BantuFirst: The First Bantu Speakers South of the Rainforest: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Human Migration, Language Spread, Climate Change and Early Farming on Late Holocene Central Africa

January 2018 to December 2022
Bantu (language)
human migration
climate change
Bantu Expansion
evolutionary genetics
historical linguistics
African history
Université de Kinshasa (Congo-Kinshasa)
Institute of National Museums of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)
Research fields
History and Archaeology
Languages and Literatures

The Bantu Expansion is not only the principal linguistic, cultural and demographic process in Late Holocene Africa. It has also become one of the most controversial issues in African History. Several generations of linguists, archaeologists, anthropologists, palaeoenvironmentalists, geneticists and many more have tried to answer the question of how the relatively young Bantu language family (ca. 5000 years) could spread over disproportionally large parts of Central, Eastern and Southern Africa, but have almost always done so from a discipline-specific base.

The prevailing synthesis is a model in which the Bantu language dispersal is conceived as resulting from a single migratory macro-event driven by agriculture. However, many basic questions about the movement and subsistence of ancestral Bantu speakers are still completely open and can only be addressed through genuine interdisciplinary collaboration as proposed here. Through this project, researchers with outstanding expertise in Central African archaeology, archaeobotany and historical linguistics will form a unique cross-disciplinary team to carry out together evidence-based frontier research on the first Bantu-speaking settlements south of the equatorial rainforest.