Daily Archives: August 16, 2018

** Who We Are And How We Got There by David Reich

Let’s start with what does not work so well in Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past: the author’s repeated insistence that DNA analysis will change every field of inquiry (please show us, don’t tell!), and his decision to include minute details of how his team conducted various analyses he describes in the book.

Apart from that, the stories are fascinating: who invaded, who introduced new technologies, who imposed draconian restrictions on marrying outside the group, can be revealed through DNA analysis, with the main obstacle being the availability of ancient DNA. Indeed, many of the theories (and boy, do geneticists like theories!) seem to be built on very small data sets, suggesting that they will likely be toppled as we find more remains. I was most interested by the idea that humans, even very ancient ones, roamed a lot, so that the ancestors of people living in a given regions routinely came from very far away. This seems to be a very inconvenient truth to racists everywhere, as well as to nationalists. Let’s find and analyze more ancient DNA!

 

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