Etymology, history, origins and expansion of the proto-Bantu people of Africa. Bantu peoples is used as a general label for the 300–600 ethnic groups in Africa who speak Bantu languages. The word Bantu and its variations means “people” or “humans”. Versions of this word occur in all Bantu languages.
Between 2500–3000 years ago, speakers of the proto-Bantu language group began a millennia-long series of migrations eastward from their homeland in West Africa. Current scholarly understanding places the ancestral proto-Bantu homeland in West Africa near the present-day south-western border of Nigeria and Cameroon. By 3,500 years ago Bantu-speaking communities reached the great Central African rain forest and by 2,500 years ago pioneering groups had emerged into the savannah in what are now the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, and Zambia. Another stream of migration, moving east 3,000 years ago was creating a major new population centre near the Great Lakes of East Africa, where a rich environment supported a dense population.
Movements by small groups to the south-east from the Great Lakes region were more rapid, with initial settlements widely dispersed near the coast and near rivers, due to harsh farming conditions in areas farther from water. Before the expansion of farming and herding Bantu language speaking peoples, Africa south of the equator was populated by neolithic hunting and foraging proto-Khoisan-speaking peoples, whose few remaining descendants, the Khoekhoe and San, now occupy the arid regions around the Kalahari desert.
The Hadza, Pygmy and Sandawe populations in Tanzania comprised the other modern hunter-forager remnant in Africa of these proto-Khoisan-speaking peoples. Over a period of many centuries, most hunting-foraging peoples were displaced and assimilated by incoming Bantu-speaking communities from West, North Central and Eastern Africa.
There is no record of how many genocides this involved as whole tribes disappeared, possibly even entire races….