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From Ethiopia to Chile: a 7-Year Walk to Trace Man’s Global Migration

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on January 10, 2013


A two-time Pulitzer Prize winning American writer and Journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek is undertaking an ambitious expedition to retrace on foot the path our ancient ancestors traveled as they migrated across the world.

The Ethiopia-to-Chile walk — which took human ancestors some 50,000 years to make — is called Out of Eden and is sponsored by National Geographic, the Knight Foundation and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, the American plans to write one major article a year with periodic updates every 100 miles or so.

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mtDNA Variation in East Africa

HumanMigrationLanguage diversity in East Africa fits well with its complicated genetic history. In Fleming words, ‘‘Ethiopia by itself has more languages than all of Europe, even counting all the so-called dialects of the Romance family’’ (Fleming, 2006).

All African linguistic phyla are found in East Africa:

  • Afro-Asiatic (AA)

  • Nilo-Saharan,

  • Niger-Congo

  • Khoisan

Among them, AA is the most differentiated, being represented by three:

  • Omotic

  • Cushitic

  • Semitic

of its six major clades:

  • Chadic

  • Berber

  • Egyptian

Omotic and Cushitic are considered the deepest clades of AA, and both are found almost exclusively in the Horn of Africa, along with the linguistic relict Ongota that is traditionally assigned to the Cushitic family but whose classification is still widely debated (Fleming, 2006).

These observations are in agreement with a North-Eastern African origin of the AA languages, most probably in pre-Neolithic times

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One Response to “From Ethiopia to Chile: a 7-Year Walk to Trace Man’s Global Migration”

  1. There are so many presuppositions here that I don’t really know where to begin. The linguistic group “Afro-Asiatic” is a construct based on certain resemblances between Semitic and non-Semitic languages esp. in Ethiopia – but given that knowledge about non-Bantu languages further south is very limited, it seems that it is too easy to connect with the better-known: surprising, that the points of resemblance, such as masc. and fem. gender and pronoun forms, belong to a rather superficial level that can change rapidly – compare the loss of grammatical gender and the great changes in pronouns (loss of “thou”, etc. ) in English only since about 1260. The differences between AA languages are so profound and fundamental that if they ever were of one origin it would have been a VERY LONG TIME ago – and we can verify this by looking at the very earliest Egyptian and Akkadian. The differences between them are far more important than the supposed resemblances. This is of course especially true in Ethiopia & region, and it is especially important in Ethiopia & region not to suppose that Afaraf, Beja, Amharic and Somali, for instance, are “similar” or “much of a muchness” – an impression which the common classification of AA can give to non-specialists. We cannot therefore conclude that there was an “AA homeland” or that the Horn of Africa was it! This looks like a lack of detailed knowledge about the Horn and its linguistica enabling scholars to throw the question of “origins” in that direction and give it a
    linguistic guise! I admitted freely when I researched for my book on Old Nubian that we just can’t find out enough, particularly on the historical situation of the interior of the present S.Sudan/N.E.Congo, to do the job of linguistic comparison properly. My present Ethiopic projects include a foray into Oromi – different again, though always claimed with the vague term “Cushitic” to represent some prehistoric entity of its own – and I am even more convinced than ever that supposed human origins, migrations, etc. in E Africa cannot be explained by reference to language classifications: if the “proto-Semites” really came out of the Horn, there have been millennia of movements, decimations, cultural cross-currents, ever since – all undocumented. Also, please don’t think that the languages of Chile will be any help either: that lot are as drastically different, perhaps, as human language can possibly be! whatever the uncertain or partial message of the DNA.

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