I’m having a rethink about Afro Asiatic’s origin after having a good look at the reconstructed nouns.
Particularly those dealing with with animals. I had a brief look through the nouns for PAA, and quite striking was the number of words for goats and sheep. Also included were horses and camels. Since goats, horses and sheep and camels were not native to Holocene Africa prior to the neolithic, I’m reconsidering my support of an African origin for proto Afro Asiatic. Although, as has been kindly pointed out, the reconstructions are all pretty hazy for PAA, but still it’s suspicious.
Another factor making me reconsider is the dating suggested for the languages. The presence of goats and sheep (many and varied terms) also gives an oldest possible date to the last node (a languages TMRCA) for Cushitic, which is a pastoral language of sheep, goat and cattle herders. Since Cushitic is sub Saharan, very relevant is the oldest known date for the arrival of ovicaprines in the Sudan, which is about 5,500 years BP ( Esh Shaheinab, Sudan). This would suggest the proposed 10k date for proto Cushitic is off by about 45%- although this may just be it’s last node and the 10k date for it’s seperation may be correct.
Relevant to this is the R1b Y chromosome present in the Ouldeme and the Hausa, both Chadic speaking groups, one in Cameroon and one in the Sudan. The Hausa have R1b ( R-P25* (R1b1*) at about 41%, and Ouldeme at 95%. This is quite a bizarre find for groups in the middle of Africa, as R1b is typically European and West Asian. It would be a logical suggestion that the Ouldeme and Hausa are quite closely related paternally, and may point to an East to West route for Chadic speakers- suggested by Blench in the ‘The Westward wanderings of Cushitic Pastoralists’- although there have been suggestions the Hausa moved from West to east recently, which would make the R1b in Cameroon possibly from a north to south route across the Sahara.
This particular branch of R1b has been dated to an entry of about 4,000 years ago- but bearing in mind the older (2002) papers tend to seriously underestimate the date of the Y chromosomes – a pet peeve- the oldest entry date for it at 8,000 BP would be more reasonable, and a good match for the Neolithic sheep and goat pastoralists arriving in Africa from West Asia. It doesn’t do my older theory of M78/M1 being linked to the spread of Afro Asiatic any good though. Oh well.
The coalescence age of the African haplotype 117, which we estimated as 4,100 years (95% CI 2,400–8,060 years), could thus represent a date for such an expansion and a lower limit for the time of entry into Africa.
From this paper.
This all has some relevance to Ehrets dating of Proto Nilo Saharan (both families dated by glottochronology). He gives the same 15k date for Nilo Saharan as for proto Afro Asiatic.. so I’m thinking 10-9,000 bp for Nilo Saharan too. This also brings proto Northern Sudanic into the outer estimate for the Neolithic in Africa (7,000) although it’s unlikely as they have a dearth of terms for pastoralism and agriculture. His dates seem to vary from 35% to 45% off the possible, which may be due to the difference in geographical points of origin in proto Cushitic and Proto Sahelian, so I’m assuming proto Sahelian is a little more Northerly in origin than proto Cushitic and have adjusted the dates for it for a ‘best fit’. Even if it does give a close date for age of separation fro the sub groups, Ehret never seems to take into account there may have been more recent nodes to account for the pastoralist terms.
This doesn’t really support Omotic as an afro Asiatic language, as it shows no proto words for pastoralism before it’s split. But it has been pointed out by several linguists that it has no more in common with Afro Asiatic than it does with it’s other neighbouring language groups, so it’s AA status is pretty suspect to start with.
A little more DNA evidence has come out showing a pre Neolithic population movement into North and East Africa dating to 11-10k ago, involving J1 (Y) and H (mt DNA) which coincide with the IM/Capsian transition in North Africa. This could be the reason for the odd structure of the tree; Cushitic languages are the result of an earlier AA population expansion into East Africa from the near East. This expansion (as far as I can tell) seems to start about 13,500 BP from southern Turkey? I’ll need to dig into it a bit more. This cultural expansion may have been of a food ‘managing’ culture as opposed to food gathering or producing cultures, a proto Neolithic expansion wave of people that kept wild animals (a domestication step) and harvested and planted seeds from the wild. There are domesticated seeds from Syria at 12,500 BP so the people of the Turkey/near East area were definitely doing something along those lines at the right date.