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The Real Eve: Modern Man's Journey Out of Africa Hardcover – July, 2003

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"There was only one main Exodus of modern humans from Africa, and no more," writes medical doctor and researcher Oppenheimer (Eden in the East), taking on advocates of "multiregional" origins and those who believe there were several exoduses out of Africa. Oppenheimer deftly brings together recent advances in population genetics, climatology and archeology to advance his theory that when groups of Homo sapiens left Africa approximately 80,000 years ago, they first headed east along the Indian Ocean, where they formed settlements as far away as India over several thousands of years. It was only during a respite in glacial activity, when deserts turned into traversable grasslands, that our ancestors headed northwest into the Russian steppes and on into eastern Europe, as well as northeast through China and over the now submerged continent of Beringia (located where the Bering Strait is today) into North America. Much of Oppenheimer's theory relies on recent advances in studies of mitochondrial DNA, inherited through the maternal line, and Y chromosomes, inherited by males from their fathers. The author devotes a chapter to the question of when humans first arrived in the New World, the raging Clovis vs. pre-Clovis controversy. Oppenheimer briefly discusses development of racial characteristics like facial structure and skin coloration, important topics often viewed as too hot to handle. This book will appeal mainly to science buffs; the level of detail may prove daunting to general readers. It is the basis for a three-hour special that aired earlier this month on the Discovery Channel. Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"The out-of-Africa thesis... is tested, found solid, and approved for consumption." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786711922
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786711925
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #311,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found reading The Real Eve a little difficult to stick to, getting lost occasionally among all the letters identifying this group and that group. Hanging in there, though, was worth it. Most of the literature I've read recently has accepted the theory that species H. sapiens and its immediate Homo ancestors originated in and spread from Africa. Although other scenarios have been proposed from time to time, the Mitochondrial Eve study topped off the debate so that it is now taken almost as a given. What was less contentious throughout most of the discussion is the route by which the various species of our dynasty took to arrive in Europe, which was usually through the Levant to Europe and Asia. In The Real Eve Dr. Oppenheimer gives very cogent reasons for believing otherwise.
Following genetic studies conducted recently by a variety of researchers including himself, the author puts together for the reader an intriguing tale of a southern exodus across the Red Sea to Yemen and from there to coastal Asia, where the Beachcombers as he describes the culture, spread from India to the Americas and when climate permitted to the Levant and Europe. What makes his theory so forceful is the interwoven elements of genetics, archaeology, paleontology, geography and paleoclimatology with which he creates it.
What I found most fascinating was Dr. Oppenheimer's critique of the American adversarial style of archaeological and anthropological studies. His description of an entrenched elder generation vigorously fending off the encroachment of an energetic younger generation that is trying to make a name for itself by overturning respected theories is not far off the mark. Reputation means academic power and control of grants and tenure.
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Format: Hardcover
Calling Stephen Oppenheimer a "young turk" may be a bit thin. However, his iconoclastic assault on the dogma of human global diaspora is challenging. Without overstressing it, he uses the title to trash even older dogmas. To his credit, he refrains from personal assaults as he lays out the evidence genetics provides in tracing our prehistory. In all, he manages to show how a new science is providing answers to old questions. Where did modern humanity rise? How and when did it spread over the planet to occupy nearly every available niche? What kind of future does this imply for our species?
None of these questions is easily resolved, as Oppenheimer stresses often. With earlier answers based on the imperfect fossil record, on which many fine careers have been built, offering new responses takes courage. In anthropology, the response had better have good evidence in support. His support is impressive, reaching back through time and space to our earliest origins in Africa. From there he demonstrates that our Eurocentric view of ourselves needs serious revision. Humanity reached Europe late in our migrations. European humanity didn't invent "art", agriculture didn't arise in the Fertile Crescent spreading to girdle the globe, and Native Americans likely settled the Western Hemisphere prior to the last great Ice Age.
Oppenheimer relies on two newly-developed tools in his analysis: mitochondrial DNA and mutations in the Y chromosome. Mitochondrial DNA [mtDNA], the marker handed down from mother to daughter, has already pointed to a common ancestor to us all. Living in Africa about 150 thousand years ago, she's been [regrettably] dubbed the Mitochondrial Eve. The author deplores this appellation, but accepts its nearly universal usage.
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Format: Hardcover
Oppenheimer's book is without doubt the best of the genre that has emerged that is reporting upon the results of the Human Genome Diversity Project. Focussing exclusively upon the male Y chromosome and the female Mitochondrial DNA, it enables us to trace not just our own parentage, but that of every human on Earth. Combining paleoclimatic data as well, Oppenheimer goes a step further than "The Seven Daughters of Eve" and "The Journeys of Man". Its only weakness is that Oppenheimer seems too hung-up on his Flood = Sunda Shelf = Austronesian thesis (but it doesn't protrude too much). He also is very critical (not completely justifiably) of the linguistic work of Greenberg and Ruhlen.
For those of you wanting to "Know Thyself" this is definitely up there with Carvalli Sforza's The History and Geography of Human Genetics".
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By A Customer on October 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is by far the clearest and most exciting book out of the many on this subject over the past several years. The author is a crystal-clear thinker and presenter, and actually manages the feat of communicating a sprawling argument hingeing on genetic markers into an argument that was almost as suspenseful to me as a good novel. The data on Asia are still controversial and the archaeological data is scanty, and at this point the nature of the evidence does make the author miss a step or two in terms of his usual lucid clarity. But that's only one chapter, and hardly opaque, and then he quickly regains his footing. If you only read one book on the history of mankind and our migrations, I would recommend this one -- Oppenheimer thinks and teaches at the same time, a rare skill.
And beware the first reviewer's posting -- it is based on gut-level cavils obviously harbored before opening the book, and has nothing whatsoever to do with this fantastic piece of work, which has nothing to do with politcal correctness and is very closely argued (rather than being based on points not even "dabatable"). By my viewing, the "woman" supposedly on the cover is a man, for instance...
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