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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happiness is knowing your haplotype, 17 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Deep Ancestry: The Genographic Project (Hardcover)
The human diaspora from Africa that populated the world has been the subject of several recent studies. At first, these books were bulwarks against the tide of "Multi-regionalism" - the idea that an early version of our ancestral species evolved into Homo sapiens at different times and places. Genetic research, including that of the author, has shown that we're all descended from a small African population. Placing our origins on one continent simplifies the task of analysis of tracking our movements. In this book, Wells explains how the examination works and what it reveals of our ancestry.

The tool is "markers" on the genome. For females it was the DNA in mitochondria, the cell's "powerhouse". For males, it is changes on the Y chromosome, that molecular structure triggering a shift from the default embryo condition. The author demonstrates how these indicators are detected and how they allow us to track our ancestry back in time. The markers designate genetic "borders" between groups of people who share a common ancestor in the deep past. The groups are called "haplotypes" - for which Wells, at least in the case of Europe, uses the term "clan". There are seven of these clans - designated by letter labels such as "R", "J" or "N" - descended from male originators. The approach is reminiscent of Bryan Sykes "Seven Daughters of Eve" [2001], except Wells follows the male lineage where Sykes used mitochondrial DNA to source female origins. Both authors focus on the European records as being more complete and readily available. Wells also finds but five female lines as opposed to Sykes' seven.

Wells discusses how genetic "clocks" can postulate a rate of mutation over a long span of time to roughly determine the age of the haplogroup. Much of this assessment is sustained by archaeological record. The procedures pinpoint his own grandmother's ancestry, which is ostensibly Danish, to origins in the Middle East, some ten thousand years ago at the beginning of the adoption of agriculture. The shift to the Middle East leads Wells to examine people living today with roots in far corners of the world. One notable example is "Phil", whose Native American background becomes the start of a study of Siberian people. There have been many disputes about the origins of the Western Hemisphere's human settlers. Wells travelled to the Asian North to recover genetic data. The information clearly defines the link between Indian populations here and their ancestry in Eastern Asia.

Wells puts some effort into explaining how DNA works, what counts as a "mutation" and how these changes can be tracked down the generations. With enough samples from living populations in historically stable circumstances, he can provide maps of the distribution of the haplogroups and frequency of the haplotype in a given area. Ireland, for example, is populated almost exclusively by a single haplotype. He explains that The Genographic Project he heads is keen to collect more data, both to refine the European and Native American data, but to enlarge the information from other parts of the world. Clearly, this is a book "in progress", but stands firmly as a good basis for understanding the foundations of such research and its enlargement of knowledge of humanity. Although he states this book is "less technical" than his "The Journey of Man", there is sufficient information on how the data collection and analysis is undertaken to make the book readable and interesting to everybody. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Sep 2009 11:03:55 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jan 2010 21:10:20 GMT
I find it ironic that as each 'modern' generation in their turn, add their contribution to the sum total of humanity's accumulated wisdom, they also tend to ignore/discount the knowledge passed down by earlier generations. The recent politically correct excitement over mankind's African origins is just such an example, with these 'newly discovered facts' being loudhailered under banner headlines such as 'We're all Africa's children now!'.

It might interest the writer of that article to hear that more than 4,000 years ago, the ancient Sumerian's also believed exactly that; and recorded for posterity on clay tablets an incredibly detailed picture of mankind's earliest origins in southern Africa. Along with a great deal more historical information from that long distant time, these ancient writings explain the reasons why mankind began life in Africa, when/how it happened; and also why humanity began the migrations north, which ultimately resulted in the population of the entire planet. The ancient Babylonian's and Egyptian's also accepted these Sumerian teachings so firmly that as time passed, they developed into the earliest recorded religions.

This Sumerian origin for mankind's earliest organised religious belief isn't just an ancient historical irrelevance either; because the Sumerian city of Ur was the birthplace of Abraham, who became patriarch of the Hebrew tribes. Later Moses recorded the history/religion of the Jewish people in what became known to us today as the 'Pentarch' or first five books of the Bible; which was the basis of first Christianity, and later the Islamic faith. What Moses so dilligently recorded however, was a three hundred year old memory of that early faith brought from Sumeria by Abraham; with the inevitable changes/omissions caused by the time and distances involved.

The writer/scholar Zecharia Sitchin has spent a lifetime translating these ancient Sumerian writings, and the original record is now available. To the modern eye, these incredible tales from the distant past are shockingly understandable. One graphic example is the legend of Lot's wife, turned to a pillar of salt by God, for looking back on the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah and the cities of the plain. Mr Sitchin explains in Book III 'The Earth Chronicles', that the Sumerian word for salt and mist/vapour was identical:- 'NIMUR'; as they gathered their salt from misty swampy salt pans near the Persian Gulf. Thus the legend should read that Lot's wife was turned to a pillar/column of vapour by God's power/anger as she looked back on the destruction of the cities. IE:- She was caught in the flash of an almighty explosion and vapourised!!! This event is covered in detail on pages 310-342 of Book III.

If Mr Sitchin's translations are accurate, and to date his work has not been discredited by any of those qualified to do so; humanity most certainly originated in southern Africa, but modernday historian/archaeologists still have some shocks to come as they rediscover the full story.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jan 2011 17:42:26 GMT
Peasant says:
I don't think the point is whether or not the Sumerian account is correct; the Sumerians could not possibly have KNOWN the origins of man, so if their account is correct, it is correct by accident. Nor do I think anyone except the odd fundamentalist christian would be upset by the suggestion that the original material for the Pentateuch derives from earlier pre-Judaic sources.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Oct 2012 18:54:09 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Oct 2012 21:22:39 BDT
Reply to Peasant.

You state:- "the Sumerians could not possibly have KNOWN the origins of man, so if their account is correct, it is correct by accident" as if it were unchallengable fact, but fail to explain why you accept this 20th Century assumption as such. Without meaning to be condescending, neither You, I, Spencer Wells or any other so-called 'expert' on the subject today even existed during those far-off times, let alone has any first hand experience of them, so all our 'opinions/theories' are just that; modern theories based on well-meaning 'interpretation' of ancient relics; nothing more.

By contrast the approx 250,000 baked clay tablets excavated over the last century from the ruins of the ancient Sumerian cities scattered along the Tigris/Euphrates Valley WERE written by many thousands of people who were there in person; by men who believed the things they were seeing with their own eyes were so important they should be recorded for all the generations they knew would follow. The picture these ancient writings reveal is indeed an amazing tale that reads rather like modernday science fiction; similar BUT different in crucial ways from the age-old Biblical tales we were taught as children. The Anunnaki ( (literally, "those who from Heaven to Earth came down") arrived on this planet in search of mineral resources including gold. After discussion among themselves, they decided to artificially inplant 'Divine' intelligence, free-will and reason within an earthly creature (Neanderthal apes?) 'creating' a slave-species the Adama, intelligent enough to carry out the laborious mining/farming work previously done by the 'Gods' themselves. These ancient writings go on to explain how the 'Gods' then taught their slave-species the 'sacred wisdoms' of civilised living, of crop-raising, animal husbandry, mineral mining, metal-working and much more; took human wives with whom they had children etc... See:- Slave Species of God: The Story of Humankind from the Cradle of Humankind

In an era that regards the religious record as primitive myth and Darwinian evolutionary theory as scientific fact, I realise these sort of ideas are modernday heresy BUT it's historic/archeological fact that Sumerian civilisation IS the first to build cities, practice organised farming, metal-working, writing etc... They did have libraries, schools, legal codes of conduct, markets and trade etc... and this highly advanced civilisation DID spring up as if from nowhere, before them the records all but blank, a few disputable bones, chipped stones and the like. When it comes to astronomy for example, the Sumerians have left accurate depictions of the planets circling the Sun, descriptions of the planets we've only discovered are accurate since the Space Research Programmes began in the later 20th Century!

My ultimate questions are therefore simple.

1. Why when we can read the legal codes, when we can read the advice on farming methods, the legal/financial records and all the rest and recognise it as the work of intelligent/thoughtfull men, do we blythly disregard their graphically detailed explanation as to how, why and by who it was created and built?

2. In the not too distant future human astronauts will voyage beyond the bounds of our solar system. If/when they finally reach another living planet they may well face a situation remarkably similar to that described in the ancient Sumerian records. Why should the possibility that it happened on Earth at the dawn of humanity not even be considered today?

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Oct 2012 13:35:53 BDT
Peasant says:
Historians don't dismiss religious record; they look at it soberly and assess it in its context. Since Schliemann found Tory no-one has been quick to dismiss ancient texts. There is a difference between using a text as a source and deciding to take everything it contains at face value.
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