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CENTRAL AFRICAN HUNTER-GATHERER RESEARCH TRADITIONS - page 5 / 43

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Origin and stature

This review does not cover biological anthropology and archaeology, but we want to briefly mention two recent areas of research that have generated considerable public and academic attention—what is their origin and why are they short?  Recent phylogenetic studies (Patin et al. 2009, Verdu et al. 2009, Batini et al. 2007, Quintana-Murci et al. 2008) indicate that ancestral populations of Congo Basin foragers and farmers diverged about 60,000 years BP. This implies that the original divergence was not based on subsistence as both ancestral groups would have been foragers at this time because farming in central Africa did not emerge until 5,000 BP. It is hypothesized that dramatic variability in African climate between 100,000-60,000 BP led to cultural innovations, population growth and movements of peoples within and out of Africa. Genetic data also indicate that Eastern (e.g., Mbuti and Efe) and Western (e.g., Aka and Baka) Congo Basin foragers diverged about 20,000 BP, which suggests that the commonalities in culture described above are a result of shared history rather than convergent adaptation to the tropical forest. The timing of the separation is hypothetically linked to the Last Glacial Maximum, which led to a massive retreat of the Congo Basin forests as rainfall declined up to 50%. Finally, the genetic data also indicate a relatively recent common origin of all Western forager groups (about 2500 BP) and substantial gene flow between Western Congo Basin foragers and farmers. Verdu et al. (2009) hypothesized that the Western group’s divergence was linked to the Bantu expansion, which occurred about the same time; i.e., Bantu farmers’ relationships with foragers decreased mobility and increased the isolation of forager groups.

Another long-lasting question within biological anthropology is “Why are Pygmies short (Cavalli-Sforza 1986, Diamond 1991)?” Previous studies suggested short size was a thermoregulatory or other adaptation to the tropical forest or that nutritional shortages led to the

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