The San People Are The Oldest Living Population Of Humans On Earth

San people, hunter-gatherers lived in this area for thousands of years and researchers believe San people are the oldest human population on Earth.

The San are also known as ‘Bushmen’, a term used by the European Colonists that is now considered derogatory, but actually preferred by many San themselves to distinguish them from the Khoe-Khoe and other speakers in the khoisan-language group. The San populated South Africa long before the arrival of the Bantu-speaking nations, and thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans.

Meet the ancestors: DNA study pinpoints Namibia as home to the world's most ancient people

A study of 121 distinct populations of modern-day Africans has found that they are all descended from 14 ancestral populations and that the differences and similarities of their genes closely follows the differences and similarities of their spoken languages.

An important core of the San people lives on the Namibia-Angola border
The San people of southern Africa, who have lived as hunter-gatherers for millennia, are likely to be the oldest population of humans on Earth, according to the biggest and most detailed analysis of African DNA. The San bushmen are directly descended from the original population of early human ancestors who gave rise to all other groups of Africans and, eventually, to the people who left the continent to populate other parts of the world.

The scientists analysed the genetic variation within the DNA of more than 3,000 Africans and found that the San were among the most genetically diverse group, indicating that they are probably the oldest continuous population of humans on the continent – and on Earth.

Scientists have long known that humans originated in Africa, but now a groundbreaking DNA study has revealed our 'Garden of Eden' is likely to be on the South African-Namibian border.

For it is the San people, hunter-gatherers in this area for thousands of years, who researchers now believe are the oldest human population on Earth.

They are descended from the earliest human ancestors from which all other groups of Africans stem and, in turn, to the people who left the continent to populate other corners of the planet.

Researchers conducting the largest study of African genetic diversity came to this conclusion as the San were shown to be the most diverse.

The origin of a species is taken to be the place where people show the most genetic diversity because of the time it takes for genes to evolve. The DNA tests therefore suggest  the San are the oldest continuous population of humans on the Earth.

The San people, living their hunter-gatherer culture in south-west Africa for thousands of years, are believed to be the oldest population of humans on Earth.

The study took 10 years of research involving trips to some of the most remote and e study.dangerous parts of Africa to collect blood samples. The project found modern Africans had the most diverse DNA of all ethnic groups in the world, confirming the idea that Africa is the birthplace of humanity, said Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.of the University of Pennsylvania who led the study.

She trekked across remote and dangerous areas of the continent with an international team collecting DNA samples from more than 3,000 modern Africans from 121 distinct populations.

Often working in primitive conditions, the researchers sometimes had to resort to using a car battery to power their equipment.

The tests revealed they had all descended from just 14 ancestral populations, and the languages they spokes were closely correlated with the variation of their genes.

The study also suggests that a small group of 150 Africans, who went on to populate the rest of the world, first left their continent from the Red Sea.

The researchers found people who lived in Sudan had genetic markers which suggested they were related to the group who moved abroad 50,000 years ago.

Social settings and interactions of the San show the original livestyle of real humans even today.

'The human genome describes the complexity of our species,' added Muntaser Ibrahim of the department of molecular biology at the University of Khartoum, Sudan.

'Now we have spectacular insight into the history of the African population ... the oldest history of mankind.'

'Everybody's history is part of African history because everybody came out of Africa.'

Before this study very little was known about the genetic variation in Africans, knowledge that is vital to understanding why diseases have a greater impact in some groups than others and in designing ways to counter those illnesses.

Scott M. Williams of Vanderbilt University noted that constructing patterns of disease variations can help determine which genes predispose a group to a particular illness.

This study 'provides a critical piece in the puzzle', he said. For example, there are clear differences in prevalence of diseases such as hypertension and prostate cancer across populations, Mr Williams said.

According to the mitochondrial DNA studies, it provides evidence that the San carry high frequencies of the earliest haplogroup branches in the human mitochondrial DNA tree, and this is inherited from one’s mother.

Christopher Ehret from the University of California, Los Angeles, compared genetic variation among people to variations in language.

There are an estimated 2,000 distinct language groups in Africa broken into a few broad categories, often but not always following gene flow.

Movement of a language usually involves arrival of new people, Mr Ehret noted, bringing along their genes.

But sometimes language is brought by a small 'but advantaged' group which can impose their language without significant gene flow.

The study also found that about 71 per cent of African-Americans can trace their ancestry to western African origins.

They also have between 13 per cent and 15 per cent European ancestry and a smaller amount of other African origins.

There was 'very little' evidence for American Indian genes among African-Americans, Tishkoff said.

Ehret added that only about 20 per cent of the Africans brought to North America made the trip directly, while most of the rest went first to the West Indies.

And, he added, some local African-American populations, such as the residents of the sea islands off Georgia and South Carolina, can trace their origins to specific regions such as Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Recent analysis suggests that, the San may have been isolated from it’s original common ancestors for as much as 100,000 years.

The scientists also found genetic "markers" in the DNA of the present-day inhabitants of East Africa living near to the Red Sea, which indicated that they belonged to the same ancestral group who migrated out of Africa to populate Asia and the rest of the world. West Africans speaking the Niger-Kordofanian language were found to share many genetic traits with African-Americans, indicating they were the ancestors of most of the slaves sent to the New World.

One of the main findings to emerge was the genetic similarity between groups who shared similar languages despite living many thousands of miles from one another. The Sandawe and Hadza of Tanzania shared common ancestors with the Khoisan speakers of southern Africa: all three groups speak "click" languages.

Other researchers genotyped ∼2.3 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 220 southern Africans and found that the Khoe-San diverged from other populations ≥100,000 years ago, but population structure within the Khoe-San dated back to about 35,000 years ago. Genetic variation in various sub-Saharan populations did not localize the origin of modern humans to a single geographic region within Africa; instead, it indicated a history of admixture and stratification.

We found evidence of adaptation targeting muscle function and immune response; potential adaptive introgression of protection from ultraviolet light; and selection predating modern human diversification, involving skeletal and neurological development.

There are an estimated 2,000 distinct language groups in Africa broken into a few broad categories, often but not always following gene flow. Movement of a language usually involves arrival of new people.

These new findings illustrate the importance of African genomic diversity in understanding human evolutionary history.

The evolution of human populations has long been studied with unique sequences from the nonrecombining, male-specific Y chromosome (see the Perspective by Cann). Poznik et al. (p. 562) examined 9.9 Mb of the Y chromosome from 69 men from nine globally divergent populations—identifying population and individual specific sequence variants that elucidate the evolution of the Y chromosome.

Sequencing of maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA allowed comparison between the relative rates of evolution, which suggested that the coalescence, or origin, of the human Y chromosome and mitochondria both occurred approximately 120 thousand years ago. Francalacci et al. (p. 565) investigated the sequence divergence of 1204 Y chromosomes that were sampled within the isolated and genetically informative Sardinian population.

The sequence analyses, along with archaeological records, were used to calibrate and increase the resolution of the human phylogenetic tree.

The Y chromosome and the mitochondrial genome have been used to estimate when the common patrilineal and matrilineal ancestors of humans lived. We sequenced the genomes of 69 males from nine populations, including two in which we find basal branches of the Y-chromosome tree.

We identify ancient phylogenetic structure within African haplogroups and resolve a long-standing ambiguity deep within the tree. Applying equivalent methodologies to the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial genome, we estimate the time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of the Y chromosome to be 120 to 156 thousand years and the mitochondrial genome TMRCA to be 99 to 148 thousand years. Our findings suggest that, contrary to previous claims, male lineages do not coalesce significantly more recently than female lineages.

San hunters follow the wildlife tracks and can outrun even large antelopes like Eland, Oryx and Wildebeest.

The San people are an indigenous people of Southern Africa and their  territories span Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The San people are the oldest inhabitants of Africa and Southern Africa where they have lived for at least 40,000 years in the same culture we find the remaining traditional groups today. Their retreat home is in the vast expanse of the Kalahari desert.

Studies shows that, the San carry some of the divergent (Oldest) human Y chromosome haplogroups ( type A). Most researcher are of the opinion that “Everybody’s history is part of African history because everybody came out of Africa.

Africans are believed to have more genetic variation than anyone else on Earth.

After her trip to Africa,  lead researcher Sarah Tishkoff said that the so-called “Cape colored” population of South Africa has the highest levels of mixed ancestry on the globe, a blend of African, European, East Asian and South Asian - even more diverse than the Scots at the other hemiphere who joined together as migrants or outcasts from many different ethnicities.

Many ethnicities have lived isolated but later rejoined and integrated into the human gene pool while the San maintained their origin until recently when forced impregnations via organized rape comitted by Bantu speakers as well as Caucasians became part of the ongoing genocide against the San in order to turn their communities from distinct San to mixed "Cape-Coloreds".

Modern original San are still targeted by genocide. Ju'hoan children in Namibia.

The research published in the online journal Science also showed that nearly three-quarters of African-Americans can trace their ancestry to West Africa.

On the South African-Namibian border lives the oldest opulation of humans on Earth, so who is next?

The Forest People - the Twa

The Twa people of Africa were among the first Africans to have peopled the world.They created the first advance civilization worldwide. Having like the San a small stature, these forest people were nicknamed "Pygmies" by the first missionaries reaching the "Mountains of the Moon" - the Rwenzories. The term derived from the Greek word Pugme - the measurement of a forearm - used by traders to measure e.g. rolls of fabric.

Many Chinese, Japanese and Mayan are the same average 4’0″ or maximum 5'0" size of the Twa because they are descendants of Twa people. If you look closely you can see their Twa phenotype. It looks like outside Africa the Twa and other African ethnic group mixed with other people and their descendants who are really the same African people look different.

Globe Trotting Twa

From the book The First American were African by David Imhotep we know that the Twa or Anu lived from the Nile Valley to Mali (called Tellen).They lived in Portugal, Germany and England (called Picts and Lapps). They lived in Scandinavia were they are called Finns (Finland name after them).

The Twa lived in Groenland, Canada (called Skraelings), North America (called mounds builders).They lived in the tip of South America where they are called the Fuegians.

Moving West to Hawaii where the Twa were called Menehune. In the Phillipine Islands they were called Negritos by the Spanish. In Indonesia on the Island of Flores skeletons of Twa were called Hobbits. In India we find the Twa on Islands in the Bay of Bengals where they are called Andaman Islanders.The descendents of the Twa are found in the Amazon and all over the world.

Traditional Twa in bark cloth

First Civilizaton

In Christianity before Christ author John G Jackson writes: The first Paleolithic man was the Twa who evolved in Central Africa at the source of the Nile Valley and from here all civilization originated and was carried throughout the world. The Twa created religion. They are the first human connection between Twa, San, Khoi, Masaba and connected with Nilotic black they created religion. The first Nilotic Egyptian Gods were Twa (Ptah, Bes) and the Goddess were Twa.

All pygmoid peoples have an Adam story, God, Garden of Paradise, sacred tree. A noble "Pygmy" man made of earth and a wicked "Pygmy" woman who led him to sin. God banned a single fruit, but the woman was asking the man to eat the fruit. God punnished the Pygmy sinners. The Pygmy believed in a father God who was killed, in a virgin mother who gave birth to a Savior son who avenged the death of his father. Those become Osiris, Isis, Horus of Egypt.

The Twa are said to have developed in the distant past a highly technical and advanced type of material culture and they built boats traveling all over the world. However, civilization brought them nothing but bad luck, so prefering happiness to misery, they finaly gave up this high material civilization. Remnants and fossils in all parts of the world confirm this.

Anthropological Studies confirm this

Jean Pierre Hallet was a Belgian born anthropologist who lived with the Twa and studied their history and culture for more than 20 years. Hallet’s "Pygmy" friends told him that in the distant past they developed a highly technical and advanced type of material culture and that they built boats and traveled widely around the world, but that this technical excellence bought them nothing but bad luck, so, preferring happiness to misery, they finally gave up this high material civilisation.

Dancing with the Forest Spirit

There may be a lot of truth in these traditions, for Pygmy fossils have been found in all parts of the world. Hallet, living with them in the rain forests of Central Africa, also recorded the highly complex songs of the Twa and Mbuti forest people and handed them to UNESCO from where they were stolen and turned by the band ENIGMA into a million dollar business of the music industry giving raise to the Techno genre. Though the first "Deep Forest" CDs carried a label promising that proceeds would go back to the Twa, but never any benefit materialized for them. Many Twa from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda or the easytern parts of the so called Democratic Republic of Congo - the former Zaire - live now in the misery of abhorrent poverty or in the refugee camps in Kenya.

Also the Twa are still alive

The Twa people are an African ethnic minority who can be found in and around the equatorial forests of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. They are sometimes referred to as the “forgotten people,” since Twa society and culture has been heavily repressed by larger and more powerful ethnic groups. Some people have expressed concern about the survival of the Twa people in the highly unstable political climate of Africa, since they are vulnerable to discrimination, land pressures, and other issues.

In Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi, the Twa make up around one percent of the population. Overall, it is estimated that there are around 80,000 Twa people in Africa altogether. This small ethnic group lived in Central Africa long before other African peoples colonized the region, and they are part of a larger group of African peoples who are classified as pygmies due to their characteristic small statures. Generally, the term “pygmy” is not used, and ethnologists prefer to identify various pygmy groups by their unique ethnic groupings, as “pygmy” can be perceived as derogatory.

The traditional life of the Twa is semi nomadic, with a hunter-gatherer approach to finding food. Through thousands of years of existence in the Great Lakes Region, the Twa people have developed their own unique culture which includes dances, music, and religious traditions which vary from those of other ethnic groups in the region. As large groups of dominant Bantu-speakers moved in, Twa forest culture began to undergo dramatic shifts. Colonial and today's African state governments have committed genocide against the Twa, but they still survive.

Twa Potter

Many ethnologists are concerned about the Twa people because they have been deprived of their traditional hunting and gathering grounds. Many modern Twa are landless, poor, and heavily discriminated against because of their different ethnic identity and obvious physical differences. Twa often have trouble accessing education, health care, and other vitally needed services, and they are excluded from society in general in some parts of their traditional homeland. They also face problems with violence; during the genocide in Rwanda, for example, it is estimated that up to 30% of the Twa population may have been murdered.

Members of this ethnic group are sometimes also referred to as the Batwa; as an ethnic minority, they often struggle for recognition and prominence with global organizations which are supposed to protect minorities and refugee populations. The United Nations estimates that the Twa population of Africa has undergone a steep decline, and that this ethnic group has experienced a great deal of disruption as a result of forcible displacement from their land and contact with the wars and violence which plague some parts of Africa.

The Special Rapporteur notes, however, that the Government of Uganda indicated before the African Commission during the presentation of its second periodic report in May 2009 that it plans to look into giving land back to the Batwa people. The Special Rapporteur welcomes this remark and hopes that the Government of Uganda will do so, in consultation and with the full participation of the Batwa. In this connection, the Special Rapporteur calls attention to the provisions in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples regarding indigenous land rights, including articles 10, 26(1), 26(3) and 32(2). The Special Rapporteur also takes note of the need for concerted measures to provide for the health, housing, education and overall social and economic wellbeing of Batwa people.

The Twa of Burundi

Traditionally, the Twa have been semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers of the mountain forests living in association with agricultural villages, much as other pygmy peoples do. Ref:
The demographics of Burundi through the 1960s and 1970s were roughly 86 percent Hutu, 13 percent Tutsi, and 1 percent Twa (Mann, M., 2005. The Dark Side of Democracy, p. 431). Ref:
The Twa (Pygmies), who are believed to be the country's earliest human inhabitants, now make up only about 1 percent of the population, and generally remain economically, socially, and politically marginalized. Most Twa live in isolation, uneducated, and without access to government services, including health care. One Twa was appointed [in 2000 but since has been kicked out] to the National Assembly, but the Twa are underrepresented in the political process.
Human Rights Organizations are witness to a situation where an NGO and UNICEF rebuilt a small village to repatriate Twa families from the refugee camp in Tanzania. Houses were built and land was made arable for the people to farm. The Burundi government allowed that (and officials took large kick-backs), but shortly after the Twa were brought back all Twa were again expulsed from that village and land and had to flee. Today the areal is a commercial farm run by a relative of the president.

A central element of recent Twa history is the deeply entrenched discrimination and marginalization they experience from neighbouring ethnic groups. This has increased as the Twa have become alienated from their forests and have been forced to live on the margins of the dominant society. The Great Lakes region has witnessed civil conflicts and wars, famines and population movements over several centuries, and, as documented in a Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report entitled Twa Women, Twa Rights in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, these have contributed to the fragmentation of Twa populations and their social systems. The intense political conflicts between the dominant Hutu and Tutsi groups in Rwanda over the last 50 years, culminating in the killing of 800,000 Tutsis, moderate Hutus and Twa during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the ongoing violence in Burundi and DRC between many armed factions, have increased the vulnerability of the Twa and other so-called 'Pygmy' groups.

A new Constitution was passed in Burundi on 1 March 2005 by an overwhelming majority, which includes a formula for power-sharing between the Hutu and Tutsi and is intended to end 12 years of bloody conflict. Twa leaders claimed that Twa are marginalized by both groups. They have been displaced from their natural forest environment without compensation and they face poverty, persistent starvation, a lack of education and health care, social isolation and exclusion from decision making. Their right to forest land where they have lived for four centuries is not recognized, and their vulnerable minority status makes it difficult to press their governments for lands or to acquire land under customary title or legal title.

In March 2005 some 600 Twa fled from Burundi to Rwanda to escape persecution and hunger. They experienced intimidation by ethnic Hutu, who accused the Twa of voting against the new power-sharing Constitution and of being allied to Tutsi. Most fled from drought-hit northeastern Kirundo Province. Ref:

Unlike many other Twa in Burundi, only one particular community has actually had some success. In the 1970s, the local court decided that the disputed area of land belonged, and should be returned, to them.  However, the land was never actually given back, and when one of the community elders went back to the court to try and resolve the issue, she was imprisoned for ten years.

In addition to returning the Batwa property, which would rightfully seem to be theirs, the disputed parcel of land could greatly assist the community in providing further means to cultivate crops.  Four years ago, UNIPROBA, decided to take on the issue themselves, lodging a further case in the courts. 

Yet the case remained stuck in a slow and dysfunctional court system. When asked if anyone from the community has tried to push forward the issue, MRG was told that, “Daily life has more pressing issues.” Immediately I understand. With the most basic living conditions, scarce food, ill health, disease, and little or no chance of an education, access to justice rates well below access to food.
However, The case was finally won at the High Court in 2016 - but it remains an extremely rare exemption, and the court ruling is still not implemented.
There is no way that Twa families can be resettled to Burundi under the present governance and circumstances.

The current situation:

A report published jointly by the UN and the US government in 2002 claimed that the crimes of 1993 amounted to genocide and that the events of 1972 should also be studied, as it seems apparent that a systematic and organized genocide took place then and those responsible should be held accountable. In 2005, the first mixed government of Burundi was elected after the civil war, but it did not last very long. In 2010, the country once again deteriorated into brutal political violence between the Hutu and the Tutsi. In October 2011, the government of Burundi, under pressure from the West, established a truth and reconciliation commission which was meant to submit a report to the parliament by December 2012 regarding the civil war. The commission did not submit a report and apparently did not function at all. A Human Rights Watch report from 2012 describes several massacres carried out in Burundi in recent years and determines that dozens of political leaders and activists have been killed by the government since 2010. The report warned against the youth movements that are armed and trained by the government. In January 2012, it was reported that the Tutsi government, using bulldozers, destroyed mass graves where over 430 Hutu were killed in 1995. It seems that under current conditions, there is a danger that an additional genocide could break out in Burundi and that all of the evidence of the 1972 genocide could be destroyed, so that it would never be recognized by the world. Ref:

Also in Kenya forest people of pygmoid growth are discriminated against, sexually abused for crazy believes and persecuted. The original "Pygmy" of Kenya - the Gumba people of the Abderdares Forest - already are extinct and were either exterminated as "Mau-Mau-fighters" during the colonial times by the British or - especially the women - forcefull assimilated by the Gikuyu and Maasai. Another genocide about which nobody talks.


Photo Credit: khoisanpeoples/ Ghanaeducation/Southafrica/Pixa

- updated 2019

References for San


References for Twa


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