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Journal Article

The Myth of the East African 'Bushmen'

Alan G. Morris
The South African Archaeological Bulletin
Vol. 58, No. 178 (Dec., 2003), pp. 85-90
DOI: 10.2307/3889305
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3889305
Page Count: 6
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The Myth of the East African 'Bushmen'
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Abstract

Recent genetic studies of living African peoples have suggested that the KhoiSan in particular are of very ancient stock and that they share some ancient genetic features with living East Africans. Archaeological and linguistic evidence for an ancient KhoiSan presence in East Africa has been used to support these arguments. A re-examination of the archaeological evidence does not support this stance. In particular, the bulk of the osteological evidence for KhoiSan presence in East Africa is flawed because it is drawn from a typological context where individual osteological features were interpreted as KhoiSan and the total morphological pattern was not considered. More recent studies of archaeological specimens and living East Africans have not confirmed any KhoiSan linkage with East Africa. Linguistic evidence is also equivocal and the clicks found in East Africa may represent the remains of ancient linguistic phonemes rather than remnants of KhoiSan languages. Without the support of archaeological and linguistic evidence, the genetic similarities of East and South Africans should be seen as a more distant commonality of underlying genetic features of all Africans rather than a specific KhoiSan genetic identity. (The terminology used in this paper conforms to that of Jenkins & Tobias [1977]. The spelling of KhoiSan was adopted by the session on Nomenclature of People at the Origins of Humanity Workshop at Stellenbosch in September 2002 as part of the HSRC Africa Genome Initiative.)

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