Since I resurrected the analysis of Tutsi genotypes last year I’ve been getting a fair number of emails and messages from people. The issue is that periodically someone, usually, but not always, a white male, will explain that “actually, Tutsis and Hutus aren’t real ethnic groups, and were invented by the Belgian colonialists….” Many people from this region of the world are privately very skeptical of this viewpoint (they tell me so, but don’t want to get into a huge public spat with all-knowing-white-gods). After all, they are from this region, and Hutus are Tutsis are physically often quite distinctively different. They simply do not buy the social constructionist narrative as explaining everything that they see with their own eyes.
But we’ve seen this before, haven’t we? “Well actually, the Lombards weren’t ethnically different from the Romans, they were a Germanized group of mercenaries who created an identity de novo.” Also, “well actually, ‘caste’ is an ancient Indian concept but modern caste-jati groups were reified by the British in the 19th-century….” (genetics tells us both assertions were wrong).
Historiography of the early 21st-century will observe that many white semi-intellectuals took on the metaphorical role of Hamlet in world history, tortured and self-hating souls who put themselves at the center of every dramatic event. All roads lead back to Hamlet.
As it happens, I now have a single Hutu to compare the dozen or so Tutsis to.
On the PCA plot above you see the Hutu is near the Luhya and Bantu agriculturalists from Kenya. The Tutsis are shifted toward various Near Eastern populations. Nothing surprising.
The TreeMix plot to the right shows that the Tutsi seem to be similar to Ethiopian Jews. Basically, they have some Cushitic origins, even though they now speak a Bantu language (the same language at the Hutu).
We now know more about the process that may have led to this situation due to ancient DNA. Cushitic pastoralists were ancient inhabitants of eastern Africa, displacing and absorbing foragers. But later on, Bantu agriculturalists became demographic dominant. Perhaps the Tutsis were a group of pastoralists integrated into the Hutu social and cultural system?
That being said, there are clear genetic distinctions between the two groups. Ancient DNA Reveals a Multi-Step Spread of the First Herders into Sub-Saharan Africa has an explicit admixture model using ancient DNA (qpAdmin, not Admixture). I pulled the data and re-ran the analysis with Tutsis.
Below you can see one of the models from Ancient DNA Reveals a Multi-Step Spread of the First Herders into Sub-Saharan Africa (table S8). I followed the same outgroup populations as the supplemental methods. I included Luhya to make sure that my answer aligned with the paper. You can see the Tutsi/Hutu/Luhya results in bold. The rest are from the paper.
|Luxmanda (~3100 BP)||0.181||0.371||0.447|
|Pemba (~600 BP)||1.032||-0.076||0.044|
|Kenya PN (Elmenteitan)||0.395||0.413||0.192|
|Kenya PN (other)||0.363||0.402||0.235|
|Kenya PN (all)||0.374||0.407||0.219|
|Kenya possible early pastoralists||0.227||0.493||0.28|
|Kenya IA (all)||0.654||0.166||0.18|
The Tutsis and the Hutu individual are very distinct. The Tutsis are similar to the Maasai, in keeping with my earlier analyses. Here is the Wikipedia entry on Tutsi autosomal genetics:
In general, the Tutsi appear to share a close genetic kinship with neighboring Bantu populations, particularly the Hutus. However, it is unclear whether this similarity is primarily due to extensive genetic exchanges between these communities through intermarriage or whether it ultimately stems from common origins:
I think this is almost certainly wrong. Most people from this area of the world know it is wrong. But there is a concerted effort to impute all Tutsi-Hutu distinctions to the Belgians.
What next? Specifically, I need more Hutu genotypes. So I’m making the call for people to email me at contactgnxp -at- gmail -dot- com.
More generally, this should make readers cautious about experts on ethnographic history. They were wrong about a lot of things in the past generations (caste, the spread of farming and language to Europe, etc.). Right now in the case of the Tutsi-Hutu difference they have engaged a campaign of conscious or unconscious deception.