Archaeological, Linguistic and Genetic History in the Lake Chad Basin

  • Author: Scott MacEachern
  • Topic: 2000 to 10,000 BP,1000 to 2000 BP,Ethno-archaeology
  • Country: Chad
  • Related Congress: 13th Congress, Dakar

Archaeological evidence indicates a complex history of settlement of the southern Lake Chad Basin from the mid-Holocene onward, in parallel with the gradual desiccation of the Sahara and reduction of lake and river systems in the region. This archaeological data can be compared with a growing body of data from historical linguistics and archaeogenetics. These data indicate an early encounter between an initial Nilo-Saharan-speaking population (probably the descendants of people occupying the northern shores of Lake Mega-Chad) and Chadic-speaking immigrant groups in the mid-Holocene, with the differentiation of Chadic languages in subsequent millennia. Archaeologically, this differentiation of Chadic is paralled by increased sedentism and economic specialisation, as well as the occupation of different ecozones (including the Mandara Mountains), by Lake Chad Basin populations over the period 4000-1000 BP. Archaeologically, there is surprisingly little evidence for substantial contacts beyond the southern Lake Chad Basin before the beginning of the last millennium, which certainly has implications for our understanding of the arrival of peoples speaking other languages, especially those of the Saharan and Central Sudanic families.

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