The so-called "Bushmen" peoples live in a completely different part of Africa than the Pygmies, centered in the Kalahari desert region of southwestern Africa, between Botswana and Namibia, though they are thought to have, at one time, been the dominant population of southern Africa as a whole. I've already commented on the striking similarity between their musical style and that of the various Pygmy groups in various posts on this blog. To refresh your memory (or if you're new), I'll refer you to Post 7, which contains links to specific audio clips from both groups along with a fairly extensive description of what I've come to call "Pygmy/Bushmen" style (P/B).
Already in 1956, Gilbert Rouget, then director of the Ethnomusicology program at the Musee de l'Homme, in Paris, prophetically wrote:
If, as it is traditional to do, one should consider the Pygmies and the Bushmen as belonging to two races entirely distinct, how can one explain the troubling relationship between their music and their dances? It cannot be a phenomenon of convergence, the resemblances constituting a system too complex and too coherent to allow for an explanation of this order. A reciprocal influence is also to be rejected, being given the distance as much geographic as climatic which separates the ones from the others. Is it necessary to believe, then, that the Pygmies and Bushmen are of common stock, and that their dance and music represent the remainder of a common cultural heritage?Rouget's comments were published along with an LP record (currently out of print) directly comparing examples of the music of a Pygmy group, the BaBinga, and a much studied Bushmen group, the !Kung (now usually referred to as Ju'/hoansi), known for their adherence to what appeared to be a very traditional, possibly even "stone-age," lifestyle, and their unusual language, featuring many different types of click consonants (the ! in the name !Kung stands for one such click-type). I won't get into the details of the "great Kalahari debate" concerning the history of these peoples, as this has already been extensively covered both in this blog (see Table of Contents, above) and my paper on this topic. However, I do want to share with you some of the very compelling genetic evidence, which has led many to conclude that both the Ju'/hoansi Bushmen and most of the Pygmy groups do in fact have "pedigrees" linking them quite strongly to some of our earliest ancestors.
In a recent paper dealing with the genetic relationships among various African click-speakers, Sarah Tishkoff et al. present the following chart, based on those "haplogroups" (related sets of genetic markers) closest to the root of the mtDNA phylogenetic tree:
(As with most of the other images presented on this blog, you'll get a larger and much clearer picture by right-clicking and selecting "Open link in new window.")
The uppermost row lists each of the most important haplogroups, with those representing the deepest (thus oldest) branches to the left. The leftmost column lists the various African populations studied, grouped according to language family.
The first four haplogroups, labeled LOd, LOk, LOf and LOa, are, as you can see, offshoots from the leftmost branch of the tree. Under the first column, LOd, among the most ancient of surviving human mtDNA haplogroups, the !Kung Bushmen are represented by fully 96% of their sample. The groups listed under the names !Xun/Khwe and !Xun are also represented by large percentages, 61 and 51 respectively. Since !Xun is actually a variant spelling of !Kung, I'm assuming the two groups probably represent two nearby villages with essentially the same language and culture, with !Xun/Khwe representing a mixed sample of !Xun and Khwe speakers. Together, the !Kung, !Xun and !Xun/Khwe are the only Bushmen groups in the sample, though the other two "Khoisan" speakers, Hadza and Sandawe, are also hunter-gatherers. Note that no other population on the list is represented by more than 5% of its sample for this haplogroup. Moving to the next, LOk, we see that this haplogroup, also among the oldest on the tree, is found only among the three closely related Bushmen groups.
Moving down to the next language family, Niger-Kordofanian (of which the very widespread Bantu language family is a subgroup), we find three of the Western Pygmy groups, Mbenzele, Biaka and Bakola. With only one very minor exception (2% of the !Xun sample), none of these groups share any of their haplogroups with any of the Bushmen groups. In fact the great majority of the Western Pygmy sample (97%, 77% and 100%, respectively) can be found under haplogroup L1c, stemming from a completely different branch of the mtDNA tree than LOd or LOk. And in this case also, no other group is represented in this haplogroup by more than 5% of its sample.
Moving down the first column, we see, under the Nilo-Saharan family, the sole instance of Eastern Pygmies in the sample, the Mbuti. The majority of Mbuti (55%) are represented by yet another haplogroup, L2, not found at all among the Eastern Pygmies and in only relatively small percentages among the !Xun/Khwe and !Xun (17% and 16% respectively), possibly reflecting an archaic link to a remote common ancestor. In other words, when we compare the three groups, the Bushmen, the Western Pygmies and the Eastern Pygmies, we find that each has its own distinctive haplogroup or groups that set it apart from the other two, while the great majority of the Pygmy groups cluster along completely different branches of the phylogenetic tree (L1 and L2, as opposed to LO) from all the Bushmen groups.
The only important exception to this pattern appears to be haplogroup LOa, which cuts across several groups of both hunter-gatherers and farmers. While this haplogroup could conceivably stem from a truly archaic ancestor, it is among the haplogroups whose distribution seems, in the view of the authors, largely due to relatively recent gene flow (p. 2191). Given what we know about African history, most of the gene flow in such cases can be attributed to the relatively recent (over the last few thousand years) movements of large and aggressive farming populations across vast regions of the continent (e.g., the "Bantu expansion"), and is not likely to reflect direct, face-to-face associations among the much smaller and more reclusive hunter-gatherer bands, though such a possibility cannot be completely ruled out.
Very recently, Tishkoff and her collaborators completed a truly monumental study of 121 African and African American populations, by far the most extensive and ambitious project of its kind. This time, Tishkoff concentrated on nuclear microsattelite and insertion/deletion sites, a much richer, but also more complex, set of genetic markers than the mitochondrial and Y chromosome haplotypes that have dominated earlier studies. Their findings have just been published, under the title The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans, in the journal, Science. (Unfortunately you'll need to either subscribe or pay a fee to download this article.)
Figure 1 from this paper is a remarkable "neighbor-joining" phylogenetic tree, including all populations studied, based on "D2" statistics, the technicalities of which I am completely unable to describe since, very frankly, I have no idea how they work. I've reproduced the lowest, deepest, segment of this tree below. And as before I will urge you to right-click and select "Open Link in New Window," so you can view this image properly:
Once again, the Bushmen groups, labeled in this case San and !XunKxoe, occupy the lowest, thus deepest, branch of the tree, with the Pygmy groups just above them -- though, as before, stemming from a different branch. Here again, the Eastern Pygmies, represented by the Mbuti, occupy a branch of their own, with the Western Pygmies stemming from one sub-branch, and literally the rest of the world stemming from the other.
As far as the Pygmy groups in themselves are concerned, these new results are consistent with the findings by Destro-Bisol et al. that I've already described:
Shared ancestry of western and eastern Pygmies . . . was also supported by the phylogenetic trees . . . , consistent with mtDNA and autosomal studiesAnd as far as the relation between the Pygmies and Bushmen is concerned, one of their major findings, as stated in the abstract, is as follows: "Our data also provide evidence for shared ancestry among geographically diverse hunter-gatherer populations (Khoesan speakers [i.e., Bushmen] and Pygmies)." And, even more to the point, from the body of their text:
indicating that the western and eastern Pygmies diverged >18,000 years ago (p. 1041).
The shared ancestry, identified here, of Khoesan-speaking populations with the Pygmies of central Africa suggests the possibility that Pygmies, who lostIt might interest my readers to know that the reference given for "shared music styles" is to the book Folk Song Style and Culture, by Alan Lomax et al., a reference I provided at Tishkoff's request. To my knowledge this is the first instance of a reference to the musical evidence appearing in any of the genetic literature. Hopefully it will not be the last.
their indigenous language, may have originally spoken a Khoesan-related language, consistent with shared music styles between the SAK [i.e., southern African Khoesan] and Pygmies (p. 1041).