Human Journey and Human Origin: On the Footprints of Hausa People

Ibrahim A.M. Malumfashi

Department of Nigerian Languages and Linguistics
Kaduna State University, Kaduna
Email: malumfashi@kasu.edu.ng 


The Bayajidda legend/history/myth/ as is obtainable amongst the Hausa people of sub-Saharan Africa and its study as a total or some portion of the Hausa people’s history and identity is an amazing intellectual task. It borders on almost all facets of knowledge; historiography, historicism, cultural geography, myth, religion, politics, war, migrations, states and statelessness, the rise and fall of empires and kingdoms, linguistic studies. Researchers are still at it. It is that complex. Many historical, archival, archeological researches and literatures; most especially by the colonialists and their agents, as well as ‘local’ scholars; and extant chronicles; abound in our understanding of the phenomenon of ‘out of Africa’ theory as it impacts on the Hausa people and their identity. Consequently, subjecting the area to genetic/genographic test is now paramount as stop gab in research. A genetic data collected from the area and analyzed by geneticists in the light of current genographic templates may give us a glimpse on the origin, migration patterns of the people as well as the pre-history and the major landmarks followed by the sub-Saharan African community from the earliest times. The paper will attempt to follow the footprints of the Hausa community from as earlier as 60,000 years back to about 5,600 – 9,200 years ago when the Hausa communities’ ancestors lived in West Asia and later settled in their cotemporary homes. Geneticists have painstakingly gone through the genetic samples supplied and by looking at the order in which these markers occurred over time, have constructed the breadcrumbs and traced the journey of Hausa ancestors across the globe and their various identities and manifestations.  Furthermore, with these markers; geneticists have created a human family tree of the Hausa people. This is achieved because everyone alive today falls on a particular branch of this tree. Scientists have also examined the data from the markers to determine which branch Hausa people belong to. The result of that analysis; Hausa people personal journey and the identities they merged into as well as their current cultural transformation is what would be outlined in this paper.

Keywords: History, literary history, geography, genetics and Genography


If not for the intervention of modern and/or western approaches in African studies as Dierk Lange asserted in his summary of years of painstaking academic research, field work and extant study of ancient manuscripts concerning the historical inquiry in African societies, most of our knowledge in the field of Hausa origin would have been confronted with missing links or gaps and untypical. Very little is known about the pre-Christian and Islamic tendencies amongst most Hausa city states, that information already in the limelight were underreported or willfully ignored. The scrutiny of ‘unexplored written, oral and cult-mythological sources’ outlined a semblance of a historical reconstruction of the administrative set ups of Sudanese states of sub-Saharan Africa, Lange (2004c). Consequently, Lange (2004c) corpus is a fuller new light that encapsulate the interrelatedness of the ‘Canaanite-Israelite cultural pattern in specific African societies,’ from where ‘important new insights for the understanding of Semitic myth and ritual features can be derived from existing African situations,’ most especially Hausa city states.

This same or similar method is adopted by Last (2004) on the positioning of Arabic and oral sources as alternatives in understanding the historical milieu of the organizational structure of the ancient Hausa states. In the absence of archaeological evidence of the settlements of Hausa people he avers, we have still to rely, unfortunately, wholly on the evidence in the Arabic sources and on oral traditions. ‘Further scrutiny may show that the data in those sources are accurate only in the sense that the people who first recorded the data understood exactly what they meant. The task, then, is to understand their “mental maps", the framework in which the information made good sense to them. It does not matter if one peoples’ mental map differs from another's: for there is, at least in this world, no History, only histories.’

From these two extremes but related ideals we situate the intellectual engagements as regards the history of Hausa states of sub-Saharan Africa and the Bayajidda legend. Horrendous efforts are on ground by many scholars that dissected the field; see for instance Infakul Maisuri of   Muhammad Bello, Muhammad and Boyd, (1974), Palmer, (1928), Adamu, (1978), Usman, (1981), Smith, (1987), Last, (1984), Lange, (2004c), Adamu, (2011), Adamu, (1997), Malumfashi, (2018) and extant chronicles of Kano, Abuja and Daura. Other studies by Dierk Lange by far have dusted the field, (see for instance Lange (2012, 2013, 2018, 2019,). These are but textual documentations and analyses, we need to go beyond paper ad pen and embraced science as we are neck deep in the 21st century, which is an age where some semblance of exactness is required in researches and studies; this is where genetics and Genography comes in handy.

An Overview  of Hausa People’s History, Legends and the Efficacy of Genography

The story and/or history of ancient people as geneticists have testified is buried in many facets of life, only few are and/or can be unearthed through historiographical studies, archeological excavations, cultural testimonies, oral traditions, and such others as left behind for inheritors.

Just like other humans scattered around the world; the history of Hausa people’s’ immediate and far-fetched descendants is shrouded in such kind of complex rigmarole. Enthusiasm of the past that can be found through many (oral) histories of Hausa people and city states, and few written sources available, nothing in them shows Hausa people were here in Northern Nigeria, 300 years ago.

This can be glimpsed from many historical studies of origin; for instance, from the oral and some documented sources I traced back my origin to Katsina/Daura axis (in preset Katsina state) about 230 years ago and my original linguistic conglomeration was Fulfulde, not Hausa and my great-grandfathers came to Hausa land from the ‘east’ with their cattle and books, towed along, (Malumfashi, 2017). The same scenario is found from my mother’s side, my ancestors traversed an expense of land around Bichi to Karaduwa and Malumfashi in present day Katsina and Kano States; my great-grandfathers came from the ‘east’ also, with hordes of cattle and books to meet the Shehu Usmanu Danfodiyo and his ilk preparing for the Jihad around 1805, (Malumfashi, 2017). Consequently, the Hausa people, are then an admixture of Fulani and Hausa origin; as many of their great-grand fathers were basically Fulani acculturated and linguistically assimilated into Hausa, later in life.

If that is the case, where were my great-grand fathers before then? What was the language they communicated with before here (in Northern Nigeria) and there (in Daura, Katsina, Bichi, Karadua) and before there and even further there (way back in the ‘east)?

These and may of such questions and interceptive queries cannot be simplified by history, archeology or myths and legends of the people, alone, but can partly be revealed by some aspects of scientific inquiry through the “record of ancient human migrations in the DNA of living people.” This is established as "every drop of human blood contains a history book written in the language of our genes," Shreeve, (2006).

Literary historians on the other hand have to go cap in hand to genetics to unravel some of these issues. Science being a replica of an exact methodological investigation, one can’t help but agree that since we are ONE WORLD and ONE PEOPLE, as captured by Spencer Wells of the Genographic Project, (https://youtu.be/a-YKAaky7s), we can then trace Hausa peoples’ remotest origin and language from these perspectives.

There was once one human race, one language; then so many other human races and so many other languages evolved over time. They evolved from the same source. The same Proto language evolved over time is the same progeny of modern languages today, with thousand mutations. Science has since come into the fold to account for some of these differences, but in as much as science is vital in this search for origins, genetics can only account for some portions of the present permutations to account for how and why of our present acculturation.

Researches have indicated the possibility/probability of the existence of modern man about 175,000 years ago, (https://youtu.be/a-YKAaky7s), when modern man came face to face with pre-historic man, scientists until today cannot locate the compass and whether they intermingled. In the time past many races and languages found themselves in one location or the other, and through journeys and migrations humans settled and populate the world as we see it today, among which are the Hausa people.

In trying to gauge the intermingling and peopling of the world, a lot of efforts have been exerted on the possibility of finding the commencement and the nature of the journey to establish the present location of the Hausa people. What is obtainable is a lot of conjectures and combination of sources. Sometimes there is clear cut confusion, because people are talking about TWO distinct issues, HAUSAWA (the People) and HAUSA (the language), both divergent at the same time related.

To our understanding, the people were/are/will be, around forever. Language on the other hand is an amalgam of so many things. It was Hausa now, what was it 175,000 years ago? Or to come near us, what was it 20,000 years ago? Or just recent, were there Hausa people or language 700 years ago? There were the people of course, but no language! What then was the language of the people called?

It is now more evident that subjecting the Hausa people and history to the full test of genetic science is now paramount. In between March 2016 ad December 2017 the current researchers was at the USA where he spends 10 days during which a comprehensive analysis to identify thousands of genetic markers—breadcrumbs—in his DNA, was undertaken as a first step towards understanding the ancestry of the Hausa people, (Malumfashi, 2017).  Subsequently, another kit was supplied and analysis done on the sample by the Genographic Project Laboratory based in Washington DC. The Result came out, detailed and comprehensive on both sides; paternal and maternal.

By looking at the order in which these markers as extracted occurred from these samples, geneticists follow the breadcrumbs and trace the journey of Hausa people’s ancestors across the globe.  Furthermore, with these markers’ geneticists create a human family tree of the Hausa people. They examine the data from the markers to determine which branch Hausa people belong to. The results of that analysis-Hausa ancestral personal journey or the Hausa people personal journey is outlined; Malumfashi (2017, 2018).

To get a glimpse of Hausa ancestry; the DNA results is compared with the reference populations currently available on the database of Genographic Project. An estimate is made to determine which of these populations were most similar to Hausas in terms of the genetic markers the data submitted carry, Malumfashi (2018).

We are already aware from other researches of this kind, Hausa people are not what they are or what others see today, as ‘we are all more than the sum of our parts,’ Malumfashi (2017). Expectedly, the research shows the Hausa people affiliations with a set of eighteen world regions. We see Hausa peoples’ information, going back six generations. That picture gives us an understanding in percentages that reflect both recent influences and ancient genetic patterns in Hausa peoples’ DNA. The result finally shows Hausa people migrated to and from different regions, mixing for hundreds or even thousands of years, Malumfashi (2018).

Genography and History: On the Footprints of the Hausa People

Result of the analysis of the data from the supplied as released by the Genographic Project can be summarized into three main components; the pre-history, modern/history period and contemporary period. What I will do here is to take us through the stories of Hausa people distant ancestors and show how the movements of their descendants gave rise to their lineage today as outlined in the mapping.

History of Hausa People
Figure 1: Human journey and peopling of the world

Each segment on the map above represents the migratory path of successive modern human groups that eventually coalesced to form Hausa people branch of the tree. The first start is the marker for the oldest ancestor, and walk forward to more recent times, showing at each step the line of Hausa people ancestors who lived up to that point, Malumfashi (2018).

According to the result, as each individual carries his own DNA; which is a combination of genes passed from both our mother and father, giving us traits that range from eye color and height to athleticism and disease susceptibility, we the take the shape we pass on to others, Malumfashi (2018). As part of this process, the Y-chromosome is passed directly from father to son, unchanged, from generation to generation down a purely male line.

Mitochondrial DNA, on the other hand, is passed from mothers to their children, but only their daughters pass it on to the next generation. It traces a purely maternal line, Malumfashi (2018).

Since the DNA is passed on unchanged, unless a mutation - a random, naturally occurring, usually harmless change - occurs. We are what we pass on to generations, yet unknown. The mutation, known as a marker, acts as a beacon; it can be mapped through generations because it will be passed down for thousands of years, Malumfashi (2018).

When geneticists identify such a marker, they try to figure out when it first occurred, and in which geographic region of the world. Each marker is essentially the beginning of a new lineage on the family tree of the human race. Tracking the lineages provides a picture of how small tribes of modern humans in Africa tens of thousands of years ago diversified and spread to populate the world.

By looking at the markers one carry, geneticists can trace one lineage, ancestor by ancestor, to reveal the path they traveled as they moved out of Africa. The investigation begins with ones earliest ancestor. In this case the Hausa people ancestral lineage. Who were they, where did they live, and what is their story? The story can be found in the various branches of Hausa origin genetic tress traversed from about 150,000 years ago. This is Hausa people’s story as captured by the study of the Hausa data supplied.

The common direct paternal ancestor of all men alive today was born in Africa: 300,000 and 150,000 years ago, known as “Y-chromosome Adam.” He is the only male whose Y-chromosome lineage is still around today. All men, including my direct paternal ancestors, trace their ancestry to one of this man’s descendants.

Around 100,000 years ago a mutation occurred in the Y chromosome of a man in Africa. This is one of the oldest known mutations that is not shared by all men.  Therefore, it marks one of the early splits in the human Y-chromosome tree. The man who first carried this mutation lived in Africa and is the ancestor to more than 99.9% of paternal lineages today.

Around 80,000 years ago, the BT branch of the Y-chromosome tree was born. Some of this man’s descendants would begin the journey out of Africa, into Middle East and India. Some small groups from this line would eventually reach the Americas. Other groups would settle in Europe. Some would remain near their ancestral homeland in Africa, (Malumfashi, 2017). Individuals from this line whose ancestors stayed in Africa often practice cultural traditions that resemble those of the distant past; hunter-gatherer societies, the Mbuti, Biaka Pygmies of central Africa and Tanzania’s Hadza.

The first group of male lineages, the M168 branch was one of the first to leave the African homeland, (Malumfashi, 2017).

The man who gave rise to the first genetic marker in my own lineage lived in Northeast Africa. Where? In the region of the Rift Valley, in present-day Ethiopia, Kenya, or Tanzania. Scientists put the most likely date for when he lived at around 70,000 years ago. His descendants became the only lineage to survive outside of Africa, making him the common ancestor of every non-African man living today.

My ancestor and his family were nomadic as they moved around they followed the good weather and the animals they hunted, the exact route they followed remains to be determined. This mutation is one of the oldest to have occurred outside of Africa, (Malumfashi, 2017). Moving along the coastline, members of this lineage were some of the earliest settlers in Asia The first migrants likely ventured across the Bab-al Mandeb strait. A narrow body of water at the southern end of the Red Sea Crossing into the Arabian Peninsula, developing mutation P143, perhaps 60,000 years ago  (Malumfashi, 2017). By 50,000 years ago, they had reached Australia. These were the ancestors of some of today’s Australian Aborigines.

Fluctuation in climate may have contributed to my ancestors’ exodus out of Africa. The African ice age was characterized by drought rather than by cold. Around 50,000 years ago, the ice sheets of the Northern Hemisphere began to melt. A short period of warmer temperatures and moister climate pervaded Africa and Middle East, parts of the inhospitable Sahara briefly became habitable, (Malumfashi, 2018).

As the drought-ridden desert changed to a savanna, the animals hunted by my ancestors expanded their range, moving through the newly emerging green corridor of grasslands.

The first man from the data to acquire mutation M578 was among those that stayed in Southwest Asia before moving on.  Fast-forwarding to about 40,000 years ago, the climate shifted once again and became colder and more arid, (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).

Drought hit Africa and the Middle East and the grasslands reverted to desert. The next 20,000 years, the Saharan Gateway was effectively closed. With the desert impassable, my ancestors had two options: Remain in the Middle East, or move on. Retreat back to the home continent was not an option then.

The next male ancestor in my ancestral lineage is the man who gave rise to P128, a marker found in more than half of all non-Africans alive today. This man was born around 45,000 years ago in south Central Asia, (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).

Some of the descendants of P128 migrated to the southeast and northeast, this lineage is the parent of several major branches on the Y-chromosome tree:


O, the most common lineage in East Asia.

R, the major European and Central Asia.

Q, the major Y-chromosome lineage in the Americas. 


The final tree branch of the Hausa people from the genetic analyses conducted is tagged V88, (Malumfashi, 2018), which was put at 5,600 – 9,200 years ago as the latest migratory pattern of the Hausa people. The result further shows the Hausa people were born as the Earth entered the mid-Holocene epoch, some early descendants of this lineage expanded into the Levant region and into Europe. Others took part in a migration across Africa, (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).

These African travelers lived in a time when the Saharan region changing from a lush land of savannas and woodlands to arid desert. As the climate changed, the earliest ancestors of the Hausa people moved first to the central Sahara and then on to the Lake Chad Basin. They brought with them the proto-Chadic language. (Malumfashi, 2018), thus, they are the ancestors of all Chadic language-speaking groups. Today, geneticists have found men from this lineage at minimal traceable frequencies in Europe. From the deeper analysis of the genetic sample it is found that the present day Hausa people’s lineage can be classified into the following:


About 20 percent of Egyptian Berbers from Siwa.

It consists of about 6 percent of Southern Egyptian (ancient Egypt) male lineages.

It is also present at low frequencies in Jewish Diaspora and Saudi Arabian population groups.

It is about 20 percent of the Hausa male population as at now.  (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).


In Central Africa, the lineage is present in high frequencies, most especially amongst:


Ouldeme people of Northern Cameroun (96 percent)

Mada people of Western Cameroun, (82 percent)

Mafa people of Northern Cameroun and Eastern Nigeria, (88 percent). (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).


Further scrutiny shows this component of Hausa people’s ancestry is associated with the region that extends from:


Senegal in West Africa.

South and East of Africa.

Nigeria to Congo and Angola.

It covers more than half of sub-Saharan Africa.

Prehistorically, this part of the world is one of the first reached by modern humans some 100,000 years ago.

Historically, west and central Africa saw the rise and fall of many empires and cultures. (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).

For a fuller understanding of where the journey took our ancestors to and where they can be located, this map gives an indication.


The History of the Hausa people

The History of the Hausa people

Red Areas: Indicates high concentrations

Algeria and Democratic Republic of Congo

Light Yellow and Grey: Indicate low concentrations.

Saudi Arabia




Parts of Mali and Mauritania



Central Africa Republic

Parts of Nigeria

Parts of Cameroun

Parts of Ethiopia, (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).

This mapping shows the closest haplogroup in the paths of Hausa people that geneticists have frequency information for as Hausa close relations in indigenous populations from around the world. This provides a more detailed look at where some of my more recent ancestors settled in their migratory journey.

What do geneticists mean by recent? A few hundred years to a few thousand years ago, depending on how much scientists currently know about Hausa particular haplogroup. As scientists test more individuals from Hausa region and receive more information worldwide, this information will grow and change, (Malumfashi, 2017 and 2018).

One should sound a note of caution here; the geographic region with the highest frequency show here isn’t necessarily the place where the Hausa haplogroup originated, although this is sometimes the case. In order for us to learn more ancestry information about where Hausa haplogroups settled in more recent times, we need to do two things:


Contribute the results (Malumfashi, 2017 ad 2018) to Science and fill out Hausa ancestry information.

Search for volunteers from amongst the Hausa people and other related people from around the movement regions of the world and have them tested genetically.


Taking all these into considerations and knowing that science is not fully an exact study; a data from one individual cannot suffice for a thorough and fuller research. There is the need to cover about 3,000 people, spread in so many locations, within the West African substratum to the North and Central Africa and even beyond to Asia for us to have a batter glimpse.

This is an interesting beginning of a journey, but then since the task is to unravel more from the genographic point of view, so as to balance the equation as regards the interconnectivity and interrelatedness of the corpus as unearthed by historians, anthropologists, linguists, archeologists, political scientists, sociologists and such others, this has opened up the virgin area for more scrutiny. This is the main crux of this and other researches in the future.


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