Deep history of cultural and linguistic evolution among Central African hunter-gatherers

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Padilla-Iglesias, Cecilia; Blanco-Portillo, Javier; Pricop, Bogdan; Ioannidis, Alexander G.; Bickel, Balthasar; Manica, Andrea; Vinicius, Lucio; Migliano, Andrea Bamberg
Year of Publication: 2024
Journal: Nature Human Behavior
Date Published: 2024/05/27
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: 2397-3374

Human evolutionary history in Central Africa reflects a deep history of population connectivity. However, Central African hunter-gatherers (CAHGs) currently speak languages acquired from their neighbouring farmers. Hence it remains unclear which aspects of CAHG cultural diversity results from long-term evolution preceding agriculture and which reflect borrowing from farmers. On the basis of musical instruments, foraging tools, specialized vocabulary and genome-wide data from ten CAHG populations, we reveal evidence of large-scale cultural interconnectivity among CAHGs before and after the Bantu expansion. We also show that the distribution of hunter-gatherer musical instruments correlates with the oldest genomic segments in our sample predating farming. Music-related words are widely shared between western and eastern groups and likely precede the borrowing of Bantu languages. In contrast, subsistence tools are less frequently exchanged and may result from adaptation to local ecologies. We conclude that CAHG material culture and specialized lexicon reflect a long evolutionary history in Central Africa.

Short Title: Nature Human Behaviour