Saturday, July 2, 2011

Nubian Origin Niger-Congo Languages

The evidence that Meroitic is related to Niger Congo should not be surprising because Niger-Congo speakers lived in Egypt and the Meroitic empire.

The majority of West Africans formerly lived just below Egypt in Nubia, before they moved westward into Cameroon, the Niger Valley and Senegambian regions. The traditional view of the dispersal of the Niger-Congo speakers would place their original home in the woodland savanna zone of West Africa, in the area of the Niger Basin (Ehret and Posnansky 1982:242 ).
This is a most attractive theory but it does not conform to the archaeological data collected over the past decade. This material illustrates that until the second millennium BC the Inland Niger Delta was sparsely populated (McIntosh & McIntosh 1981 ,1986).

Wm. E. Welmers (1971),explained that the Niger-Congo homeland was in the vicinity of the upper Nile valley. He believes that the Westward migration began 5000 years ago. This was the center of the C-Group civilization.

In support of this theory he discusses the dogs of the Niger-Congo speakers. This is the unique barkless Basenji dogs which live in the Sudan and Uganda today, but were formerly recorded on Egyptian monuments (Welmers,1971). The Basanji dog is the Egyptian hieroglyphic sign for dog.

According to Welmers the Basanji, is related to the Liberian Basenji breed of the Kpelle and Loma people of Liberia. Welmers believes that the Mande took these dogs with them on their migration westward. The Kpelle and Loma speak Mande languages.

Welmers (1971) believes that the Niger Valley region and other regions of West Africa may have been unoccupied when the Mande migrated westward Nubia. In support of this theory Welmers' notes that the Liberian Banji dogs ,show no cross-breeding with dogs kept by other African groups in West Africa, and point to the early introduction of this cannine population after the separation of the Mande from the other Niger-Congo speakers in the original upper Nile homeland for this population. As a result, he claims that the Mande migration occured before these groups entered the region.

Linguistic research make it clear that there is a close relationship between the Niger-Congo Superlanguage family and the Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in the Sudan. Heine and Nurse (2000), discuss the Nilo-Saharan connection. They note that when Westerman described African languages he used lexical evidence to include the Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo languages into a Superfamily he called "Sudanic" (Heine & Nurse, 2000). Using Morphological and lexical similarities Gregerson indicated that these languages belonged to a macrophylum he named " Kongo-Saharan" (Heine and Nurse, 2000). Research by Blench reached the same conclusion, and he named this Superfamily: "Niger-Saharan" (Heine & Nurse, 2000).

Genetic evidence supports the upper Nile origin for the Niger-Congo speakers. Rosa et al, in Y-Chromosomal diversity in the population of Guinea-Bissau (2007), noted that while most Mande & Balanta carry the E3a-M2 gene, there are a number of Felupe-Djola, Papel, Fulbe and Mande carry the M3b*-M35 gene the same as many people in the Sudan.

In addition to haplogroup E3, we also find some carriers of R1*-M173 in Egypt and the Sudan. In Figure 1 we observe that 34% of the carriers of y-chromosome M173 in Africa speak Niger-Congo languages. This genetic evidence makes it clear that R1*-M173 was probably carried by some C-Group speakers.

Coia et al (2005) provides substantial data that the presence of R1*-M173 did not follow the spread of the spread of mtDNA haplogroup U6
in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is found in North Africa (Coia et al, 2005). This suggest that R1*-M173 may not be the result of back migration from Asia if this theory depends on the spread of haplogroup U6 in areas where R1*-M173 is found.

Welmers proposed an upper Nile (Sudan-Uganda) homeland for the Niger-Congo speakers. He claims that they remained intact until 5000 years ago. This view is supported by linguistic and genetics evidence. The linguistic evidence makes it clear that the Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo languages are related. The genetic evidence indicates that Nilo-Saharan and Niger-Congo speakers carry the y-chromosomes M3b*-M35 and R1*-M173, an indicator for the earlier presence of speakers of this languages in an original Nile Valley homeland.

The Nile Valley origin of the Niger Congo speakers explains the close relationship between Meroitic, Egyptian, Beja and Niger-Congo languages.


Coia V. , G Destro-Bisol, F Verginelli, C Battaggia, I Boschi, F Cruciani, G Spedini, D Comas and F Calafell, 2005. Brief communication: mtDNA variation in North Cameroon: lack of Asian lineages and implications for back migration from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa, Am J Phys Anthropol ( (electronically published May 13, 2005; accessed August 5, 2005).

Heine,B. and Nurse,D. (Eds.).2002. African languages: An introduction , Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-666295.

Cruciani,F., Trombetta,B., Sellitto, D., Massaia,A. destroy-Bisol,G., Watson, E., Colomb, E.B. 2010. Eur J. Hum Genet.,(6 January 2010) doi:10.1038/ejhg.2009.231: 1-8.
Ehret,C. & Posnansky,M. 1982. The Archaeological and Linguistic
Reconstruction of African History. Berkeley.
McIntosh,S.K. & McIntosh,R.J.1981. "West African Prehistory". American Scientist
_____________.1986. "Archaeological Research and dates from
West Africa". Journal of African History, 27:413-42.

Rosa A, Ornelas C, Jobling MA, Brehm A, Villems R. Y-chromosome diversity in the population of Guinea-Bissau: a multiethnic perspective, BMC Evol Biology 2007; 7, 124.

Welmers, Wm E .1971. "Niger-Congo Mande", Cur trends in Ling 7:113-140.

1 comment:

Samuel Rothenberg said...

I'm surprised no one has posted about
Ramses 3 e1b1a haplogroup which is Bantu. Thus the ancient Egyptians were Niger Congo speakers. Interesting.