What is Southern [Bantu Peoples](/blog/what-is-eastern-bantu-peoples-dna-ethnicity-on-ancestry/) DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?

In this article we are going to look closely at just where the Southern Bantu region is to learn more about the area and the people who come from there. We will try to discover what if anything makes these people unique and what it means to have ancestry from the region.

Southern Bantu Peoples DNA Region

The Southern Bantu Peoples' region is located in the countries which make up the very tip of Africa, spanning the entirety of the southern coast. The countries which fall into this region include:

  • South Africa
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini
  • Botswana
  • Mozambique

There are also so bordering countries in which this type of DNA is found closer to the borders with this region including:

  • Namibia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Malawi
  • Tanzania

History of Africa

According to the paleontological record it was the continent of Africa in which the first hominids developed. These early hominids were the first to walk in a bipedal motion and it is from them that eventually humans as we know them today evolved.

The fossil records suggest that homo sapiens were living in Africa between 260,000 to 350,000 years ago. Remains from South Africa, Morocco and Ethiopia seem to suggest that homo sapiens were already widespread throughout the continent during that time frame.

Bantu Peoples

The Bantu peoples are the key to the DNA found in this region and although archaeology is difficult in the region we do know something of their origins. It is thought that the original Bantu language which influences most of the spoken languages found today in these regions is around 3,000 to 4,000 years old.

It is believed that this language originated in what is today Cameroon, spreading across Central, Eastern and Southern Africa in the so-called Bantu expansion. Thought for many years to be a migration historians today believe it was more of a rapid cultural spread. It took around 2000 years for the Bantu language and culture to spread throughout this region.

It is uncertain if the Bantu peoples assimilated with other indigenous peoples as they spread or if they forced the already existing populations out of the regions and took over. It wasn’t until the 9th through the 15th centuries that distinct Bantu speaking states started to form in the region.

The term Bantu itself was first used to describe the peoples of this region in the 1920s. It was favored over the term “native.” The word itself has its roots in the Bantu languages and in its present form it was first introduced in the late 1850s. Its essential meaning is people.

Southern Africa History

The early history of Southern Africa matches that of most of the continent and includes ancient hominids eventually evolving into what modern humans. This region however may have been home to the first humans.

Early Kingdoms

Much of this region's history is not well documented but the first Southern African kingdom of note was the Kingdom of Mapungubwe. Established around 1075 AD and thriving until 1220 it is considered one of the earliest states in the region.

Located in southeast of modern day South Africa this kingdom bordered what was to become Zimbabwe. They were a kingdom based on farming which has left little behind but a few remains of buildings. They would ultimately give way in the 13th century to the kingdom of Zimbabwe.

Thriving between 1220 – 1450 this kingdom was in the region we know as Zimbabwe today. The kingdom's capital still partially stands as a ruin today close to modern day Masvingo. Upon its decline new kingdoms arose in the north (Kingdom of Mutapa) and south (Kingdom of Butua).

Colonial Rule

The 1884 Berlin Conference triggered the so-called Scramble for Africa leading to African nations coming under the protectorates of European powers. This brought a great deal of European influence to Southern Africa which led to a lot of unrest.

In less than a century however these African states would reclaim their independence some would thrive while others would be left fighting internally with each other.

In some nations such as South Africa white colonialism never really ended and this historically led to apartheid. Although whites were the minority they maintained the power despite the Bantu speaking Africans being in the majority in South Africa.

Bantu in South Africa

A deliberate myth exists that the Southern African Bantu came from Zimbabwe into South Africa at roughly the same time as Europeans began to lay claim to the area. This was of course started to justify the taking of the indigenous territory by claiming that there was no one living in the region when the Europeans arrived.

In truth the Bantu were already there and had been for some time. Europeans however displaced these tribal Bantu to create their own settlements. In the early 20th century legislation in South Africa was created that would limit the native population to areas which would equate to roughly 7% of the available land mass in South Africa.

Evidence Against the Theory

Archaeological evidence shows pastoralism and farming was taking place in Southern Africa and proof of early human settlements. These remains date back to around 354 BC. Remains actually within Africa date Bantu presence to at least 249 AD so centuries before Europeans stepped foot on the continent.

When Portuguese sailors reached the region in the 15th century and landed at the Cape of Good Hope they encountered Khoe speaking indigenous people near the coast. When the Dutch arrived later in the 1770s they traveled further inland and encountered Bantu speaking peoples in the area known today as the Eastern Cape province.

Where Does My Southern Bantu Region DNA Come From?

Segregation of the Bantu speakers in South Africa through the myth of an empty land upon European arrival has likely kept the genetics of the local Bantu population unaltered. These peoples are an extension of the vast Bantu expansion and they likely encountered other tribes as they entered the region.

This group has become distinct genetically from the Eastern and northern Bantu populations likely due to mixing with the other indigenous peoples of Southern Africa. They are the majority in the region so ultimately dominated the other local tribes.

The Southern African Bantu have battled against various European forces with some of these wars even making such an impact as to be depicted in motion pictures. They are resolute people who have struggled but always kept fighting.

Can I Trace My African Ancestors?

As with all things genealogical, there is always a chance that you might be able to trace the origins of your African ancestors. This is of course dependent on a number of factors. Those in the U.S. who know their ancestors arrived as slaves centuries ago may find it difficult to find out exactly where they were taken from.

Due to historical instability in countries in Southern Africa our understanding of the DNA population is limited. This means that unlike elsewhere in the world where we might be able to have a more pinpointed region of origin we are left with a broad area.

Depending on how recent our Southern Bantu region ancestor is, we may be able to find records to support who they were and why they or their descendants left the country. The further back we go generationally speaking it becomes harder to pinpoint exactly where our ancestor comes from.

Final Thoughts

The Southern Bantu have been farming and settling the lands of Southern Africa for centuries. They arrived from the northeast overtime becoming the dominant group and likely integrating with the local tribes that were already in residence.

Historically speaking the Bantu peoples of Southern Africa have warred with Europeans to try and keep their ancestral lands to varying degrees of success. Issues in South Africa persisted far longer than they should and it was not until in the 1990s that the ethnic Bantu majority gained a say in the governing of their nation.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • "What is Southern [Bantu Peoples](/blog/what-is-eastern-bantu-peoples-dna-ethnicity-on-ancestry/) DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?". NameCensus.com. Accessed on June 15, 2024. https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-southern-bantu-peoples-dna-ethnicity-on-ancestry/.

  • "What is Southern [Bantu Peoples](/blog/what-is-eastern-bantu-peoples-dna-ethnicity-on-ancestry/) DNA Ethnicity on Ancestry?". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/what-is-southern-bantu-peoples-dna-ethnicity-on-ancestry/. Accessed 15 June, 2024

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