Scientists have found a population of people in Africa‘s Namib desert that were believed to have disappeared 50 years ago. Anthropologists initially believed that the community disappeared when the languages spoken in the region died out. However, experts are now realizing that this group kept its genetic identity when their native language disappeared.
The Kwepe, one of the groups in southern Africa’s Namib Desert, spoke the Kwadi language.
“Kwadi was a click-language that shared a common ancestor with the Khoe languages spoken by foragers and herders across Southern Africa,” said researcher Anne-Maria Fehn, according to SciTechDaily.
Through DNA research, experts found the descendants of the people who spoke Kwadi. The team also traced Bantu-speaking and other groups whose language was believed to be lost.
The team of researchers included scientists from the University of Bern in Switzerland, as well as the University of Porto in Portugal and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. According to the researchers, the Kwadi-speaking descendants share a common ancestry, which is only found in groups from the Namib desert.
“Previous studies revealed that foragers from the Kalahari desert descend from an ancestral population who was the first to split from all other extant humans. Our results consistently place the newly identified ancestry within the same ancestral lineage but suggest that the Namib-related ancestry diverged from all other southern African ancestries, followed by a split of northern and southern Kalahari ancestries,” said researcher Mark Stoneking.
The people who spoke Kwadi started speaking Bantu languages more recently, scientists said.
“A lot of our efforts were placed in understanding how much of this local variation and global eccentricity was caused by genetic drift — a random process that disproportionately affects small populations — and by admixtures from vanished populations,” said researcher Dr. Sandra Oliveira from the University of Bern.