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Nilotic

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Nilotic people or Nilotes, in its contemporary usage, refers to some ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

s mainly in South Sudan
South Sudan
South Sudan , officially the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country located in the Sahel region of northeastern Africa. It is also part of the North Africa UN sub-region. Its current capital is Juba, which is also its largest city; the capital city is planned to be moved to the more...

, Uganda
Uganda
Uganda , officially the Republic of Uganda, is a landlocked country in East Africa. Uganda is also known as the "Pearl of Africa". It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by...

, Kenya
Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, and northern Tanzania
Tanzania
The United Republic of Tanzania is a country in East Africa bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west, and Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south. The country's eastern borders lie on the Indian Ocean.Tanzania is a state...

, who speak Nilotic languages
Nilotic languages
The Nilotic languages are a group of Eastern Sudanic languages spoken across a wide area between southern Sudan and Tanzania by the Nilotic peoples, particularly associated with cattle-herding...

, a large sub-group of the Nilo-Saharan languages
Nilo-Saharan languages
The Nilo-Saharan languages are a proposed family of African languages spoken by some 50 million people, mainly in the upper parts of the Chari and Nile rivers , including historic Nubia, north of where the two tributaries of Nile meet...

. These include the Kalenjin, Luo
Luo (family of ethnic groups)
The Luo are an ethnic linguistic group located in an area that stretches from South Sudan and Ethiopia through northern Uganda and eastern Congo , into western Kenya, and ending in the upper tip of Tanzania. These people speak an Eastern Sudanic language, a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language...

, Ateker
Ateker
Ateker or Atekerin is a common name for the closely related Jie, Karamojong, Turkana, Toposa, Nyangatom and Teso peoples and their languages. Itung'a and Teso have been used among ethnographers, while the term Teso-Turkana is sometimes used for the languages, which are of Eastern Nilotic stock....

, Dinka
Dinka
The Dinka is an ethnic group inhabiting the Bahr el Ghazal region of the Nile basin, Jonglei and parts of southern Kordufan and Upper Nile regions. They are mainly agro-pastoral people, relying on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and growing millet and other varieties of grains ...

, Nuer, Shilluk and the Maa-speaking peoples
Maa languages
The Maa languages are a group of closely related Eastern Nilotic languages spoken in parts of Kenya and Tanzania by more than a million speakers altogether. They are subdivided into North and South Maa...

 – all which are clusters of several ethnic groups.

The terms Nilotic and Nilote were previously used as racial classifications, based on anthropological observations of their distinct body morphology. These perceptions were later widely discarded by scientists, but today they again find support in population genetics.

These terms are now foremost used to distinguish "Nilotic people" from their ethnic neighbours (mainly Bantu
Bantu languages
The Bantu languages constitute a traditional sub-branch of the Niger–Congo languages. There are about 250 Bantu languages by the criterion of mutual intelligibility, though the distinction between language and dialect is often unclear, and Ethnologue counts 535 languages...

 speaking people), based on ethnolinguistic affiliation. Etymologically, the terms Nilotic and Nilote (also spelled Nilot) derive from the Nile Valley, specifically the Upper Nile and its tributaries, where most Sudanese Nilo-Saharan-speaking people live.

Linguistic divisions



Linguistically, Nilotic people are divided into three sub-groups:
  • Eastern Nilotic
    Eastern Nilotic languages
    The Eastern Nilotic languages are one of the three primary branches of the Nilotic languages, themselves belonging to the Eastern Sudanic subfamily of Nilo-Saharan; they are believed to have begun to diverge about 3,000 years ago, and have spread southwards from an original home in Equatoria in...

  • Southern Nilotic
    Southern Nilotic languages
    The Southern Nilotic languages are spoken mainly in western Kenya and northern Tanzania . They are generally divided into two groups, Kalenjin and Omotik–Datooga, although there is some uncertainty as to the internal coherence of the Kalenjin branch...

  • Western Nilotic
    Western Nilotic languages
    The Western Nilotic languages are one of the three primary branches of the Nilotic languages, themselves belonging to the Eastern Sudanic subfamily of Nilo-Saharan...


Ethnic divisions


Nilotic people constitute a large part of the population of South Sudan
South Sudan
South Sudan , officially the Republic of South Sudan, is a landlocked country located in the Sahel region of northeastern Africa. It is also part of the North Africa UN sub-region. Its current capital is Juba, which is also its largest city; the capital city is planned to be moved to the more...

. The largest of the Sudanese Nilotic peoples is the Dinka, which includes as many as twenty-five ethnic groups. The next largest group is the Nuer, followed by the Shilluk.

The Nilotic people in Uganda include the Luo group
Luo (family of ethnic groups)
The Luo are an ethnic linguistic group located in an area that stretches from South Sudan and Ethiopia through northern Uganda and eastern Congo , into western Kenya, and ending in the upper tip of Tanzania. These people speak an Eastern Sudanic language, a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language...

 (Acholi, Alur
Alur people
Alur are an ethnic group who live mainly in the Nebbi, Zombo, and Arua districts in northwestern Uganda, but also in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, north of Lake Albert. They are part of the larger Luo group, and their language is closely related to Acholi...

 and Jopadhola
Jopadhola
The Adhola people, also known as Jopadhola or Badama, are an ethnic group of Uganda. They live Tororo District in southeastern Uganda and comprise about two percent of the country's total population. They speak Dhopadhola , which belongs to the Western Nilotic branch of the Nilo-Saharan language...

), the Ateker
Ateker
Ateker or Atekerin is a common name for the closely related Jie, Karamojong, Turkana, Toposa, Nyangatom and Teso peoples and their languages. Itung'a and Teso have been used among ethnographers, while the term Teso-Turkana is sometimes used for the languages, which are of Eastern Nilotic stock....

 (Iteso
Iteso
The Teso are an ethnic group in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Teso refers to the traditional homeland of the Iteso, and Ateso is their language.-Uganda:...

 and Karamojong), and the Lango and Kumam
Kumam
The Kumam are a Ugandan ethnic group of about 150,000 living mainly in Kaberamaido district as well as the western areas of Teso sub-region, and the south-east of Lango sub-region....

.

In Kenya, the Nilotes are often categorised into three subgroups:
  • The Plain Nilotes, who speak Maa languages: the Maasai
    Maasai language
    The Maasai language is an Eastern Nilotic language spoken in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania by the Maasai people, numbering about 800,000...

    , Samburu
    Samburu language
    Samburu is the Eastern Nilotic, North Maa language spoken by the Samburu in the highlands of northern Kenya. The Samburu number about 128,000 . Samburu is closely related to Camus and to the South Maa language Maasai...

     and Turkana
    Turkana language
    Turkana is the language of the Turkana people of Kenya, numbering about 340,000.It is one of the Eastern Nilotic languages, and is closely related to Karamojong, Jie and Teso of Uganda, to Toposa spoken in the extreme southeast of Sudan, and to Nyangatom in the Sudan/Ethiopia Omo valley borderland;...

  • The River lake Nilotes: the Joluo (Kenyan Luo), who are part of the larger Luo
    Luo (family of ethnic groups)
    The Luo are an ethnic linguistic group located in an area that stretches from South Sudan and Ethiopia through northern Uganda and eastern Congo , into western Kenya, and ending in the upper tip of Tanzania. These people speak an Eastern Sudanic language, a branch of the Nilo-Saharan language...

     group
  • The Highland Nilotic or Kalenjin, which includes several smaller groups: Elgeyo
    Elgeyo
    The Elgeyo are an ethnic group that is part the larger Kalenjin ethnic group of nilotic origin. They live near Eldoret, Kenya in the highlands of the Keiyo District...

    , Keiyo, Kipsigis, Marakwet
    Marakwet
    Marakwet is a corruption of Markweta. It is a tribe of the Kalenjin people, with an estimated population of 200 000. It is made of the clans Almoo, Cherangany , Endoow, Markweta , Sombirir and Kiptaani who presently predominantly live in Marakwet District in the North Rift Valley Province of Kenya...

    , Nandi, Pokot
    Pokot
    The Pokot people live in the West Pokot and Baringo Districts of Kenya and in eastern Karamoja in Uganda. They speak Pökoot, language of the Southern Nilotic language family...

    , Sabaot, Terik, and Tugen

Genetics


Nilotic people have been investigated in studies of both autosomal DNA and Y-DNA.

Hassan et al. (2008) found that the three most populous groups of Sudanese Nilotes (Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk) were characterized by the predominance of Y-haplogroups A3b2
Haplogroup A (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup A refers to a group of y-chromosome lineages that were among the first to branch off from the root of the human y-chromosome phylogeny...

 (28/53 = 52.8%), B
Haplogroup B (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup B is a Y-chromosome haplogroup.-Distribution:Haplogroup B is localized to sub-Saharan Africa, especially to tropical forests of West-Central Africa. After Y-haplogroup A, it is the second oldest and one of the most diverse human Y-haplogroups...

 (16/53 = 30.2%), and E1b1b (9/53 = 17.0%).

Wood et al. (2005) tested samples of three Nilotic populations (Maasai from Kenya, Luo from Kenya, and Alur from the DRC) as part of a broad survey of human Y-chromosome DNA variation in Africa and found that the predominant Y-DNA haplogroup in each of the three populations was different, with E1b1b1-M35 being the most frequent among Maasai (13/26 = 50%, including 4/26 = 15% E1b1b1a-M78
Haplogroup E1b1b1a (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, E1b1b1a , is the name of a major Y chromosome haplogroup found in North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia and Europe. It is dominated by its longer-known sub-clade E1b1b1a1 , formerly known as E3b1a and E1b1b1a...

 and 9/26 = 35% E1b1b1-M35(xE1b1b1a-M78, E1b1b1b-M81)), E1b1a-P1 being the most frequent among Luo (6/9 = 67%, including 4/9 E1b1a7-M191 and 2/9 E1b1a-P1(xE1b1a7-M191)), and E2a-M41
Haplogroup E2 (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup E2 is a human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroup. Haplogroup E2, along with haplogroup E1, is one of the two main branches of the older Haplogroup E.-Distribution:...

 being the most frequent among Alur (6/9 = 67%).

Knight et al. (2003) have found haplogroup E1b1b1-M35 to be the most frequent Y-DNA haplogroup in a small sample of eight Southern Nilotic Datooga males from Tanzania (5/8 = 62.5%), with the remainder belonging to haplogroup Y*(xA-M91, B-M60, DE-YAP), which the authors have equated with haplogroup C
Haplogroup C (Y-DNA)
In human genetics, Haplogroup C is a Y-chromosome haplogroup, defined by UEPs M130/RPS4Y711, M216, P184, P255, and P260, which are all SNP mutations. It is a sibling clade of Haplogroup F, within the more ancient grouping of Haplogroup CF...

 and/or haplogroup F (2/8 = 25%), and haplogroup E1b1a-M2 (1/8 = 12.5%). Tishkoff et al. (2007) have tested a sample of 35 Datooga males, and likewise have found E1b1b1-M35 to be the most frequent Y-DNA haplogroup among them (19/35 = 54.3%), with the remainder consisting of 8/35 = 22.9% DE-YAP(xE1b1a-M2, E1b1b1-M35), 4/35 = 11.4% E1b1a-M2, 2/35 = 5.7% Y*(xA-M91, B-M60, DE-YAP), 1/35 = 2.9% A3b2-M13, and 1/35 = 2.9% B2b-M112. Henn et al. (2008) have found haplogroup E1b1b1g-M293 in 42.5% (17/40) and haplogroup E1b1b1-M35(xE1b1b1a-M78, E1b1b1b-M81, E1b1b1c-M123, E1b1b1d-M281, E1b1b1e-V6, E1b1b1g-M293) in 5.0% (2/40) of a sample of Datooga males from Tanzania, which suggests that a majority of this population's members of haplogroup E-M35 belong to the subclade marked by the M293 mutation.

In the autosomal study of Tishkoff et al. Nilotic groups (Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk), together with the related Nyimang
Nyimang
Nyimang is an ethnic group of the Nuba Mountains in Kordofan in Sudan and one of the ethnicities called "Nuba". They speak Nyima languages, of the Nilo-Saharan language family. Their population may exceed 100,000. Most are Muslims.-Communication:...

 people, make up a discrete genetic cluster separated from other clusters in Subsaharan Africa.

Anthropology


Nilotes are often described as gracile in build, being slimmer and of greater stature than the average human, and having long limbs with very long distal segments (forearms, calves). This characteristic is thought to be a climatic adaptation to allow their bodies to shed heat more efficiently.

Sudanese Nilotes are regarded as one of the tallest people in the world. For example, Roberts and Bainbridge reported average values of 182.6 cm for height and 58.8 kg for weight in a sample of Sudanese Shilluk. Another sample of Sudanese Dinka
Dinka
The Dinka is an ethnic group inhabiting the Bahr el Ghazal region of the Nile basin, Jonglei and parts of southern Kordufan and Upper Nile regions. They are mainly agro-pastoral people, relying on cattle herding at riverside camps in the dry season and growing millet and other varieties of grains ...

 had 181.9 cm/58.0 kg with an extremely ectomorphic somatotype 1.6-3.5-6.2.

Other Nilotes are considerably smaller. Campbell et al. measured 172.0 cm/53.6 kg in a sample of agricultural Turkana
Turkana people
The Turkana are a Nilotic people native to the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, a dry and hot region bordering Lake Turkana in the east, Pokot, Rendille and Samburuto the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan and Ethiopia to the north...

 in northern Kenya, and 174.9 cm/53.0 kg in pastoral Turkana
Turkana people
The Turkana are a Nilotic people native to the Turkana District in northwest Kenya, a dry and hot region bordering Lake Turkana in the east, Pokot, Rendille and Samburuto the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan and Ethiopia to the north...

. Hiernaux lists 172.7 cm for Maasai in southern Kenya with an extreme trunk/leg length ratio 47.7%.

Many Nilotic groups excel in long distance running. This sort of sports excellence seems to stem from their exceptional running economy resulting from slim body morphology and slender legs.