Deep Ancestry: Inside the Genographic Project Paperback – 20 Nov 2007
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"In this concise and well-written work, Wells "(The Journey of Man)" provides an accessible introduction to genetic anthropology, the study of human history using genetic evidence. It is a remarkable journey that will appeal to readers of all backgrounds interested in exploring the science and research behind human evolution." "Publishers Weekly"
"Wells ends the book with an invitation to take part in the project... This is a rare chance to not only learn about ourselves, but to contribute in a worldwide scientific experiment." "Bookpage""
"In this concise and well-written work, Wells (The Journey of Man) provides an accessible introduction to genetic anthropology, the study of human history using genetic evidence. It is a remarkable journey that will appeal to readers of all backgrounds interested in exploring the science and research behind human evolution." --Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Spencer Wells is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society and the director of the Genographic Project. After studying under genetic pioneer Luigi Cavalli-Sforza at Stanford University, he began an unusual career that mixes science, writing, and filmmaking. His acclaimed first book, The Journey of Man, combined his own DNA research with the work of archaeologists, paleoanthropologists, paleoclimatologists, and linguists to show how modern humans came to populate the planet.
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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" , 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]
The book while concentrating on the scientific information gathered by the project also explores the personnal discoveries individuals have made by entering the project and the subsequent DNA analysis, making it far more interesting a text than ones which consist of only science.
The author's enthusiasm for the project leaps off the page. I read this book in 24 hours and absolutely couldn't put it down. Would highly recommend to anyone.
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