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Journal Article

The genes of freedom: Genome-wide insights into marronage, admixture and ethnogenesis in the Gulf of Guinea


Fehn,  Anne-Maria
Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Almeida, J., Fehn, A.-M., Ferreira, M., Machado, T., Hagemeijer, T., Rocha, J., et al. (2021). The genes of freedom: Genome-wide insights into marronage, admixture and ethnogenesis in the Gulf of Guinea. Genes, 12(6): 12060833. doi:10.3390/genes12060833.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-B1EB-7
The forced migration of millions of Africans during the Atlantic Slave Trade led to the emergence of new genetic and linguistic identities, thereby providing a unique opportunity to study the mechanisms giving rise to human biological and cultural variation. Here we focus on the archipelago of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea, which hosted one of the earliest plantation societies relying exclusively on slave labor. We analyze the genetic variation in 25 individuals from three communities who speak distinct creole languages (Forros, Principenses and Angolares), using genomic data from expanded exomes in combination with a contextual dataset from Europe and Africa, including newly generated data from 28 Bantu speakers from Angola. Our findings show that while all islanders display mixed contributions from the Gulf of Guinea and Angola, the Angolares are characterized by extreme genetic differentiation and inbreeding, consistent with an admixed maroon isolate. In line with a more prominent Bantu contribution to their creole language, we additionally found that a previously reported high-frequency Y-chromosome haplotype in the Angolares has a likely Angolan origin, suggesting that their genetic, linguistic and social characteristics were influenced by a small group of dominant men who achieved disproportionate reproductive success.