics and archaeological context
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Organismal Biology. (Schlebusch Lab - Human Evolution)
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2019 (English)In: Southern African Humanities, ISSN 1681-5564, Vol. 32, no 1, p. 23-56Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We report further details on four partial human skeletons from KwaZulu-Natal previously selected for genetic analysis. Dating and genetic results indicate that they derived from agriculturist communities of the mid-second millennium AD. Morphological and genetic analysis shows that three individuals were female; identification of the fourth as female comes from genetic analysis only. All four were adults at death, three older adults and one younger. Genetically, all four individuals cluster strongly with Bantu-speaking populations with West African roots, a result supported by craniometric data for the one individual with a complete and well-preserved cranium. All nevertheless display some admixture with Khoe-San populations. We show that three of the women, and probably the fourth, carried genetic resistance to the Plasmodium vivax malaria parasite, while two had some protection against Trypanosoma brucei gambiense-induced sleeping sickness. The unusual rock-shelter burial locations of three of the women suggest that their deaths required ritual ‘cooling’. Lightning and violence are possible causes. We argue that this multipronged approach is necessary for the development of detailed and nuanced understandings of the past and of the individuals who lived in the region centuries ago.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
South Africa: Council of the Natal Museum , 2019. Vol. 32, no 1, p. 23-56
Keywords [en]
Ancient DNA, Bantu-speaker expansion, Palaeopathology, Physical anthropology, Iron Age
National Category
Genetics Archaeology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-406231OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-406231DiVA, id: diva2:1412377
Available from: 2020-03-05 Created: 2020-03-05 Last updated: 2020-03-05
In thesis
1. Demographic History and Adaptation in African Populations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Demographic History and Adaptation in African Populations
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Africa is the continent where modern humans originated and yet, African demographic history remains largely unknown. Through analyzing the genetic composition of extant and extinct individuals, it is possible to reveal signals of past demographic history and adaptation. In this thesis, I applied population genetic methods to investigate both deep African history and demographic changes associated with the migrations of farmers in Africa. While Paper I and II assess the genomic landscape before the arrival farming groups, Paper III, IV and V focus on the demographic patterns associated with the emergence of various African agro-pastoral societies and how shifts in ways of subsistence resulted in different selective pressures on the genomic level. The genomes from Southern African San hunter-gatherers harbor the earliest diverging lineages and represent the first population divergence event within the modern human phylogeny. However, gene-flow from farming groups has complicated the investigation of genetic relationships between different San groups. In Paper I, I established that Southern African hunter-gatherer genetic diversity fitted an isolation-by-distance model when genomic segments that trace their ancestry to farming groups were excluded. Paper II confirmed that all extant Southern African hunter-gatherers received admixture from farming groups, through comparison with ancient DNA data from three 2,000-year-old southern African Stone Age individuals. New date estimates for the first population divergence event in the modern human phylogeny, based on the Stone Age individuals, coincided with a period in the fossil record associated with transition between archaic humans into anatomically modern humans. Paper III assesses the genetic variation of four ancient Iron Age women from current-day South Africa. I was able to further refine their genetic profiles, which were closest related to southeast Bantu-speaking farmers from current-day South Africa. In Paper IV, I propose that the emergence of pastoralism in Southern Africa arrived through a male-driven migration of East African Afro-Asiatic related groups, who introduced their pastoral subsistence practices and livestock into Southern Africa. In Paper V, I investigated the history of the Fulani population and demonstrated how a shift in subsistence practice triggered different selective pressures in the Fulani. The pastoral Fulani from the Western Sahel show relatively high frequencies of the European-associated Lactase Persistence (LP) variant. Here, I propose that the LP mutation were introduced into Fulani genomes through contact with a North African group(s) who themselves carried European admixture. Additionally, by performing the first genome wide association study (GWAS) on the lactose digestion phenotype, I confirmed the association with the MCM6/LCT locus and identified a possible association between glycemic levels after lactose intake and the SPRY2 gene. Furthermore, in addition to the LP trait, I also identified other potential signals of local adaption related to the pastoralism lifeway of the Fulani. This thesis provided further insights on how the African genomic landscape was shaped through time, influenced by the environment, interactions between different groups and adaptations to different lifeways.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2020. p. 60
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1911
Keywords
African demography, human evolutionary genetics, population structure, population admixture, genetic adaptation
National Category
Genetics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-406233 (URN)978-91-513-0889-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-04-24, Ekmansalen, EBC, Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2020-04-03 Created: 2020-03-05 Last updated: 2020-04-03

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