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The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry [Paperback]

Bryan Sykes
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 17, 2002

The national bestseller that reveals how we are descended from seven prehistoric women.

In 1994 Bryan Sykes was called in as an expert to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy for over 5000 years―the Ice Man. Sykes succeeded in extracting DNA from the Ice Man, but even more important, writes Science News?, was his "ability to directly link that DNA to Europeans living today." In this groundbreaking book, Sykes reveals how the identification of a particular strand of DNA that passes unbroken through the maternal line allows scientists to trace our genetic makeup all the way back to prehistoric times―to seven primeval women, the "seven daughters of Eve." illustrated and includes a map

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"A traveler from an antique land... lives within us all," claims Sykes, a professor of genetics at Oxford. This unique traveler is mitochondrial DNA, and, as this provocative account illustrates, it can help scientists and archeologists piece together the history of the human race. Mitochondrial DNA is present in every cell in the body, and it remains virtually unchanged (aside from random mutations) as it passes from mother to daughter. By quantifying and analyzing the mutations of this relatively stable circle of DNA, Sykes has solved some of the hottest debates about human origins. For example, he clarified a long-running debate among anthropologists over the original inhabitants of the Cook Islands. After retrieving mitochondrial DNA samples from the island natives, Sykes concluded that the natives emigrated from Asia, not America, as many Western anthropologists had contended. In a similar manner, Sykes analyzed samples from native Europeans to determine that modern humans are not at all related to Neanderthals. The book's most complex and controversial find that the ancient European hunter-gatherers predominated over the farmers and not vice versa leads Sykes to another stunning conclusion: by chance, nearly all modern Europeans are descendants of one of seven "clan mothers" who lived at different times during the Ice Age. Drawing upon archeological and climatic records, Sykes spins seven informative and gracefully imagined tales of how these "daughters of Eve" eked out a living on the frozen plains. (July 9)Forecast: Sykes is a bit of a celebrity geneticist, as he was involved in identifying the remains of the last Romanovs. This fame, plus his startling conclusions augmented by a five-city tour should generate publicity and sales among science, archeology and genealogy buffs.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Sykes (genetics, Oxford Univ.; editor, Human Inheritance: Genes, Language, and Evolution) is passionate about his work in decoding mitochondrial DNA and about using this knowledge to trace the path of human evolution. To lure readers into this specialized work, he relates personal and historical anecdotes, offering familiar ground from which to consider the science. A discussion of the history of genetics and descriptions of the early landmark work of Sykes and his associates culminate with his finding that 90 percent of modern Europeans are descendents of just seven women who lived 45,000 to 10,000 years ago. Brief biographies serve to place these "seven daughters" into historical context as understood by archaeology. This is an example of good popular science writing that makes difficult concepts accessible and relevant to the general reader. Recommended for public libraries. (Index not seen..
- Ann Forister, Roseville P.L., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323146
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews
177 of 183 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
The first 200 pages of this book exemplify the best of scientific journalism: the author describes a difficult subject matter clearly and succinctly for those who don`t know much about genetics, he presents each scientific investigation as if it were a detective story, and he conveys his excitement and enthusiasm for his work. Anyone who reads this book will come away with enough knowledge about mitochondrial DNA and prehistoric humans to understand today's headlines. Sykes explains how DNA testing identified the bodies of the Romanovs (laying to rest fanciful stories about how they survived the Russian Revolution), he rebuts Thor Heyerdahl's theories of migration, and he presents a convincing case that all humans of European ancestry are descended from seven women. (He also discusses the possible ancestries of non-Europeans, for which--so far--there is far less evidence.)
Given how compelling and fun the majority of the book is, nothing prepares the reader for what comes next: seven chapters containing fanciful and completely fictional reconstructions of each of the "daughters of Eve." Sykes admits he cannot even be sure of where or when each of these women may have lived, but he reconstructs little soap operas out of the nonexistent facts of their lives; these New Age-inspired outtakes from "Clan of the Cave Bear" do not succeed even as good fiction. "Xenia was born in the wind and snow of late spring." "This year Helena's father was going to try a spear-thrower and detachable point for the first time." "Velda had a strong artistic streak." "Tara had always been a fast runner and her father, fit though he was, was gaining on her slowly." (Tara even "invents" a boat.
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239 of 253 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably Well Written; Stunning Conclusions January 16, 2002
Format:Hardcover
Many scientists have things to say, but few know how to say them. The Stephen Hawkings (A Brief History of Time) and Brian Fagans (Famines, Floods and Emperors) of the world are rare creatures, indeed. In The Seven Daughters of Eve Bryan Sykes proves he belongs in that small but fortunate club.
This work is a remarkably well written narrative of Sykes' cutting edge research into the ancestry of modern humans using mitochondrial DNA. Unlike the DNA in the chromosomes of cell nuclei, which we inherit from both of our parents, mitochondrial DNA is inherited only from our mothers. It is also highly stable over time, which permits geneticists to determine with almost mathematical certainty the matrilineal genealogy of any human being on earth.
To students of history, prehistory, archaeology and linguistics the conclusions he draws from his research are absolutely stunning. First, he concludes that all modern humans (beyond reasonable mathematical certainty) are descended from a single woman - Sykes calls her, perhaps tongue in cheek, "Mitochondrial Eve." Second, every person on earth is, in turn, the descendant of one of only 33 women, who were the matrilineal descendants of "Eve." The book focuses on seven of these women who are the matrilineal ancestors of virtually every native European. These seven he calls, again perhaps tongue in cheek, "The Daughters of Eve." Third, the oldest of the "daughters of Eve" lived only about 45,000 years ago, the youngest within the past 10,000 years.
Some additional thoughts:
1. As with all knowledge, take this with a little grain of salt. Today's axioms in science may be disproved or reevaluated in a month, a year or a century. This is cutting edge stuff, and there are likely many surprises to come.
2.
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191 of 210 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sykes' secret April 21, 2002
Format:Hardcover
Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, author of The Seven Daughters Of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry just might have what it takes to become another Carl Sagan or Louis Leakey - that rare scientist with both the scientific skills and genius for self-promotion needed to make himself a household name.
Sykes has many talents, as well as some useful vices. As this book shows, he's a fine popular science writer. He also has a sizable ego and a flair for self-dramatization that annoys other scientists but appeals to the public. He often tends to portray himself in The Seven Daughters as a Galileo single-handedly doing battle with the benighted masses of anthropologists and geneticists like Stanford's distinguished L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, who, according to Sykes' not exactly neutral account, just didn't want to admit the importance of his mitochondrial DNA research.
Most importantly, though, Sykes has grasped a simple fact about population genetics that resounds emotionally with the average person, yet has largely eluded most learned commentators. Namely, genes are the stuff of genealogy. Each individual's genes are descended from some people, but not from some other people. Thus, Sykes discovered, people often feel a sense of family pride and loyalty to others, living and dead, with whom they share some DNA.
Further, if you read between his lines, you can readily understand why - despite all the propaganda that "race does not exist" - humanity will never get over its obsession with race: Race is Family. A racial group is an extremely extended family that is inbred to some degree.
In fact, people are so interested in tracing their family connections that Sykes has gone into business for himself. He started a for-profit firm OxfordAncestors.com.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
too hard to understand
Published 10 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for those who see non-mechanistic origin for humanity.
The author is clearly in step with his scientific peers on evolutionary origins, though he has frequently upset their apple carts in a number of other areas of settled opinion. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Brian Hogan
5.0 out of 5 stars WHERE DID WE COME FROM?
A mesmerizing look back into the beginning of man and the 7 women who supposedly were the women from whom we all sprang??? Interesting reading.
Published 20 days ago by Donna
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining and thought provoking.
Very entertaining and thought provoking.
Published 21 days ago by Laura Redwine
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great!
Published 21 days ago by Liandra Elandriel Lloyd
4.0 out of 5 stars much of it was like trying to read a text book
I understood enough of this book to appreciate the subject. But being very "unscientific" minded, much of it was like trying to read a text book.
Published 22 days ago by C. Redman
5.0 out of 5 stars great
Extremely inlightlng
Published 23 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was as described and arrived timely.
Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A font of information.
Published 27 days ago by AMJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book even for those who don't have a background in DNA.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
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More About the Author

Bryan Sykes is professor of human genetics at Oxford University. His company, Oxford Ancestors, traces human genetic backgrounds. Sykes's books include the New York Times best-selling The Seven Daughters of Eve.

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The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
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