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Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

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9780198821267: Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past
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The past few years have seen a revolution in our ability to map whole genome DNA from ancient humans. With the ancient DNA revolution, combined with rapid genome mapping of present human populations, has come remarkable insights into our past. This important new data has clarified and added to our knowledge from archaeology and anthropology, helped resolve long-existing controversies, challenged long-held views, and thrown up some remarkable surprises.

The emerging picture is one of many waves of ancient human migrations, so that all populations existing today are mixes of ancient ones, as well as in many cases carrying a genetic component from Neanderthals, and, in some populations, Denisovans. David Reich, whose team has been at the forefront of these discoveries, explains what the genetics is telling us about ourselves and our complex and often surprising ancestry. Gone are old ideas of any kind of racial 'purity', or even deep and ancient divides between peoples. Instead, we are finding a rich variety of mixtures. Reich describes the cutting-edge findings from the past few years, and also considers the sensitivities involved in tracing ancestry, with science sometimes jostling with politics and tradition. He brings an important wider message: that we should celebrate our rich diversity, and recognize that every one of us is the result of a long history of migration and intermixing of ancient peoples, which we carry as ghosts in our DNA.

What will we discover next?

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Review:

A wonderfully illuminating exposition of how advances in reading ancient DNA have upended our ideas about past population movements and human interaction. (Paul Collier, Books of the Year 2018, The Times Literary Supplement)

Hugely impressive. (Robin McKie, Books of the Year 2018: Science, The Observer)

Remarkable ... Spectacular ... In making constant new discoveries about humanity, Reich and his Harvard team are now plunging into uncharted academic waters ... Reich's influence in this field has been immense and the output of his department monumental ... Thrilling in its clarity and its scope. (Peter Forbes, The Guardian)

This is a compendious book ... its importance cannot be overstated and neither can some of its best stories. (Bryan Appleyard, The Sunday Times)

A thrilling account of mapping humans through time and place ... Reich gives us a window into what ancient DNA can tell us about human evolution, the peopling of the world, continent by continent, and the population mixing that makes us who we are today. (Turi King, Nature)

Few subjects fascinate us as much as human origins ... If you want to understand our origins over the course of the last 100,000 years, this book will be the best up-to-date account for you. (Jared Diamond, New York Times Book Review)

The conclusions of this book are reassuringly complex and nuanced. But they are no less approachable, no less captivating for that. Indeed, the result is to bring prehistory almost disarmingly close. He brings whole societies from that past vividly to life. (Harry de Quetteville, The Daily Telegraph)

Gives the first comprehensive account of this newly revealed prehistory ... an astonishing book. (Juliet Sam, The Daily Telegraph)

Reich has produced an invaluable resource that is likely to become an enduring intellectual touchstone. (Tom Booth, British Archaeology)

Who We Are and How We Got Here provides a marvellous synthesis of the field. (Clive Cookson, The Financial Times)

About the Author:

David Reich is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. In 2015 he was highlighted by Nature magazine as one of <"10 people who matter>" in all of science for his role in transforming the field of ancient DNA <"from niche pursuit to industrial process.>" In 2017 he was awarded the Dan David Prize in the Archaeological and Natural Sciences for the computational discovery of intermixing between Neanderthals and modern humans.

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9781101870327: Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

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