Monday, February 27, 2012

Nilotic Cattle Herders



Examples of the boat types as found on the prehistoric rock art of the Central Eastern Desert of Egypt. Note the transport of cattle.



Cattle were domesticated in what is today Kenya 15,000 years ago. The common term for cattle or cow in the many African languages is nag (Wolog, Fulani), nagge (Hausa), ning (Angas, Ankwe) and ninge (Susu). This corresponds to the Egyptian ng or nag.

The evidence suggests that cattle herding originated among the Nilotic peoples. It may be that they took with them their domesticated cows when they dispersed to Mesopotamia, southern Africa, and India. For example, the Kannada word for cattle is ha-su and could possibly be a reference to the Susu from which they received the cows. Kannada is a southern Dravidian language.

Here is an interesting report that connects DNA and anthropological studies to develop a picture of how cattle came to southern Africa. It appears that cattle were introduced there by Nilotic peoples.


“Africa has the most genetic diversity in the world, but it is one of the least-studied places,” said Brenna Henn, a doctoral student in anthropology who was the study’s lead author. “I’ve always felt like there were a lot of stories there that nobody’s had the time or interest to look into.”

The Stanford scientists picked the Y sex chromosome to examine for clues to migration because it changes very little from one generation to the next. Autosomes - the non-sex chromosomes - come in pairs, and the members of a pair can exchange bits of DNA during reproduction, making each autosome a mishmash of DNA from all of an individual’s ancestors. But the Y chromosome is a singleton; males inherit one Y chromosome and one X chromosome, while women have two X chromosomes. In men, only a tiny region of the Y chromosome can swap DNA with the X chromosome. This means almost all of the Y chromosome moves intact from father to son, changing only infrequently when a new mutation arises. That allows researchers to examine several generations of ancestry by looking at the Y chromosomes of living men.

“The family tree of the Y chromosome is very, very clear,” Mountain said.

The team analyzed Y chromosomes from men in 13 populations in Tanzania in eastern Africa and in the Namibia-Botswana-Angola border region of southern Africa. They discovered a novel mutation shared by some men in both locations, which implied those men had a common ancestor. Further analysis showed the novel mutation arose in eastern Africa about 10,000 years ago and was carried by migration to southern Africa about 2,000 years ago. The mutation was not found in Bantu-speakers, suggesting that a different group - Nilotic-language speakers - first brought herds of animals to southern Africa before the Bantu migration.

This new genetic evidence correlates well with pottery, rock art and animal remains that suggest pastoralists - herders who migrated to new pasture with their flocks - first tended sheep and cattle in southern Africa around 2,000 years ago. The genetic finding also helps explain linguistic similarities between peoples in the two regions.

“I like the fact that the linguistic, genetic and archaeological evidence all line up,” Henn said. “When you see lines of evidence converge on a single model, it means that’s probably something that actually happened.”

Read the full report here.


Red and black Nubian cattle herders

The Horite Hebrew who lived in Palestine tended sheep because the terrain is less hospitable to cattle than the broad grasslands of the wet Sahara. So Jesus Messiah is called "Lamb' of God in Scripture. However, Abraham's Nilo-Saharan ancestors were cattle herders and for them the image of the divine sacrifice was the Bull Calf of God. This is the meaning behind the account of the Golden Calf fabricated by Aaron, the Horite Hebrew priest (Ex. 32). The Deuteronomist Historian either did not understand this, or in his iconoclastic fervor, rejected it.

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