Pinpointing DNA Ancestry in Africa

(The Root) Before the advent of DNA testing, scholars relied on shipping records that listed the African ports from which slaves were exported to determine where in Africa the African-descended population of the United States originated. But these lists were quite limited because they noted only the port of departure and not the actual community from which the enslaved were taken. 

Advancements in DNA analyses, along with African shipping records, have revealed that African Americans do not have roots in the entire continent. A relatively small number of African groups supplied the lion's share of the ancestral African population.

In fact, three large regions of Atlantic Africa were the major contributors to the slave trade: Upper Guinea, including the modern countries of Senegal, Mali, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia; Lower Guinea, including the southern portions of Eastern Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria; and West Central Africa, which encompassed mostly the western portions of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. In all, these regions made up only about 15 percent of Africa's total area, all on the Atlantic side of the continent.

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