- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (March 27, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014303832X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143038320
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 261 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors 0th Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Scientists are using DNA analysis to understand our prehistory: the evolution of humans; their relation to the Neanderthals, who populated Europe and the Near East; and Homo erectus, who roamed the steppes of Asia. Most importantly, geneticists can trace the movements of a little band of human ancestors, numbering perhaps no more than 150, who crossed the Red Sea from east Africa about 50,000 years ago. Within a few thousand years, their descendents, Homo sapiens, became masters of all they surveyed, the other humanoid species having become extinct. According to New York Times science reporter Wade, this DNA analysis shows that evolution isn't restricted to the distant past: Iceland has been settled for only 1,000 years, but the inhabitants have already developed distinctive genetic traits. Wade expands his survey to cover the development of language and the domestication of man's best friend. And while "race" is often a dirty word in science, one of the book's best chapters shows how racial differences can be marked genetically and why this is important, not least for the treatment of diseases. This is highly recommended for readers interested in how DNA analysis is rewriting the history of mankind. Maps. (Apr. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Genetics has been intruding on human origins research, long the domain of archaeology and paleoanthropology. Veteran science journalist Wade applies the insights of genetics to every intriguing question about the appearance and global dispersal of our species. The result is Wade's recounting of "a new narrative," which also has elements of a turf war between geneticists and their established colleagues. He efficiently explains how an evolutionary event (e.g., hairlessness) is recorded in DNA, and how rates of mutation can set boundary dates for it. For the story, Wade opens with a geneticist's estimate that modern (distinct from "archaic") Homo sapiens arose in northeast Africa 59,000 years ago, with a tiny population of only a few thousand, and was homogenous in appearance and language. Tracking the ensuing expansion and evolutionary pressures on humans, Wade covers the genetic evidence bearing on Neanderthals, race, language, social behaviors such as male-female pair bonding, and cultural practices such as religion. Wade presents the science skillfully, with detail and complexity and without compromising clarity. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
1. Religion arose because after mankind learned language, he learned to lie, in order to freeload handouts from his tribe, by pretending to be disabled. Religion put restraints on lying, by inventing the concept of sin and retribution.
2. The practice of cannibalism was widespread, that even now humans have protective genes so they don't get sick from eating human brains.
3. 5% to 10% of the population doesn't have the father they think they do--infidelity is common. This is why most women will tell people that their new baby looks like its father, even tho it obviously does not.
4. 8% of the men in the lands conquered by Genghis Khan, have that man as their direct ancestor. He had a huge haram.
5. using certain word lists, you can date a language, and when that language diverged from its sister languages. Words for body parts, pronouns, numbers, etc are used. A 5% match between these words, shows a language that diverged 10,000 years ago, 22% agreement shows a language that diverged 5000 years ago, and a language that diverged 500 years ago have 86% of the words in common.
6. Modern humans finished evolving their physical bodies 175000 years ago, but the cultural and psychological evolution of modern humanity, ie language, was not completed until 50000 years ago. (Right before mankind left Africa.)
7. When humans entered Australia, all the large land mammals became extinct--46000 years ago. (weighing more than 220 lbs.) They were hunted to extinction. When humans entered North America, the same thing happened. The reason why the large mammals in Africa survived, was because they co-evolved with humans, and learned NOT to trust them.
8. Australian aborigines look closest to the first humans that left Africa.
9. The universal people, were the first truly human people in culture and form. They had body decoration, fashion, treated the sick with herbs, believed in magic, tried to control weather, had shelter, they had dancing and singing, cooking, and they were afraid of snakes. These traits are in all human beings today.
10. Most English surnames once belong to a single person. None of the commoners even HAD surnames until 1250AD to 1350AD. They were given surnames for the record books, and the names were based on occupation (smith, taylor, fisher, cook) or based on their father's name (Johnson, Henderson, O'neil, McMillian--Mac means SON OF in celtic, and the same with O')
These aren't the only factoids in the book. They are just the first ones I landed on, when I tried to compile a list. Every page is just that interesting, that you want to remember what you are reading for the rest of your life. This book is worth reading, if the only information you wanted was about the deep history of indo European, or the connection between indo European, and other language families. Or the fascinating idea that their might be a Eurasiatic superfamily, that comprises Indo-European, Uralic, Altaic, Korean / Japanese, Eskimo- Aleut, and Chukotian (Siberian language group.) So I got to learn the names of a lot of famous linguists, like Greenberg. Of course, everybody knows Chomsky. Its just that this book is so dense with information, about so many disciplines, yet its all tied together by genetic studies, and the cracking of the human genome. I love to read books that popularize scientific ideas, like Brian Greene or Roger Penrose, and their books on astrophysics. However, I just never read a book that had so much to say before. If you wish to dive deeper into any of there disciplines, which have been affected by modern genetic studies, a nice bibliography is included.
Nicholas Wade have provided more than a book about our lost human history. By opening each chapter with a nice long quote from Charles Darwin, he ties together all the newest discoveries in diverse fields of social and biological sciences, tying it all into the evolution of our species. The book ends with a look into humanity's future evolution, after it deals with how evolution has been changing and molding humanity continuously since we left Africa. Humanity is becoming less aggressive and warlike, more intelligent, more able to fight diseases, and so on. Finally, he suggests that genetic engineering, might be the wrong way to advance the human species, because it might unintentionally suppress our genetic capacity for novelty. I accept that as an educated opinion, to say the least. If you are looking for a brain boost, buy, read and ingest this book. Your brain will than you.
I was impressed to learn how evolution has continued e.g. with new brain gene alleles 37,000 and 6,000 years ago and with lactose tolerance 5,000 years ago. I was particularly impressed to learn of more recent mutations in the Jewish population that seem to have enhanced their cognitive abilities, although at the price of health problems.
The book provided a wealth of information on the process of evolution with concepts like genetic drift, endogamy, gracilization, mosaic zones, etc., not to mention natural selection. The inclusion of linguistics along with genetics and archeology greatly enhanced the presentation.
But there were some aspects of the book I didn’t care for.
I was not convinced that early human populations were quite so egalitarian and leaderless. Some hierarchy surely exists in all groups, tribes, or packs within all species.
The figures in the book were not always clear. They sometimes seemed too busy. And I thought the book could have been better organized while avoiding some repetition.
I would have liked very much to have a timeline based on the author’s opinion of when certain events took place. In the supporting discussions then, the different opinions of researchers could be presented. But the timeline would provide a reference structure to help keep things in perspective. Otherwise, one is left with a difficult-to-remember collection of conflicting dates.
As some other reviewers have mentioned, this book does focus at several points on race, but it cautions anyone from making value judgements based on the genetic findings. The book talks about how people of various races have a higher or lower chance of contracting a particular disease or condition because of genes that might be more common to that race than to others in the world. The races of the world are part of our evolutionary history and can not be ignored just because some people may try to use it as a way to classify people as better or worse than others.
This book appears to be geared towards a person who may be a little above what would be considered a layman understanding of science, but is not so high minded that the layman would be lost in it. The author does a very good job of explaining the terminology that is being used in his narrative and of the various experts that he quotes. I would recommend this book to someone who wants to know about the most recent findings in genetics and how it is helping us understand our ancestors a little better.