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Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past Audio CD – June 26, 2018
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About the Author
David Reich, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, is one of the world's leading pioneers in analyzing ancient human DNA. In a 2015 article in Nature, he was named one of ten people who matter in all of the sciences for his contribution to transforming ancient DNA data ""from niche pursuit to industrial process."" Awards he has received include the Newcomb Cleveland Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Dan David Prize in the Archaeological and Natural Sciences for his computational discovery of intermixing between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.
- Audio CD : 1 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1982541237
- ISBN-13 : 978-1982541231
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Product Dimensions : 5.6 x 1.1 x 5.8 inches
- Publisher : Blackstone Audio; Unabridged AUDIO Edition (June 26, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,292,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Another significant point about the e-book.... The Kindle version of this book is the _first_ that I have personally seen where the e-book is noticeably _better_ than the paper. In particular, charts and images that are often produced terribly badly in e-books are particularly good here.
Beginning around the time of the French and American revolutions, archaeology started to assist in explaining the distant past. Ancient languages were deciphered, literatures were compared and scholars were able to speculate on the nature of human cultures both before and after the invention of writing.
However, the technologies which allow ancient human genomes to reveal the origins and migrations of peoples are, as Dr. Reich describes, comparable to the invention of the microscope in the amount of light that can be shed on human history and prehistory. While still in its infancy as a science, the genomic research performed by Dr. Reich and his colleagues has already upended theories of human origins from Europe to India with scientifically grounded accounts.
The emphasis here is on scientific, in that, unlike debates over literary composition of ancient texts, the accounts of history derived from the genome are falsifiable. One could always sequence the genome of another ancient human and provide evidence that, say, Dr. Reich’s account of a population from the Eurasian steppe invading India around the time of the Vedic writings is not supported.
One can read this book simply for its insights into prehistory as it supplies theories, some provisional, to account for all the major peoples of the world: European, South Asian, East Asian, Polynesian, African and Native Americans from North and South America.
But one can also read the book for the excitement at the birth of a new science that promises to be as revelatory as the observations from satellites scanning distant galaxies for the origins of dark matter. Not since reading The Double Helix by James Watson, one of the discovers of DNA, have I been so captivated by the story of a new branch of knowledge coming into being.
The book is written with a minimum of jargon and is accessible to the scientific laymen. Because of its captivating story and style I would strongly recommend this book to all mature readers. Just as understanding Darwinian evolution is essential to understanding human nature, so too understanding the prehistory of humanity as revealed by our genome will become an essential part of our global modern civilization’s self understanding.
For this former anthropology student, the discussion of the populating of Europe and the Americas was particularly fascinating. That process was far more complex than could be taught a generation ago. Genomics is providing levels of detail that simply weren't available to earlier researchers. The author sketches the roles played by various populations of modern humans, Neanderthals, and Denisovans, and their sometimes surprising contributions to the current populations of those regions. The maps and charts are particularly helpful in illustrating the discussion, which can get a little dense.
In later chapters, the author "goes there" and warns that future study may reveal differences in human populations that go beyond physical appearance. He is properly nervous about the impact of that information and how it might be misused, but determined to embrace the progress in science. Highly recommended to the general reader.
For example, they can not only tell us that European hunters and gathers were invaded by farmers from Antolia around 9000 ybp, but can also tell us that these early hunters/gathers and farmers were themselves wiped out by later pastorial migrants from the caucaus who spoke endo-european. This isn't speculation, as we are used to in history texts, but based on facts generated by new techniques that let us analyze the genomes of modern and ancient bones. Many fascinating historical questions that I would have thought could never be answered and now answered.
This is a must read book for anyone interested in early human history. It's well written and reasonably clear as to techniques involved, etc. For moe detail you would need to read scientific papers being published.
Top reviews from other countries
This book contains good explanations of which techniques are used to analyze population genetics. Why these methods work and what their limitations are is discussed. Of course, the most important topic is the findings of these methods. DNA analysis has in many cases confirmed things we already knew from other types of evidence; archeology and fossil evidence and such. However, in many cases, the science of DNA analysis has forced us to reinterpret what we thought we knew. This is the power of genetics; it can be analyzed to get us one step closer to understanding what humans are.
Genetics has a controversial history, obviously. Yet, I still find his need for 'justifying' doing research in genetics a pity. As people of science, we should know what's true whether we like the truth or not. He agrees, but unfortunately in his desire to appear non-racist he throws good scientists under the bus. Some are bad and his harsh criticism is justified, sure, but some of the people criticized simply had totally reasonable scientific questions. This is my only substantial criticism of the book.
The science and technology of DNA analysis is progressing at an amazing rate. It will help us answer all kinds of questions. It will be used in medicine, to understand psychological differences between humans, and much, much more. As the science progresses, many things we think we know will be questioned.
Despite my one criticism, the book in general is amazing. This is simply *the* book to read if you're interested in human origins, human differences and similarities, or simply if you're interested in where you come from. This book gives the current best scientific understanding of Who We Are and Where We Come From.
The book presents novel findings but it is also a work in progress in that it is anticipated that in the coming decade more ancient genomes will be sequenced but also more sophisticated statistic techniques will be developed and employed.
The determination of ancient genomes became possible because since the sequencing of the human genome project in 2006, the methods became thousands of times more efficient and thousands of times less expensive. Whole genomes provide much more information than the previously used sequencing of the male (Y) chromosome DNA and mitochondrial DNA which is exclusively inherited by the females.
Comparisons of genomes, ancient and modern is based on the determination of mutations over time while their rate is constant in time. Particularly important are single letter mutations known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) of which there are literally thousand in the genome.
The study of ancient genomes revealed that there was interbreeding of both Neanderthals and Denisovans with modern human populations.
Even before reading the book, I had known that there is no genetic basis for racism in that the genetic variation within Africa is higher than between a non -African and an African.
On the other hand, I obtained interesting information on inequality, not inequality between male and female but the inequality of access of a privileged male individual or group to females. In this regard the result of genomic studies of interbreeding between Americans of West European and West African origin revealed the dominance of American males of West European origin breeding with American females of Wets African origin.
On a similar vein was the study of Y chromosomes which suggested that one single male who lived around the time of the Mongols left many millions of direct male-line descendants across the territory that the Mongols occupied. The evidence is that about 8 percent of males in the lands that the Mongol Empire once occupied share a characteristic Y-chromosome sequence or one differing just a few mutations. This Y-chromosome was called 'Star Cluster'to reflect the idea of a single ancestor with many descendants; and estimated the date of the founder of this lineage to be thirteen hundred to seven hundred years ago based on the estimated rate of accumulation of mutations on the Y chromosome. The date coincides with that of Genghis Khan, suggesting that this single successful Y chromosome may have been his.
The inbreeding of Ashkenazi Jews to which the author belongs is a well known fact. What was new and surprising to me was that endogamy is widely practiced in India, a nation in excess of one billion inhabitants. This is due to the caste system numbering thousands of sub-groups in which endogamy is practiced. The study of such groups is important for the cure and prevention of genetic diseases emanating from inbreeding.
Ancient human genomes are often contaminated by genomes of pathogens which renders the identification of human genomes difficult. On the other hand the identification of the genomes of these pathogens sheds light on the diseases with which these people were afflicted. Particularly important in this regard was the identification of 'Yersinia pestis', the bacterium responsible for the black death, estimated to have wiped out one-third of the population of Europe, India and China seven hundred years ago.