Race: The Social Construction of a Biological Reality, pt 2

Note: This post still contains a lot of oversimplification for the sake of explaining a few things.

Welcome back to our discussion of the geographic dispersion of humanity. On Tuesday, we discussed how two great barriers–the Sahara desert and the Himalayas + central Asian desert–have impeded human travelers over the millennia, resulting in three large, fairly well-defined groups of humans, the major races: Sub-Saharan Africans (SSA), Caucasians, and east Asians.

Of course, any astute motorist, having come to a halt at the Asian end of our highway, might observe that there is, in fact, a great deal of land in the world that we have not yet explored. So we head to the local shop and pick up a better map:


Our new map shows us navigational directions for getting to Melanesia and Australia–in ice age times, it instructs us, we can drive most of the way. If there isn’t an ice age, we’ll have to take a boat.

900px-oceania_un_geoscheme_-_map_of_melanesia-svgThe people of Melanesia and Australia are related, the descendants of one of the first groups of humans to split off from the greater tribe that left Africa some 70k ago.

As the name “Melanesian” implies, they are quite dark-skinned–a result of never having ventured far from the equatorial zone.

Today, they live in eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and a smattering of smaller islands. (Notably, the Maori of New Zealand are Polynesians like the Hawaiians, not Melanesians, descendants of a different migration wave that originated in Taiwan.)

Fijian mountain warrior
Fijian mountain warrior with curly, “African” style hair

There is some speculation that they might have once been wider-spread than they currently are, or that various south-Asian tribes might be related to them, (eg, “A 2009 genetic study in India found similarities among Indian archaic populations and Aboriginal people, indicating a Southern migration route, with expanding populations from Southeast Asia migrating to Indonesia and Australia,”) but I don’t think any mainland group would today be classed as majority Melanesian by DNA.

They may also be related to the scattered tribes of similarly dark-skinned, diminutive people known as the Negritos:

Males from the Aeta people (or Agta) people of The Philippines, are of great interest to genetic, anthropological and historical researchers, as at least 83% of them belong to haplogroup K2b, in the form of its rare primary clades K2b1* and P* (a.k.a. K2b2* or P-P295*).[7] Most Aeta males (60%) carry K-P397 (K2b1), which is otherwise uncommon in the Philippines and is strongly associated with the indigenous peoples of Melanesia and Micronesia. Basal P* is rare outside the Aeta and some other groups within Maritime South East Asia. …

Naural blond hair
Two Melanesian girls from Vanatu (blond hair is common in Melanesian children.)

A 2010 study by the Anthropological Survey of India and the Texas-based Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research identified seven genomes from 26 isolated “relic tribes” from the Indian mainland, such as the Baiga, which share “two synonymous polymorphisms with the M42 haplogroup, which is specific to Australian Aborigines“. These were specific mtDNA mutations that are shared exclusively by Australian aborigines and these Indian tribes, and no other known human groupings.[12]

A study of blood groups and proteins in the 1950s suggested that the Andamanese were more closely related to Oceanic peoples than African Pygmies. Genetic studies on Philippine Negritos, based on polymorphic blood enzymes and antigens, showed they were similar to surrounding Asian populations.[13]

Negrito peoples may descend from Australoid Melanesian settlers of Southeast Asia. Despite being isolated, the different peoples do share genetic similarities with their neighboring populations.[13][14] They also show relevant phenotypic (anatomic) variations which require explanation.[14]

In contrast, a recent genetic study found that unlike other early groups in Malesia, Andamanese Negritos lack the Denisovan hominin admixture in their DNA. Denisovan ancestry is found among indigenous Melanesian and Australian populations between 4–6%.[15][16]

Australian Aboriginal man
Australian Aboriginal man

However, the Negritos are a very small set of tribes, and I am not confident that they are even significantly related to each other, rather than just some short folks living on a few scattered islands. We must leave them for another day.

The vast majority of Aborigines and Melanesians live in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and nearby islands. They resemble Africans, because they split off from the rest of the out-of-Africa crew long before the traits we now associate with “whites” and “Asians” evolved, and have since stayed near the equator, but they are most closely related to–sharing DNA with–south Asians (and Indians.)

So we have, here, on the genetic level, a funny situation. Melanesians are–relatively speaking–a small group. According to Wikipedia, thee are about 12 million Melanesians and 606,000 Aborigines. By contrast, Tokyo prefecture has 13 million people and the total Tokyo metro area has nearly 38 million. Meanwhile, the Han Chinese–not a race but a single, fairly homogenous ethnic group–number around 1.3 billion.

Of all the world’s peoples, Melanesians/Aborigines are most closely related to other Asians–but this is a distant relationship, and those same Asians are more closely related to Caucasians than to Aborigines.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, the diagram, because it is 1-dimensional, can only show the distance between two groups at a time, not all groups. The genetic distance between Caucasians and Aborigines is about 60 or 50k, while the distance between Asians and Caucasians is around 40k, but the distance between Sub-Saharan Africans and ALL non-SSAs is about 70k, whether they’re in Australia, Patagonia, or France. Our map is not designed to show this distance, only the distances between individual pairs.

Some anthropologists refer to Bushmen as "gracile," which means they are a little shorter than average Europeans and not stockily built
Some anthropologists refer to Bushmen as “gracile,” which means they are a little shorter than average Europeans and not stockily built

Now if we hopped back in our car and zoomed back to the beginning of our trip, pausing to refuel in Lagos, we’d note another small group that has been added to the other end of the map: the Bushmen, aka the Khoi-San people. Wikipedia estimates 90,000 San and doesn’t give an estimate for the Khoi people, but their largest group, the Nama, has about 200,000 people. We’ll estimate the total, therefore, around 500,000 people, just to be safe.

The Bushmen are famous for being among the world’s last hunter-gatherers; their cousins the Khoi people are pastoralists. There were undoubtedly more of them in the past, before both Europeans and Bantus arrived in southern Africa. Some people think Bushmen look a little Asian, due to their lighter complexions than their more equatorial African cousins.


Various Y chromosome studies show that the San carry some of the most divergent (oldest) human Y-chromosome haplogroups. These haplogroups are specific sub-groups of haplogroups A and B, the two earliest branches on the human Y-chromosome tree.[48][49][50]

Mitochondrial DNA studies also provide evidence that the San carry high frequencies of the earliest haplogroup branches in the human mitochondrial DNA tree. This DNA is inherited only from one’s mother. The most divergent (oldest) mitochondrial haplogroup, L0d, has been identified at its highest frequencies in the southern African San groups.[48][51][52][53]

I loved that movie
The late Nǃxau ǂToma, (aka Gcao Tekene Coma,) Bushman star of “The Gods Must be Crazy,” roughly 1944-2003

In a study published in March 2011, Brenna Henn and colleagues found that the ǂKhomani San, as well as the Sandawe and Hadza peoples of Tanzania, were the most genetically diverse of any living humans studied. This high degree of genetic diversity hints at the origin of anatomically modern humans.[54][55]

Recent analysis suggests that the San may have been isolated from other original ancestral groups for as much as 100,000 years and later rejoined, re-integrating the human gene pool.[56]

A DNA study of fully sequenced genomes, published in September 2016, showed that the ancestors of today’s San hunter-gatherers began to diverge from other human populations in Africa about 200,000 years ago and were fully isolated by 100,000 years ago … [57]

So the total distance between Nigerians and Australian Aborogines is 70k years; the distance between Nigerians and Bushmen is at least 100k years.

When we zoom in on the big three–Sub-Saharan Africans, Caucasians, and Asians–they clade quite easily and obviously into three races. But when we add Aborigines and Bushmen, things complicate. Should we have a “race” smaller than the average American city? Or should we just lump them in with their nearest neighbors–Bushmen with Bantus and Aborigines with Asians?

I am fine with doing both, actually–but wait, I’m not done complicating matters! Tune in on Monday for more.


Locations of the African Ethnic Groups in Haak et al’s dataset


This is the small version, which does not show all the groups. The larger version, with all the groups, is below.

Continuing my quest to produce a handy guide to the many obscure ethnic groups found in Haak et al’s dataset, here are all of the African groups I could fit on a map. Since many of these groups are extremely small and live near each other, it was impossible to fit them into their exact locations, but I hope my approximations are sufficient.

Here’s the more detailed map:


Note that there’s a ton more genetic data in the actual study; this is just a reference map. Also, “Bedouins” have an extremely broad range, from Morocco to Oman,  but I think these are the locations where these two samples were taken. Please ask if anything is unclear.

South Africa, democracy, and the dangers of demographics (part 1)

(Remember, creatives are psychotic.)
People have been bugging me to write a post on South Africa ever since I started this blog, more or less, so here you go.


I regard South Africa (SA) as one of the most misunderstood countries in the world, so I’m going to start with the history and try to clear up some potential misconceptions.

Disclaimer: I am not a South Africa scholar. This is what I’ve cobbled together by reading first and second hand accounts on the internet, Wikipedia, talking to friends who’ve lived in SA, etc. Since I’ve never been there myself, there’s always a chance that I’ve trusted the wrong people or come to some incorrect conclusions, but as always, I’ve tried to present an accurate picture.

The most common misconception I run across is that whites arrived recently in SA, conquered and oppressed the natives via apartheid and after years of righteous struggle, the native people of South Africa have finally gotten the right to vote and run their own country.


History, as usual, tells a slightly different story.

The dominant group in South Africa today is the Bantus. Nelson Mandela, for example, was a Bantu.

When the first Europeans arrived at the Cape of Good Hope (later site of Cape Town and most of the economic development of the state of South Africa,) most of the people there were Bushmen, (aka San aka KhoiSan,) who were hunter-gatherers. Not Bantus.

Southern African Rock Art

Distribution of ancient paintings and engravings attributed to the San

Modern distribution of major African language groups
Modern distribution of African languages–Bantus in orange. Note the isolated pocket of KhoiSan speakers up in Tanzania

If you believe that ancestrality determines a person’s right to a country, then the KhoiSan have a right to the Cape, and the Johnny-Come-Latey Bantus do not.

If you haven’t been reading along, you might think that the Bushmen and the Bantus are probably closely related, and that I am merely splitting hairs.

No. The Bantus are more closely related to Koreans, Australian Aborigines, and even Europeans than they are to the Bushmen.

As we’ve discussed before, the Bushmen are one of the world’s most isolated peoples, having split off from the rest of the human population, (or perhaps the rest of the humans split off from them,) 100,000 years or more ago. The Out-of-Africa event only happened 70,000 years ago, so only 70,000 years separates the Bantus from all non-Africans, but 100,000 years separate the Bantus from the San.

So. The original inhabitants of the area, who’d been there for about 100,000 years, were the San. Most of them were hunter-gatherers, which means their population density was really low; much of the area appears to have been uninhabited, given regions with names like “Nomansland”. Some of the Khoi peoples, though, had adopted animal herding.

The Bantus came originally from somewhere up near Nigeria, but by the relevant time period, occupied the north east part of South Africa, which they’d conquered from the San. (The Cape of Good Hope, where the Europeans settled, is in the south west corner. Hardly anyone has ever lived in the north west corner, because it’s desert.)

The first European in the area was Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias, (and, obviously, his crew,) way back in 1488. In 1647, the Dutch built a small fort in the area, and in 1652, the Dutch East India Company (which I wrote about recently,) set up a supply station and fortifications on the Cape. By 1659, the Dutch were producing corn, wine, and babies.

Most of the KhoiSan people were probably killed, either outright by warfare or by diseases they had no resistance to, but I have no numbers and am just speculating. There are still KhoiSan people in SA and neighboring places, so they are not all dead.

By 1800, some of the mixed-race children/descendants of the Dutch and the locals, KhoiSan, former slaves*, and the like decided they’d had enough of the Dutch and migrated northward, establishing Griqualand in an apparently uninhabited area. They migrated around a bit, and eventually Griqualand got moved to the region formerly known as Nomansland.

*The slaves were imported from elsewhere in Africa, since the Dutch considered it a bad idea to enslave the locals.

The British took possession of the Cape during the Napoleonic Wars. They promptly set about outlawing slavery and the Dutch language, so a lot of the Dutch decided to leave, too. By the 1830s, they were leaving by the hundreds, a migration known as the “Great Trek.” (There is some debate about whether outlawing slavery was actually a big deal to the Trekkers, as they tended to be the poorer folks who would have been less likely to own slaves in the first place, but I don’t know anywhere near enough history here to weigh in on the debate.)

Paths of the Great Trek
Paths of the Great Trek–note the locations of the Cape Colony in the south east, and the Zulu kingdom in the north west.

The Dutch population by this point also included a lot of Germans, French, etc., and so would be more accurately called Afrikaners.  These Trekkers, or Voortrekkers, or Boers, or Trekboers, or Afrikaners, whatever we want to call them.

These Afrikaners are an interesting people, who endured considerable hardship to go live in the middle of nowhere with nothing but what they could carry in small wagons, their family, faith, and a few guns. They trekked toward the north east, until they ran smack into the southern end of the Great Bantu Migration. The Bantus (Zulus) massacred about 500 Boers–men, women, and children–in the middle of the night. Shortly after, approximately 30,000 Zulu soldiers attacked 460 Boers, at the Battle of Blood River. This time the Boers were awake, and since they had guns and the Zulus had pointy sticks, 3,000 Zulus died and 3 Boers were injured. (December, 1836.)

Long story short, the Boers established several small, independent republics up in north east South Africa, the details of which are too complicated for our current discussion, but you may want to remember the names Orange Free State, Transvaal, and Natal.

The British-controlled Cape Colony is in blue; Boer Transvaal in Green; Boer Free Orange State in orange; Zulu state, Natal (aka Natalia,) is in red.
The British-controlled Cape Colony is in blue; Boer Transvaal in Green; Boer Free Orange State in orange; Zulu state, Natal (aka Natalia,) is in red.

In 1866, diamonds were discovered on the banks of the Orange River. The diamond-rich territory was eventually awarded to Griqualand, which was subsequently annexed by Britain in 1874. In 1886, gold was found in Transvaal. The British had tried to conquer Transvaal in 1877, but did not succeed until the Second Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, which ended with the annexation of both Transvaal and the Orange Free State.

Boers forced to watch their home burned to the ground
Boers forced to watch their home burned to the ground

Lots of people were killed, but eventually the British got the upper hand and, having decided they were sick of the Boers, herded them into concentration camps and tried to kill them all:

“This was not the first appearance of internment camps. … But the Boer War concentration camp system was the first time that a whole nation had been systematically targeted, and the first in which some whole regions had been depopulated.

“Eventually, there were a total of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans. Of the 28,000 Boer men captured as prisoners of war, 25,630 were sent overseas. The vast majority of Boers remaining in the local camps were women and children. Over 26,000 women and children were to perish in these concentration camps.

“… 93,940 Boers and 24,457 black Africans were reported to be in “camps of refuge” and the crisis was becoming a catastrophe as the death rates appeared very high, especially among the children.

“A report after the war concluded that 27,927 Boers (of whom 24,074 [50 percent of the Boer child population] were children under 16) had died of starvation, disease and exposure in the concentration camps. In all, about one in four (25 percent) of the Boer inmates, mostly children, died.

“Improvements [however] were much slower in coming to the black camps.”[51] It is thought that about 12 percent of black African inmates died (about 14,154) but the precise number of deaths of black Africans in concentration camps is unknown as little attempt was made to keep any records of the 107,000 black Africans who were interned.” —Wikipedia

Her name was Lizzie Van Zyl.
Her name was Lizzie Van Zyl. She was 7 years old.

“[Hobhouse] describes Lizzie as “a frail, weak little child in desperate need of good care”, who was placed on the lowest rations and, after a month, was moved to the new hospital about 50 kilometres (31 miles) away from the concentration camp, suffering from starvation.

According to Hobhouse, she was treated harshly in the hospital. Unable to speak English, she was labelled an “idiot” by an English-speaking doctor and her nurses, who were unable to understand her. One day she started calling for her mother; a lady went over to comfort her, but “was brusquely interrupted by one of the nurses who told her not to interfere with the child as she was a nuisance.” Lizzie died in 1901 at 7 years of age.”

As a mother, I look at Lizzie and feel like someone has torn my heart out and stomped on it.

To add insult to murder,

“The photo [of Lizzie] was used as propaganda, author Hélène Opperman Lewis states, to convince the British public that Boer children were neglected by their parents. The image was released with the detail that it was taken when van Zyl and her mother entered the camp. Chamberlain was quoted in The Times on 5 March 1902, saying that Lizzy’s mother was prosecuted for mistreatment.[4]

Hobhouse investigated the case and was unable to find any evidence of the case or prosecution of Lizzie’s mother. She located the photographer, a man named Mr. de Klerk, who confirmed that the photograph was taken two months after Lizzie arrived at the camp.[4]”

And people accuse the Afrikaners of being racist.

I count about 62,000 people dead in this war. Certainly it was no WWII, but then, South Africa didn’t have that many people to start with, so percentage wise, it’s pretty significant.

Now, I want to pause and look at some demographic issues that contributed to the Anglo-Boer War. Note that the Boers had been pretty much going along, minding their own business, running their own country, for several decades before this war started. They’d gone through quite a bit of effort to get away from the British, successfully defeated the Zulus (and other tribes,) and weren’t even the worst people in the area.

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “Didn’t the Boers have slaves? Or at least Apartheid?”

I actually don’t remember if they had slaves; if they did, they are still better than the Congolese, who are not only enslaving the Pygmies right now, but also literally eat other humans. As for apartheid, do you think the Zulus were letting their conquered subjects vote? (Or live?)

For the most part, the Boers just wanted to be left the fuck alone–they didn’t conquer the Griquas, they abandoned their colony after the British took it over rather than fight for it, and I don’t think they were even messing with Natal. They just had the bad luck to have gold and diamonds, and the British decided they wanted gold and diamonds.

“In 1866 Erasmus Jacobs discovered diamonds at Kimberley, prompting a diamond rush and a massive influx of foreigners to the borders of the Orange Free State. Then in 1886, an Australian discovered gold in the Witwatersrand area of the South African Republic. Gold made the Transvaal the richest and potentially the most powerful nation in southern Africa; however, the country had neither the manpower nor the industrial base to develop the resource on its own. As a result, the Transvaal reluctantly acquiesced to the immigration of uitlanders (foreigners), mainly from Britain, who came to the Boer region in search of fortune and employment. This resulted in the number of uitlanders in the Transvaal potentially exceeding the number of Boers, and precipitated confrontations between the earlier-arrived Boer settlers and the newer, non-Boer arrivals.” —Wikipedia [Bold mine]

The British then demanded voting rights for their citizens in Transvaal, the Boers realized that they were outnumbered and that letting the Brits vote would result in their country becoming part of the British Empire and so refused, and so the war began.

Once you are a demographic minority, there is absolutely nothing to stop the majority from herding you into concentration camps and murdering you and your children, except for how much they pity you.

And nobody pities you, my friend.

At any rate, South Africa was thus forged from the Cape Colony, Natal, the Orange Free State, and Transvaal. (I still don’t know why Lesotho is independent. Perhaps no diamonds, or maybe just the fact that it’s on top of some mountains.) The British instituted the system of apartheid, perhaps because they felt like it, perhaps because they felt like making some concessions to the conquered Afrikaners.

SA became an independent country again in 1960. In 1966, UN resolution 2202 A (XXI) declared apartheid “A Crime Against Humanity.” (Of course, the UN also criticized the Vietnamese for kicking the Khmer Rouge out of Cambodia and decided to let the deposed Khmer Rouge gov’t continue holding its seat in the UN despite being one of the most genocidal regimes the earth has ever seen, so who gives a shit what the UN thinks?)

Deaths under apartheid:

“By mid-1987 the Human Rights Commission knew of at least 140 political assassinations in the country, while about 200 people died at the hands of South African agents in neighbouring states. The exact numbers of all the victims may never be known. …

“Between 1960 and 1994, according to statistics from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Inkatha Freedom Party was responsible for 4,500 deaths, South African Police 2,700, and the ANC about 1,300.[135]” —Wikipedia

3,100+ murders attributed to the SA government, and 5,800 murders attributed to the anti-apartheid fighters.

The ANC (African National Congress,) Nelson Mandela’s party, is a communist organization that received direct funding and training by the Soviet Union. (I strongly suspect that the vast majority of anti-colonialist movements were funded by the Soviets, as colonialism has strong capitalist ties, eg, the Dutch East India Company, and so Communism morphed into an anti-colonialist ideology by the 50s or 60s.)

The ANC engaged in a brutal execution method called necklacing:

Necklacing Victim
Necklacing Victim, burned alive

“In 1986 Winnie Mandela, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, stated “With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country. …

The first victim of necklacing, according to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was a young girl, Maki Skosana, on 20 July 1985.[10]

Moloko said her sister was burned to death with a tire around her neck while attending the funeral of one of the youths. Her body had been scorched by fire and some broken pieces of glass had been inserted into her vagina, Moloko told the committee. Moloko added that a big rock had been thrown on her face after she had been killed.[11]” —wikipedia

As you know, nothing makes your country productive like electing communists who make their points by shoving broken glass into little girls’ vaginas.

Inkatha seems a little more into tribal pride and less communist; they’ve recently lost a bunch of parliamentary seats to the explicitly communist Economic Freedom Fighters. The EFF’s leader, Julius Malema, is a lovely person who admires Mugabe, advocates Mugabe-style seizure of mines and other economic resources in SA, and likes to lead the SA parliament in rousing choruses of “Shoot the Boer,” an old anti-apartheid war song.

You mean you can just make more of these things? Mugabe is brilliant!
You mean you can just print more of these things? Mugabe is brilliant!

SA president Jacob Zuma, a guy who gets 1.2 million pounds per year to support his four wives, is also fond “Shoot the Boer”:

“We are going to shoot them with machine guns, they are going to run… The cabinet will shoot them, with the machine gun… Shoot the Boer, we are going to hit them, they are going to run.”

Don’t worry; South Africans are very good at killing Boers, and getting better. Here’s what Genocide Watch has to say:

“Cape Town – Social media buzzed on Monday over a picture of a banner allegedly shown at the Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) launch in Marikana.

A picture showing a red banner with the words “A revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate” was quickly shared on various social networks on Monday.

Another picture shows a banner saying “Honeymoon is over for white people in South Africa”.

“I also saw ‘we need to kill them like they killed us’ banners yesterday,” User Qaanitah Hunter said in a Tweet.”

Gulags are a feature of communism, not bugs
Gulags are a feature of communism, not bugs

From the second PDF:

“Over 3,000 white farmers have been murdered since the end of apartheid, according to Genocide Watch. Twenty years ago, there were 60,000 farmers. Today there are 30,000.

On August 8, two men were convicted of killing a 77-year-old man and his wife on their farm in Somerset. The husband was hacked to pieces. The wife was tied up, thrown in a freezer, and buried in frozen meat. She suffocated to death.

According to the police, the motivation was robbery.

On August 11, four men broke into 57-year-old Vivien Ponté’s home. She was tied to her bed, raped and lit on fire. Her house was ransacked, but it is unclear if anything was stolen.

Just another robbery gone bad.

On August 15, an 83-year-old Volksrust woman was assaulted, raped and left for dead, lying naked on the floor.

The list of “robberies” goes on. …

Beginning in 2003, the government began disbanding the rural commando units used to protect the remote farming communities that did not have police protection. The government said the commandos were unconstitutional and promised special police units to replace them. In 2008, the last commando unit was disbanded.

To this day, the special police forces still haven’t arrived.

Then in 2010, the government passed gun-control laws mandating that all guns be re-registered. In the process of registration, more than half the applicants were turned down and their weapons were seized.”

Various sources estimate the murder rate of SA farmers at about 100 per 100,000.

But you know, the Afrikaners are the racists.

Oh, let me include a bit from the Wikipedia page on Malema:

“Malema visited Zimbabwe in October 2012… “He said the youths in South Africa were calling for whites to surrender land and minerals resources they hold because when they came from Europe they did not carry any land into South Africa.”

“‘What we are asking is for them to surrender our minerals because they did not come with any minerals. We want that land and those minerals for free because they never paid for those minerals.’

“Malema told the youth he was in Zimbabwe to gain inspiration and wisdom, so that when he returned home he could “double the spirit of fighting against imperialist forces”.[77] He called on black South Africans to have as many children as possible so as to increase dominance of ‘our ideas’ in the world at large and help catalyze world revolution.[78][79]

“‘We want to see many kids, why? Because we must reproduce ourselves. For our ideas to be sustainable, we have to reproduce ourselves. In the whole of Africa, we are not more than one billion and the world has seven billion people. In Africa we have not more than one billion people… facing more than six billion. We have to be half of that so that our ideas can dominate. I know that in some instances size does not matter… but when it comes to a revolution, size matters.[79]‘” (bold mine)

Malema is descended from Bantus, so he is no more entitled to the mines than anyone else is, and certainly no one was mining those minerals before the Boers and English got there. If they were precious to Malema’s people, they would have been mining them, but they weren’t.

This is getting long, so I am going to continue with Part 2 tomorrow.

Into Africa: The Great Bantu Migration

As I’ve mentioned before, the famous Out of Africa (OoA) migration was likely preceded by an Into Africa migration, or at least, a Moving Through Africa migration.

Near as we can tell, based on the science at our disposal, H sapiens (humans, us,) evolved in Africa and then spread out from there.

But genetics (and other evidence) suggests that the oldest human split lies not between Africans and non-Africans, but between the San (aka Bushmen or KhoiSan) people of southern Africa and pretty much everyone else in the world.

But hold on. One frequently sees comments to the effect of “All modern humans descended from the San” or “The San are the most ancestral population alive today.” Bollocks. Look, you and your cousin are both descended from your grandparents. Your cousin is not ancestral to you, your grandparents are ancestral to both of you. You did not descend from the San because the San are living right now in southern Africa. They are not an ancient people known only from the architectural record, like the Yamnaya or Minoans. (Unless, of course, your parents actually are San. Then of course you are descended from the San.)

So what does this mean?

Humans–H Sapiens–arose around 200,000 years ago, somewhere or other in Africa. Around 100,000 years ago, the San split off from everyone else, and stayed isolated for almost 100,000 years.

The San look like this:

Some anthropologists refer to Bushmen as "gracile," which means they are a little shorter than average Europeans and not stockily built
Some anthropologists refer to Bushmen as “gracile,” which means they are a little shorter than average Europeans and not stockily built

And their homeland is down in the green:

Modern distribution of major African language groups
Modern distribution of major African language groups

Their historic range was probably much larger than it currently is–note the little green dot over in Tanzania.

Here’s a different map’s opinion on the subject:


And here’s a map showing the locations of art attributed to the San / their ancestors:

Southern African Rock Art

Whether the San started in southern Africa, and everyone else left for northern Africa, leaving them behind, or the San started in northern Africa and then left for the south, leaving everyone else behind, I have no idea. Either way, one group left the other, and the split persisted, more or less, for almost a hundred thousand years.

I’ve mentioned before that the San are notably lighter-skinned than Africans from closer to the equator, like the Bantus:

Bantu mother and child
Bantu mother and child

Probably because the sun is just really harsh at the equator. You can see the current distribution of Bantus in orange on the brightly-colored map above.

Now, back to the story. Shortly after, the Pygmies split off, which I’m not going on to natter on about here because you can read the post I wrote about it. Around 70,000 years ago, some guys left Africa to explore the rest of the world. Around 40,000 years ago, some of those guys split, more or less, into Asians, Europeans, and their descendants.

Among other things, this means that the Batus are more closely related to Koreans, Australian Aborigines, and Native Americans than to the KhoiSan peoples. This is because the ancestors of the Bantus and the ancestors of everyone-not-from-Africa split up around 70,000 years ago, whereas the ancestors of the Bantus and the ancestors of the KhoiSan split 100,000 years ago.

If this is confusing, think about it like this: you and your brother are closely related, because you are only one generation away from your common ancestor, your parents. (In this case, Europeans and Asians are like siblings.) You are related to your cousins, but less closely–you share half your DNA with a sibling, but only 12.5% with a cousin. You and your cousin are two generations away from your common ancestor, your grandparents. In this case, Bantus are cousins to siblings Europeans and Asians. Your second-cousins are descended from your great-grandparents. (If you have cousins, and you both have kids, those kids are second-cousins.) Second cousins share only a quarter as much DNA again–3.13%. The San are like your second-cousins. They are also second-cousins to your brother, and also second cousins to your cousins. All of the siblings are more closely related to each other than to their cousins; all of the cousins are more closely related to each other than to their second cousins; Bantus are more closely related to Koreans than to the San.

And just in case you are still confused:




If you’re still confused, here’s the Wikipedia page on kinship coefficients.

Please note that this is all a massive, massive over-simplification–obviously there are lots of groups in Africa other than the Bantus and the San–like the Yoruba. But “everyone in Africa other than the San and the Pygmies and people who’ve had Arab and other admixture” gets really clunky.

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that the green and orange regions on the map above look awfully close together. How have the San been so isolated for so long if they’re living right next to the Bantus?

About 3,500 years ago–96,500 after they split–the Bantus did this:

Paths of the great Bantu Migration
Paths of the great Bantu Migration

1 = 2000–1500 BC origin 2 = ca.1500 BC first migrations      2.a = Eastern Bantu,   2.b = Western Bantu 3 = 1000–500 BC Urewe nucleus of Eastern Bantu 47 = southward advance 9 = 500 BC–0 Congo nucleus 10 = 0–1000 AD last phase (from Wikipedia)

The Great Bantu Migration.

Why? I don’t know.

With their larger builds, superior weapons, and more complex social systems, the Bantus appear to have dominated the shit out of everyone they met, until they massacred the wrong guys:

Battle of Blood River
Battle of Blood River

Yes, they ran right into the Afrikaneer (Dutch) Boers, trekking northward from Cape Town, South Africa. And the Boers had guns.

Never bring a spear to a gun fight.

In the end, though, the Bantus won. They have the overwhelming numbers, after all.

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

The San are still around, but their territory has dwindled severely; some managed to survive in the Kalahari desert, a place just too harsh for anyone else, but even this has not protected them, as farmers and ranchers have moved in and they’ve been forced into more sedentary lifestyles.

I’ve mentioned The Harmless People before; it’s an ethnography of the Bushmen. It has the whole, “primitive people have so much less crime than we do” thing going on, (hence the title,) but it’s still an interesting account of a quickly-disappearing lifestyle.

The book’s epilogue describes efforts to force the Bushmen onto reservations, where they have been encouraged to take up farming and herding. The account is depressing; the Bushmen seem to have been perfectly happy with their lives before, and ill-suited to agricultural toil. Alcoholism is rampant, as it is among everyone whose ancestors haven’t been distilling alcohol for thousands of years, and violent crime appears to be taking more lives.

Whether the San will continue existing or be completely absorbed by the unstoppable Bantu migration remains to be seen.