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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robust science in a charmingly written package
The book is trying to decipher one of the major questions faced by the paleontological scientific community today, namely the when, how and why Homo Sapiens, our species, managed to get to every last corner of the planet.

Such a vast problem requires, by default, a multidisciplinary approach, and that is exactly the author's method. He combines archaeological...
Published on 31 July 2006 by Nick Candoros

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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scientifically rigorous, but ill-structured.
Stephen Oppenheimer's book "Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World" is the book you must buy if you want to know about how Homo sapiens came to inhabit every corner of the globe, from the tropics to the poles; and how, since the development of human DNA profiling, geneticists have come to learn how and when it happenned.

If, like me, you think this a...
Published on 2 Feb. 2010 by R. Davies


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82 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robust science in a charmingly written package, 31 July 2006
By 
Nick Candoros (Athens - Greece) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World (Paperback)
The book is trying to decipher one of the major questions faced by the paleontological scientific community today, namely the when, how and why Homo Sapiens, our species, managed to get to every last corner of the planet.

Such a vast problem requires, by default, a multidisciplinary approach, and that is exactly the author's method. He combines archaeological data, climate history studies and the latest in biological-genes research, in order to painfully and methodically reconstruct first the Exodus from Africa - birthplace of our species - and then the various phases of human diffusion. He proposes a single exodus from Africa theory, around 80.000 years ago and then follows the combined evidence (fossil record, tools, locations and genes) to trace the human voyage to Southern Asia, Australia, Northern Asia and Europe and finally the Americas.

The author makes a persuasive case and one may agree or disagree with his proposals or parts of them. Irrespective of that, one has to admire the robustly scientific approach to each and separate problem faced during this fascinating journey. Mr. Oppenheimer is the first to state the doubtful of his position in many instances and never passes mere hypotheses as facts. And, most important of all, since this is a book aimed at interested laymen, not scientists of the field, his prose is clear, as free of scientific jargon as possible and downright charming. The illustrations, maps and color plates complement the text in a most satisfying way, making for an excellent and very interesting read.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Ancestors, 12 April 2010
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P. Webster "Phil W." (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World (Paperback)
The main point of Oppenheimer's book is to show that our species, Homo sapiens, evolved in Africa and that all non-African humans throughout the world today are descended from one group of Homo sapiens who left Africa 85,000 years ago.

But Oppenheimer also engages in another debate which I find very interesting. This is the question of when fully modern human brains and behaviour first appeared.

Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) first evolved in Africa between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago, when they branched off from an earlier species of Homo. But until recently it seemed that sophisticated tools and art did not appear until 40,000 - 50,000 years ago. This led scientists like Jared Diamond and Richard Klein to claim that there must have been some sort of biological, genetic change at that more recent date which altered the structure of the brain, thus leading to fully modern behaviour, possibly through the development of language. This supposed dramatic change (which is invisible and unprovable) has been called the "Big Bang", the "Human Revolution", or the "Great Leap Forward".

Oppenheimer does a great job of shooting down this theory. Firstly, it assumes that behavioural change must be determined by biological change. But why does cultural change have to imply a change to the brain? It is more likely that the brain had become "modern" when Homo sapiens first evolved, and that the later cultural change took place for non-biological reasons. (After all, the development of farming 12,000 years ago, of cities and writing 5,000 years ago and of industry 200 years ago were also "Great Leaps Forward", but no one believes that these were the result of genetic changes to the human brain.)

Secondly, Oppenheimer shows that evidence of art and sophisticated tools has now been found which dates from much earlier than the time that the "Great Leap Forward" is supposed to have happened. For example, engraved pieces of ochre have been found in Africa dating from 75,000 years ago, and decorative beads have been found dating back 100,000 years.

Oppenheimer argues that language developed much earlier than the supposed "Human Revolution", and that humans were already fully modern when they came out of Africa. As he writes, "...humans came out of Africa already painting."

Not only are we all descended from African ancestors, but those ancestors, 150,000 years ago, were probably just as intelligent as we are now.

Phil Webster.
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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "MUST-READ" WORK - MIGRATIONS OF THE ANCESTORS, 2 Aug. 2003
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G. Coldham (UK) - See all my reviews
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HERE ARE THE DNA FINGERPRINTS AND FOOTPRINTS of our ancestors, as we have never seen them, thanks to breakthroughs in science. Swab traces taken from thousands of people living today, shows that, circa 80,000 years ago, a group of homo sapiens traversed the strait between Djibouti and Yemen, and became the first ever "out of africa" Sapiens. Or at least, the first whose genetic traces survived in our complex mitochondrial (maternal line) genetic make-up. Some of the group, wandering eastwards along the Indian Ocean's coastlines, in a few 1000 years, reached the Sumatra area. Their tools and traces have been found in the volcanic ash of the Toba Volcano explosion of 72,000 BC, and in Australia. It was only later around 45,000 to 40,000 BC, that a branch of this so-called "Cro-Magnon" group made its impact in Europe and slowly displaced the long-established Neanderthals. They had learned new skills on millennia-long trails that were evolutionary as well as geographical, and re-wrote Earth's history.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars migration of man, 14 Sept. 2008
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120,000years ago man(Homo Sapiens) attempted to migrate out of Africa but failed,itwas not till 80,000years ago that a sucessful migration happened .This group crossed the Red Sea and headed for India.50,000years ago the group split some going toEuroe while the restcontinued eastward 3 further splits occured to Central Asia, China and Australia.The main migration progressed via China and Russia to the Bearing straits to Alaska and the Americas by 25,000years ago and the tip of South America 12,500yeaarsago.
The author describes this journey in excellent detail through the use of mitochondrial DNA and archeology Firet class mitochondrial maps are providedas are copious explanatory notes.A book to be recommended.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scientifically rigorous, but ill-structured., 2 Feb. 2010
By 
R. Davies (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World (Paperback)
Stephen Oppenheimer's book "Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World" is the book you must buy if you want to know about how Homo sapiens came to inhabit every corner of the globe, from the tropics to the poles; and how, since the development of human DNA profiling, geneticists have come to learn how and when it happenned.

If, like me, you think this a fascinating story worth learning more about than you won't be dissapointed. The evidence available, linking DNA with stone tools/art etc is breathtaking...you really do learn exactly how our forefathers left Africa approximately 80,000 years ago and conquered the globe - and it's a much more nuanced story to what I was expecting, despite having a basic knowledge of what's covered. The author is a talented writer, and when in full flow Oppenheimer really captures the grandeur of this history.

So how come I've only given it 3 stars? Well, first off, despite his best efforts to liven up the incredibly dull world of genetics, Oppenheimer's best efforts fail to quash the tedium brought on by the endless descendants, mutations and genetic trees. By halfway through you just want to shout "Steven! It's OK, I trust you!! Just get on with the story"!! Frankly, for most readers from outside the profession he could have made much of the geneticist in-group jargon up and no-one would notice, so it shouldn't take such a sizeable chunk of the text.

Secondly, the structure to many parts and chapters of the book is bewildering. The reader is constantly asked to jump back and forth in time and place. A new theme will be introduced, given detail before being left for something else - only to be returned to later! I found myself constantly flicking back and forth a few pages to check I had read what I thought I'd read!! I appreciate that in a book that aims to answer such a big question, the author faces the difficulty of having to describe a great number of contemporaneous events, but the jumping about during the exposition on the origination of the mongoloids (for example) was a real mishmash.

Some of the blame for this must lie with the editorial staff, as must the blame for not spotting a couple of honest but fairly obvious mistakes; which without page numbers to hand, I wont mention any further.

The final problem, for which I wouldn't take any further marks, is with the copy editor. Did anyone truly read through this before publishing? If they did, they should be finding alternative employment.

Please buy this book if you're even remotely interested in the topic - you'll find it fascinating. But, and it's a big but, you'll be made to work much harder than you should to reach the end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Would be better if it was shorter, 21 April 2014
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G. D. Kendall (UK) - See all my reviews
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I have read both this and the author's equivalent book on the origin of the peoples of the British Isles and Ireland. Both books suffer from multiple repetitions (more than two mentions for several of the statements that the author makes). This is so extreme that if you lose your place in the book, it can be difficult to establish where you got up to - are you looking at the same statement that you were just reading, or one of the other instances of it? Overall, if this amount of material were to be presented in as tight an edit as a typical New Scientist feature article, I think you'd have a good piece spanning eight or nine pages of that publication.
I'm unconvinced by some of the arguments presented in support of the author's thesis of a single exit from Africa, such as that a change in climate presented sub-Saharans with an impenetrable barrier that they could never have crossed - ever. Why the river Nile wasn't, apparently, providing a very easy path to the North at those times is a question that will be on the minds of most readers, I think. I'm also unconvinced that the smaller mountain ranges were proving to be insuperable barriers - humans are happily described as moving from out of Tibet later in the book and, of course, people have always been able to traverse mountain ranges fairly easily, without any modern tech, when the weather is good. There is a glaring absence of explanation for how the New Guineans come to have a deep separation from native Australians even though the two landmasses were joined during the recent glacial maximum. The author also seems to fall, more than once, into mistaking the journeys of individuals for the movements of human societies. The talk is of peoples 'walking from' one area to the next and 'trying to escape' a climate that's becoming colder only over the lifetime spans of a dozen or more individuals. "I say, old chap, these graphs show a long term trend towards colder winters. What say we investigate the south-west route to indo-China?" Conversely, the author seems to forget that almost all known 'beachcomber' societies, stone age or otherwise primitive, equip themselves with boats and so don't always need a land bridge to get to an island. After having spent the early part of the book detailing the rapid spread of humanity along the coastal plains of Asia and down to Australia, for some reason there is (seemingly) an assumption that any spread in the Americas must have been continent-wide and gradually seeping down to Central America before an expansion into South America. Overall, you get the impression that the range of the author's analysis is wide but he could do with freeing his mind a bit and thinking a bit more about what human societies actually do on the ground.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read., 17 July 2009
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This review is from: Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World (Paperback)
Out of Eden is a truly brilliant book. It appeals to the lay reader without assuming total ignorance and/or stupidity which is often a problem with books of this type. Not only does Oppenheimer write in an interesting and engaging style, but he does not lose focus nor bore the reader with irrelevant information. He does not pretend that everything written in the book is solid fact and invites the reader to look objectively at the evidence. Importantly, Oppenheimer gives detailed reasons as to why he does not accept certain hypotheses such as the Clovis-first hypothesis.
In short, this was a highly informative and engaging read, I recommend it to anyone with an interest in genetics and 'the peopling of the world'.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the amateur, 25 Aug. 2009
By 
Mr. Gordon W. Triggs (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World (Paperback)
I am greatly interested in the way in which our planet became populated.
I found the book greatly informative in general but for me too much of it was heavily into the science of genetics, genes, types of DNA etc. I am not and do not wish to become an academic on this subject. I am not sure if the book was written for academia or for the general interested public.
One further drawback. Some of the maps and charts were virtually unreadable due to lack of black and white colour differentiation and smallness of scale.Otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed the read and it has added to my general knowledge on the subject.

Gordon W. Triggs
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4.0 out of 5 stars the present system of using a numbering system is quite useless as it does not even refer to the page ..., 16 May 2015
By 
Dr. R. H. Webber (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an important book on the human journey populating the world using evidence from genetic studies, which is the author's speciality. He however compares this with archaeological and climatic data to provide one of the most comprehensive attempts so far to map human migrations. Where genetic evidence gives a contrary picture or is the only one available then the author takes the liberty to justify his own views, which are sometimes different from accepted explanations. The Kindle version which I had suffered from the usual faults of not being able to use the index or find your bookmarks except by searching through the whole book to locate them again. I cannot understand why this problem has not been rectified, the present system of using a numbering system is quite useless as it does not even refer to the page number, yet alone allow you to look up a subject of interest.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exasperating writing style, 18 Sept. 2013
This review is from: Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World (Paperback)
I picked this paragraph in order to illustrate a typical example of the exasperating style of writing of this book:

'As a demonstration of a tendency for higher male intrusion across international boundaries, typical mainland East Asian Y-chromosome markers as defined by the single marker Ho (see chapter 5) completely dominate Indo-China and Island Southeast Asia, ranging from 54 to 97 per cent, in different parts of the region, with a sharp fall-off across Wallace Line (the Wallace Line marks the south east limit of the Sundra continent dividing it, and the rest of Asia, from the islands of Eastern Indonesia, New Guinea and Australia - shown in figures 5.3 and 6.4). [YES ALL ONE SENTENCE] However since Ho probably originated in Southeast Asia, there is no reason to suppose that his dominace reflects Northeast Mongoloid intrusion rather than simply re-expansion from Southeast Asia after LGM.' (p265)

Apart from the rambling, breathless style of writing there is, as exemplified in this paragraph, no attempt to explain the ramification of the extraordinary Wallace Line. It's a fascinating feature where the tigers and elephants of Asia stop and the wallabies, kangaroos and cockatoos of Australia begin. The deepwater Lombok Strait that marks the Wallace Line is a natural barrier of just 12 miles width over which these animals never ever crossed.

My view about writing a book of this nature for those other than academics immersed in the subject is KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). The above paragraph is terribly written in my view. It's very much of the style of Geoffrey Howe (the Tory politician of the 1980s who wove webs of facts into extended comment about essentially straightforward matters, with such a quietly monotonous voice that you gave up the will to live after the first minute of listening).

The human evolution and migration story is a fascinating one. It's also in part quite a complex one from the genetic pespective. But PLEASE, PLEASE write it in such away as to educate us in an entertaining way. Stephen Oppenheimer is clearly a scientific man who has researched this subject in depth but he is not the person, in my view, to have written this book.
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Out of Eden:  The Peopling of the World
Out of Eden: The Peopling of the World by Stephen Oppenheimer (Paperback - 29 July 2004)
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