Accepted paper:

Towards reconstructing a source cosmology for African foragers


Camilla Power (University of East London)

Paper short abstract:

Given the antiquity of African forager genetic lineages tracing to source populations older than the movement of modern humans outside Africa, and given significant cultural continuity and resilience, what are the prospects of reconstructing archaic structures of early modern human cosmology?

Paper long abstract:

African forager populations (Khoisan, Western and Eastern Pygmies, and Hadza) conserve the most ancient human lineages with the highest phylogenetic diversity. While all populations show admixture, African hunter-gatherers are differentiated between themselves and in comparison to other African populations. This suggests they represent geographically distinct populations isolated over tens of thousands of years. Separation of these populations also has time-depth equal to or greater than movement of modern humans out of Africa. Aspects of material cultural continuity and resilience have been posited for these populations reaching back into the African Middle Stone Age. Each of these African forager populations bears independent and unique heritage tracing back to source populations contemporary with the emergence of modern humans and earliest modern human symbolic behaviour. Social anthropologists have abandoned grand unifying theory in the style of Lévi-Strauss or Luc de Heusch, which aimed to reconstitute 'lost mythic kernels'. Does our new picture of hunter-gatherer deep history in Africa allow us to renew the attempt to reconstruct archaic structures of African (modern human) cosmology?

panel P41
Social anthropology and human origins