African Hunter-Gatherers Are Offshoots of Earliest Human Split | Khoe-San People


The earliest split in modern humanity was 100,000 years ago

The Khoe-San people of southern Africa, who speak a language based on clicking sounds, are descendants of the most ancient genetic split found yet in living humans, finds an international group of scientists.

The results also reveal some of the evolutionary changes that helped give rise to modern humanity.

Anatomically modern humans (us), evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa. Differences between people living today and our evolutionary relatives include much less pronounced eyebrow ridges and larger brains.

Much remains uncertain about how modern humans originated in Africa’s cradle of humanity. For instance, researchers had long thought humans arose in eastern Africa, but recent studies hint at roots in southern Africa. [Image Gallery: Our Closest Human Ancestor]


Written By: Charles Choi
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  1. Interesting stick “garden” sculpture. I wonder if they point to the “heavens.” Compare this with the familiar pole far back on top of the hill. I assume this  photo reveals much about the culture and people.

    Can anyone find any more information on this culture? I only seem to find other sources talking about this genetic find.

  2. These are the most authentic humans, they are much more genetically diverse and have a far richer language than the rest of us.

  3. I like them. They are also excellent trackers and know how to survive in very harsh environments. Compared with the Khoe-San people the rest of humanity are like tame, domesticated animals.

  4. The term Khoi-San combines two populations and two different economic systems.  They all speak “click” languages with a lot more consonants than most other languages, and are genetically much more diverse than the rest of humanity.  The Khoi-khoi people of what is now South Africa were pastoralists, keeping sheep and goats (and, somewhat latter in the archaeological record) cattle, for hundreds of years before the Bantu speaking pastoral and farming peoples invaded the area from the north.  The “San” are the foragers who live to the north of the Khoi, and who continue to live by means of this economic system throughout many parts of the Kalahari desert and adjacent regions.  They are not all genetically identical, and some are darker and taller in appearance, with a general grade towards taller and darker people from west to east. The San have some genetic and linguistic similarities with another hunter-gatherer group, the Hadza, who live in Tanzania. There are extensive ethnographic studies, archaeological excavations, and biological anthropology publications on foragers.  See, for example, much of this research was summarized nearly half a century ago in  Man the Hunter.   This volume reported results of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken all around the world and presented by 67 ethnographers. what emerged from this conference was what has been termed the Generalized Forager Model (Man the Hunter Conference 1966) also known as the “ecological model” which listed  universal characteristics among mobile hunter-gatherers: 

    Ecological model

        Egalitarianism (lack of private property; no accumulation;)
        Low population density
        Lack of territoriality
        Minimum of food storage
        Flux in band composition (bilateral and bi-local organization; fission-fusion)

    The San people, like the Hadza, were discussed in many of the papers in this, and subsequent volumes, and in many other places: Social networks and cooperation in hunter-gatherers : Nature : Nature Publishing Group.  Accounts, particularly of the San and their ancestors, have figured in the popular media: BBC News – Early humans began in southern Africa, study suggests, Tendency Toward Egalitarianism May Have Helped Humans Survive – The world’s foragers have given us some valuable insights into some of the selection pressures that might have shaped us during human evolution See Anthropologists link human uniqueness to hunter-gatherer group structure.  

    I see that in this new website, I have not found any way so far to leave a link, but the titles I put into my comment can be easily found by using a search engine like google.

    These are not, by the sticks as “garden sculpture”. They are part of a structure intended to give shade and shelter, and the bundles of grass in the background may have been intended to form part of a roof for this purpose, once some cross branches are gathered and put into position.

  5. Great post! I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the artistic element  of those structures in the foreground made from branches and animal skulls though. They may also have some sort of religious significance. Also, those grass bundles are clearly walls.

  6.  Yes! And the plastic sheeting is clearly being used as some kind of roofing to keep out the rain… amazing!

  7. You failed to spot the corrugated galvanised iron roofing, the plastic sheeting is used to cover the windows 😀

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