Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich - 2018
An autodidactic corner selection.
Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich is as fascinating a work as I have read in a long time. If you have any serious interest in understanding how the human species evolved and spread all over the in diverse forms, you will be spellbound by this book.
Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past was to me a challenging read. I have very little formal training in science and none in the intricacies of DNA. The book focuses on the results of the application of genome-wide testing of ancient DNA to human prehistory and genetics. Doctor Reich is a leading researcher in this field. Much of his work develops insights based on comparisons of ancient DNA from remains and modern groups.
He describes the book as intended to be both an introduction to this field for those new to the area and an overview for professionals in various impacted areas. I left this book seeing how ancient migrations and mixing of groups produced the world today.
Using cutting edge technology Reich is able to deduce migration of human groups from many thousands of years ago. Reich is acutely sensitive to the uses racists including the Nazis made of bogus genetic claims of race based genetics. He talks about resistance to Ancient DNA studies based on this.
The book is in part a memoir of his career. He began his post doctoral research focusing on why members of some races are especially prone to certain diseases. From this he began to study ancient DNA, how it lingers on in modern humans.
A look at the table of contents shows the broad scope of this book.
Part I The Deep History of Our Species
1 How the Genome Explains Who We Are
2 Encounters with Neanderthals
3 Ancient DNA Opens the
Part II How We Got to Where We Are Today
4 Humanity’s Ghosts
5. The Making of Modern Europe
6 The Collision That Formed India
7 In Search of Native American Ancestors
8 The Genomic Origins of East Asians
9 Rejoining Africa to the Human Story Part III The Disruptive Genome
10 The Genomics of Inequality
11 The Genomics of Race and Identity
12 The Future of Ancient DNA
The website of Professor Reich is a great resource
Professor David Reich, of the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is a pioneer in analyzing ancient human DNA to learn about the past. In 2015, Nature magazine named him one of “10 people who matter” in all of the sciences for his contribution to transforming ancient DNA data “from niche pursuit to industrial process.” He has received numerous awards, including the 2017 Dan David Prize in the Archaeological and Natural Sciences for the computational discovery of intermixing between Neanderthals and modern humans.
I hope to read through this book a second time this year.
Ancient DNA studies has really only being truly in process since 2010. It will change as it develops and change our world view as it does. The book is a celebration of the love of knowledge and the diversity of humanity.