This is an oversimplification, but it is exactly what the archaeology and physical anthropology had previously told us. Except the physy and archy data give us more detail. But, important and interesting nonetheless:

Short people known as pygmies are scattered across equatorial Africa, where they speak various languages, inhabit different types of forests, and hunt and gather food in diverse ways. Despite their cultural variety, a new study shows that the pygmies of Western Central Africa descended from an ancestral population that survived intact until 2800 years ago when farmers invaded the pygmies’ territory and split them apart….


rest of the story here

Comments

  1. #1 Lilian Nattel
    February 8, 2009

    I wonder if the lack of adolescent growth spurt was just a random mutation that had no particular selective disadvantage.

  2. #2 MattK
    February 8, 2009

    I wonder if the lack of adolescent growth spurt was just a random mutation that had no particular selective disadvantage.

    I think that the mutation was random (as they tend to be) but there is almost certainly a selective advantage (or was in the past) because very short stature also occurs in other tropical forest peoples (Amazonians and some southeast Asian populations) but not among other groups (as far as I know). If it was just drift then short-statured populations should be randomly distributed among environments and economies.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    February 8, 2009

    Right. Short stature occurs again and again, but also in arid climates like the bushmen/Ju. There have been many adaptive explanations. Many seem plausible, none have been overly convincing.

    There are few or no tall forest people.

  4. #4 Mama Africa
    February 21, 2009

    …”the pygmies of Western Central Africa descended from an ancestral population that survived intact until 2800 years ago…”

    great post! thanks very much for sharing!