Eur J Hum Genet 2013 Apr 15;21(4):423-9. Epub 2012 Aug 15.
The Centre for Genetic Anthropology, Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London, London, UK.
The expansion of the Bantu-speaking people (EBSP) during the past 3000-5000 years is an event of great importance in the history of humanity. Anthropology, archaeology, linguistics and, in recent decades, genetics have been used to elucidate some of the events and processes involved. Although it is generally accepted that the EBSP has its origin in the so-called Bantu Homeland situated in the area of the border between Nigeria and the Grassfields of Cameroon, and that it followed both western and eastern routes, much less is known about the number and dates of those expansions, if more than one. Mitochondrial, Y-chromosome and autosomal DNA analyses have been carried out in attempts to understand the demographic events that have taken place. There is an increasing evidence that the expansion was a more complex process than originally thought and that neither a single demographic event nor an early split between western and eastern groups occurred. In this study, we analysed unique event polymorphism and short tandem repeat variation in non-recombining Y-chromosome haplogroups contained within the E1b1a haplogroup, which is exclusive to individuals of recent African ancestry, in a large, geographically widely distributed, set of sub-Saharan Africans (groups=43, n=2757), all of whom, except one Nilo-Saharan-speaking group, spoke a Niger-Congo language and most a Bantu tongue. Analysis of diversity and rough estimates of times to the most recent common ancestors of haplogroups provide evidence of multiple expansions along eastern and western routes and a late, exclusively eastern route, expansion.