Dr Lucy van Dorp interviewed by BBC Radio 4 on the genetic legacy of political systems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
22 January 2019
Dr Lucy van Dorp, post-doctoral researcher at UCL Genetics Institute, spoke to Dr Adam Rutherford on BBC Radio 4 Inside Science about the genetic legacy of state centralisation in the pre-colonial political system of the Kuba Kingdom, located in what is now the central Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The study, an international five-year collaboration between UCL and economists at Harvard University and published in PNAS, finds that the formation of the Kuba Kingdom into a large-scale and centralised state shaped the DNA of its descendents. Members of the Kuba Kingdom today, called the Kuba, are both more genetically diverse and retain genetic signatures of migration and mixing not detected in neighbouring people. As discussed on Radio 4, this work demonstrates the importance of societal systems in shaping genetic patterns, as well as the utility of genetic analyses to reveal information on historical events, particularly in regions of the world where few written records exist.