States and their genetic consequences in central Africa

States and their genetic consequences in central Africa


Archaeogenetic analyses are usually aimed at elucidating the demographic history of small-scale societies, although frequently over large geographic and temporal scales. There has been significantly less attention paid to the analysis of state-level societies, except sometimes as a political framework within which smaller-scale interactions took place. This is curious, because it is widely recognized that state policies can have important demographic consequences (1⇓–3). This relative lack of interest in the genetic impact of states may be associated with an assumption that historical sources provide sufficient information on such processes. In PNAS, the paper by van Dorp et al. (4) on the genetic effects of state formation in central Africa provides an example of such an analysis, indicating some of the likely consequences of state formation and functioning in the Kuba polity.

Over the past 20 y, the archaeogenetic studies that have concerned themselves with state-level societies have done so through a variety of approaches, ranging from straightforward claims of correspondences between haplogroups and state ethnicities (5), to analysis of the demographic consequences of state collapse and regeneration (6), to analysis of different forms of sociopolitical hierarchy often associated with complex societies (7). The relatively small size and recent historical trajectory of the Kuba state allow van Dorp et al. (4) to take a more global approach, comparing variability in autosomal, Y-chromosomal, and mtDNA genetic features for a sample in individuals identifying as Kuba or non-Kuba, the latter from a variety of stateless societies historically situated beyond the boundaries of the Kuba state. These samples were not gathered within the historical territory of the Kuba state, but rather in Kananga, the modern capital of Kasai Central …


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