Population history and economic change in the last 2000 years in KwaZulu-Natal, RSA


  • I. Ribot University of Montreal
  • A. G. Morris University of Cape Town
  • J. Sealy University of Cape Town
  • T. Maggs University of Cape Town


This paper reports on craniometric and stable isotope analyses of archaeological human skeletons from KwaZulu-Natal and investigates biological and cultural (dietary) changes associated with the beginnings of a settled agricultural way of life. Through multivariate craniometrics, archaeological specimens were compared to three groups of recent South Africans (Nguni, Sotho-Tswana and Khoesan). Morphological differences, especially for the face, were observed through time: individuals older than 400 AD tended to be closer to groups of Khoesan ancestry; in contrast, remains from the first millennium AD are closer to Sotho-Tswana and Nguni groups. Carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of bone collagen indicated that pre-400 AD hunter-gatherers ate more marine foods than individuals dating to later times, whose isotopic values are consistent with substantial reliance on African grain crops and domesticated stock. The small sample size and high intra-population variation have made results difficult to interpret in terms of diachronic phenomena or biological changes (population replacement and gene flow). Nevertheless, these preliminary observations on both morphology and nutrition are consistent with the hypothesis that the Early Iron Age 'package', including agriculture, was introduced by an immigrant 'Negroid' population, possibly corresponding to Bantu speakers. 



How to Cite

Ribot, I., Morris, A. G., Sealy, J., & Maggs, T. (2010). Population history and economic change in the last 2000 years in KwaZulu-Natal, RSA. Southern African Humanities, 22, 89–112. Retrieved from https://sahumanities.org/index.php/sah/article/view/323




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