This vibrant and ever-expanding culture is one born of assimilation. Bantu languages and customs are almost beyond number, yet still their urge to spread knows no bounds.
Between the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE, Bantu-speaking peoples embarked on a major series of movements and migrations that led to the creation of numerous population settlements on the African continent. Headed towards the central and southern regions of Africa, this rapid expansion enabled them to settle permanently in the regions of the Great Lakes and the entire Congo basin.Find out more:
It is thought that the first Bantu-speaking groups to lay the foundations of what is commonly referred to as the “Bantu expansion” came from the savannah areas (Grasslands) located on the border of modern-day Cameroon and Nigeria. Around 2000 BCE, as a result of a change in climatic conditions in central Africa, the emergence of savannah corridors across the rain forests is thought to have encouraged their progression towards the east (the Great Lakes region) and west (modern-day Angola) and then the south (Southern Africa). It is also likely that the numerous waterways from the Congo drainage basin formed the basis of the routes they adopted in their dispersal.
The cross-referencing of lexicons common to contemporary Bantu languages (proto-Bantu reconstruction) and data from archaeological excavations shows that the Bantu-speaking populations involved in these migratory flows were farming communities. As well as cultivating pearl millet, which they are thought to have introduced to numerous territories as they moved along their way, they also reared small animals, hunted, fished and cultivated oil palms for their vegetable protein.
Grouped into hamlets organized into networks, these peoples formed small farming communities on sparsely populated areas where they often made links with the local hunter-gatherer populations of the territories they were inhabiting. Wave upon wave, they moved to farm new land as a result of soil depletion or population increases, thus creating a vast Bantu-speaking area across the continent.
Put forward at the end of the 19th century by the explorer and scientist Harry Johnston, the hypothesis of a Bantu expansion has since been validated and verified by the contribution of lexicographical and archaeological studies and the development of anthropobiology.