The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Ancient Swahili origins: a mitochondrial study of ancient inhabitants of the Kenyan coast

LINDSEY G. PROCTOR1, STEPHANIE MOORMAN3, KUSIMBA M. CHAPURUKHA2 and SLOAN R. WILLIAMS1.

1Anthropology, University of Illinois, Chicago, 2Anthropology, The Field Museum of Natural History, 3N/A, N/A

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Many scholars have assumed that the ancestors of the Swahili were Bantu-speaking groups who entered East Africa from the west in the closing centuries BCE; however recent archaeological evidence suggests a more complicated situation. Over four field seasons, from 2008 to 2011, thirteen burial tombs were excavated in the cemetery located next to the central mosque at the Swahili site of Mtwapa on the southern coast of Kenya. Men, women and children were buried together in the tombs, and individuals were entombed laying on their right sides, in an extended position, facing Mecca. The remains of at least 87 individuals were recovered, with an average of seven skeletons per tomb. To date, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has been extracted from the teeth of 62 of those individuals. Sequence analyses of the first Hypervariable Region (HVRI) of the control region indicate the presence of mtDNA haplotypes of both West-central and East African origin. These preliminary results show a diverse population that likely included genetic input from Bantu-speaking and nonBantu-speaking groups.

This research was funded by African Research Council and National Science Foundation (BCS 1029433) grants to Williams and Kusimba.

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