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196 to Nilo-Saharan and 371 to Afroasiatic.

Ehret has attempted to date the period when the proto-languages of Greenberg's four groups were spoken. On archaeological evidence, he estimates that proto-Khoisan was first spoken about 20,000 years ago. The ancestral tongue of the Niger-Congo family may date back to 15,000 years ago, since a junior branch of the family had spread across the yam growing regions of west Africa from 8,000 years ago. Proto-Nilo-Saharan, on the basis of glottochronology, may be 12,000 years old.272

Afroasiatic is a language family of general interest since its West Semitic branch includes Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic, the founding languages of three popular religions. Many people have assumed the ancestral homeland of proto-Afroasiatic was in the Near East, some for a miscellany of unscientific reasons, others because the Near East is a known center of early agriculture from which growing populations might have expanded into Africa, carrying their language with them. But an African origin seems more likely, in Ehret's view. Of the six major branches of Afroasiatic, five lie in Africa—Berber in northwest Africa, Chadic around Lake Chad at the southern edge of the central Sahara, Cushitic in the Horn of Africa, Omotic in the Ethiopian highlands, and ancient Egyptian.

Following the rule that the region of greatest diversity is usually the homeland, this distribution points strongly to an ancestral homeland for Afroasiatic somewhere in northern Africa, which the Semitic speakers

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