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Shomarka Keita

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Shomarka Keita

Shomarka Omar Yahya Keita M.D., DPhil. ( ), known as Shomarka Keita, is an American anthropologist. He is affiliated with the National Human Genome Center of Howard University and the Department of Anthropology of the Smithsonian Institution.[1][2]

He has been interested in the origins of the concepts of race, the misconception of human variation as race, and the scientific approaches to the biocultural origins and histories of indigenous African peoples.[3]


Keita completed his medical training at Howard University and received an M.D. degree. He studied taxonomy and evolutionary biology with S.T. Hussain and D. Domning in the anatomy department, as well as skeletal biology with the late J. Lawrence (Larry) Angel of the Smithsonian Institution. He received his D. Phil. which is equivalent to a PhD in the United States in biological anthropology from Oxford University where his supervisors were scholars, A.J.(Anthony) Boyce (biological anthropology) and John Baines (Egyptology).

Keita's career has primarily been in public sector medicine, but has included academic teaching and research. He is a member of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the Physicians for Human Rights, the NAACP, and the Royal African Society, among others.

His papers, writings and planned projects reflect an eclectic and broad range of interests, including craniofacial phenetic affinity in ancient northwest Africa, Egypt, and the Levant, BiDil—and the dangers of biological determinism in US health policy, intellectual and developmental disabilities. His interests in the biology of poverty and its impact on human development has increased since the MRDDA experience. Other interests include the US census instructions as a creator of identity and the inaccuracies in this approach, human biological diversity, ancestry testing for "identity", phenetic affinity, and paleopathology.

Genetics, linguistics, and history in Africa—and the history of ideas about Africa and anthropology that continue to have influence, the misuse of genetics, bioethics and the (mis)concept of race, and science in the service of justice are also of interest. He has served as a consultant to museums, and given lectures and workshops on human variation and the idea of "race"--and how these differ from each other, human biological diversity in indigenous Africa, and the origins of ancient Egypt using the most current scientific data.[4]

Views on African anthropology

In interview he speaks to the endogenous development of African peoples known from history and in the ethnographic present, foreign groups that have become Africanized, African groups that have changed identities or language, and notes confusion around the concept of peoples vs that of biological lineages and purely biological aspects of populations, and language affinity. Sampling is not consistent in the literature; samples are often not true equivalents, something that plagues population genetics research that delves into efforts at history. Keita stresses the need for a critical approach to population history that makes a distinction between biogenesis and ethnogenesis, and acknowledges the problems of past scholarship from multiple disciplines. He is very concerned about the persistence of racial thinking and the commitment that many seem to have to the term "race", which is inappropriate as a descriptor of any human population. Keita agrees with Howells that there are/were populations but no races.



  • S.O.Y. Keita, African Archaeological Review (2005): Exploring Northeast African Metric Craniofacial Variation at the Individual Level: A Comparative Study Using Principal Components Analysis,
  • S.O.Y. Keita, American Journal of Human Biology (2004): Studies of Ancient Crania From Northern Africa,
  • S.O.Y. Keita, American Journal of Physical Anthropology (1990): Genetics, Egypt, and History: Interpreting Geographical Patterns of Y Chromosome Variation
  • S.O.Y. Keita & A. J. Boyce, History in Africa, 32 pp. 221–246 (2005)
  • Early Nile Valley Farmers, From El-Badari, Aboriginals or "European" Agro-Nostratic Immigrants? Craniometric Affinities Considered With Other Data, S.O.Y. Keita, Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 191–208 (2005)
  • History in the Interpretation of the Pattern of p49a,f TaqI RFLP Y-Chromosome Variation in Egypt: A Consideration of Multiple Lines of Evidence, S.O.Y. Keita, American Journal of Human Biology, 17: 559–567 (2005)
  • Further Studies of Crania From Ancient Northern Africa: An Analysis of Crania From First Dynasty Egyptian Tombs, Using Multiple Discriminant Functions, S.O.Y. Keita, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 87: 245-254 (1992)
  • The Persistence of Racial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence, S.O.Y. Keita and Rick A. Kittles, American Anthropologist (1997)
  • Studies and Comments on Ancient Egyptian Biological Relationships, S.O.Y. Keita, History in Africa, 20: 129-154 (1993): The Origins of Afroasiatic, Ehret, Keita and Newman, Science (2004)
  • Conceptualizing Human Variation, S.O.Y. Keita, Nature Genetics Supplement (2004)
  • Diachronic Patterns of Dental Hypoplasias and Vault Porosities During the Predynastic in the Naqada Region, Upper Egypt, S.O.Y. Keita, A.J. Boyce (2001)
  • Forensic Misclassification of Ancient Nubian Crania: Implications for Assumptions About Human Variation, Frank L'Engle_Williams, Robert L. Belcher, George J. Armelago's, Current Anthropology. (2005)
  • An Analysis of Crania From Tell-Duweir Using Multiple Discriminant Functions, S.O.Y. Keita, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 75: 375-390 (1988)
  • Interpreting African Genetic Diversity, S.O.Y. Keita & Rick Kittles, African Archaeological Review, Vol. 16, No. 2 (1999)
  • "Race": Confusion About Zoological and Social Taxonomies, and Their Places in Science, S.O.Y. Keita, A.J. Boyce, Field Museum of Chicago Institute of Biological Anthropology, Oxford University, American Journal of Human Biology, 13: 569–575 (2001)
  • Royal Incest and Diffusion in Africa, S.O.Y. Keita, American Ethnologist, Vol. 8. No. 2 (1981)
  • S.O.Y Keita, "BiDil and the Possibility of a Resurgent Racial Biology and Medicine," Anthropology News, April 2006, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp. 31–31


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