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The Seven Daughters Of Eve Paperback – 1 Sep 2004
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"A terrific book, written with humour and humanity" (The Sunday Times)
"An engrossing, bubbly read, a boy's own adventure in scientific story-telling that fairly bounces along... a thumping good read" (Observer)
"Sykes's wonderfully clear book should be compulsory reading for politicians... an eye-opening guide to the new branch of science that is changing the human race's view of itself" (Literary Review)
A fascinating evaluation of our genetic origins.See all Product description
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and the reviews said that Bryan is a very good
writer, who knows how to make his subjects interesting.
When I saw that the book begins with the story of
how he extracted Ötzi the Iceman's DNA, I knew that
this was the book I wanted to read !
I liked the fact that the book was written as a kind of
autobiography of his research adventures. The inclusion
of an account of his conflict with coworkers may have
stepped on some toes, but his account does look honest and fair,
and for future history books it is important that one can also
learn about circumstances that surround great discoveries.
I learned a few things too. For example that
* the alphabetic classification system for mtDNA is due to Antonio Torroni
* it was the hunters of the Paleolithic that had created the main body of the modern European gene pool.
* mtDNA has only 16,5oo bases, whereas the Y-chromosome has 6o million.
* There is only ca. one mutation in twenty thousand years down a single maternal line.
Even if the book was written in 2001, which is a long time ago for a field of research
that is developing so fast, I think it is important to "begin with the beginning" and obtain
a fuller view, than what you can expect from later summaries.
In the book he also discusses the change of humans from a nomadic hunter-gatherer society, to an established farming and animal-domestication, short history of "mechanism of inheritance", different blood types and mitochondrial DNA (fascinating chapter), history of Romanovs executed by Bolsheviks and identification of remains (another great reading there), history of Polynesians and captain Cook, history of first Europeans and many others. At the end he is identifying 7 major genetic clusters among the Europeans (over 95% of native Europeans fits into one of those groups) or put it differently: 7 clans with one "clan mother" in each of them. He also identifies the location of the origin of each of these groups (great chapter 14).
In a way there is nothing shocking in that book , but is a great insight into one of the most important discoveries of our time (it should be also obvious for anybody at this point, that we are descendants of Cro-Magnon and not Neanderthal - curiously both of which lived pretty much next to each other at some point in time). It is truly a fascinating book describing an amazing research into "history of the human race" (and all that from a man who actually did it).
The book has 23 chapters, and a very small index. I wish there was also an additional Bibliography, but I can understand why author didn't include it (as it is simply an account of "his" discovery, not a scientific book). Read it if you can. I'm sure you will learn something new here.
The author is one of those who discovered and studied mitochondrial DNA back in the 1980s, carried out some of the essential research in the domain and proved some fundamental facts about the history of Homo Sapiens. The book was published in 2001 and it has aged on a couple of points but certainly not on the fundamental research on mitochondrial DNA.
Before presenting the essential results of his research, it is important to say that he explains in clear terms how his research at the beginning was going against the dominant theory and he gives details about the reactions of those who were defending the dominant theory of the time, how they reacted in a vastly hostile way though they had to concede defeat and accept the new theory but it took them quite a few years to come to that point, as if science was not the field of truth but the paternal domain of each scientist.
The main discovery was that 83% of the mitochondrial DNA of modern Europeans goes back to the first Homo Sapiens who arrived in Europe before the peak of the last glaciation and then backed up in front of the ice and stayed in the southern half of Europe before redeploying after the peak of that ice age. Only 17% of modern Europeans have a mitochondrial DNA coming from the Homo Sapiens that brought agriculture 10,000 years ago. That means that the Indo-European migration of the Neolithic was not an invasion, was not an overwhelming take-over but a very progressive advancement that was more the adoption of the new economic ways by the local population rather than the extinction of the older population or its total absorption by a massive migration of Indo-Europeans.
That means that before it was the theory of a massive invasion that was dominant.
The regret I have in front of this research is that the author and his team never considered the linguistic aspect of things. If the first Homo Sapiens in Europe were coming from Anatolia and if the Basques are the only still living descendants of this first population (proved by the blood characteristics of the Basques), that leads us to believe that the language of Cro-Magnon and the Gravettians was an agglutinative language of the Turkic family like Basque. If the Neolithic men who brought agriculture and herding into Europe from the Middle East bringing an economic model that will take over the whole continent it is also normal that their language or languages took over too, which means the present Indo-European languages of Europe are the languages of these Neolithic men and the Finno-Ugrian languages of Hungary, Finland, Estonia and a few other regions in Europe are the languages of a new migration of agglutinative speakers, this time from the Ural and still again in the Neolithic period.
The language question would have probably enabled them to understand that these Neolithic men were coming from the Middle East but not from the Levant since at the time of publication it was not yet known the Levant had no Homo Sapiens occupants from 80,000 years ago to 35,000 years ago, the period of the first Homo Sapiens migration to Europe. They did not come from Africa via the Sinai but via another route which was not known in 2001 but is perfectly known today. But the language question would have led them to doubt the Levantine origin of these Neolithic men because these men brought Indo-European languages into Europe and the Levant was speaking a range of Semitic languages.
It is fascinating to follow this research and position it precisely before 2001. The shortcomings and flaws of it are due to things they could not know before 2001. First the southern coastal corridor along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula for the agglutinative and Indo-Aryan-Indo-European languages, or a route slightly north of this coastal route and across the Arabian Peninsula. Second they would have been able to think that the Middle East we are speaking of here, Mesopotamia and the Iranian plateau were occupied by languages (Sumerian is the oldest known language of this area and group) that developed into agglutinative languages that will be brought into Europe by Cro-Magnon 45,000 years ago, and later into the Indo-Aryan and Indo-European languages that will migrate from the Iranian plateau to India for the former and to Europe for the latter.
But The research presented in this book is absolutely positive about all humanity being born in the Eastern part of Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia) and then having migrated from there within Africa (and here the book does not speak at all of the Khoesian languages and the Semitic languages) and then out of Africa via the Middle East (essentially Mesopotamia, the Iranian plateau and eventually the valleys and plains of Pakistan) to the rest of the world. This research proved that at world level 33 mitochondrial DNA clans can be identified, 13 of them being African, the others being all over the world. As for Europe 7 mitochondrial DNA clans can be identified, six of them (83% of the population) that can be traced back to Cro-Magnon and his direct descendants, and one that can be traced to Asia Minor Neolithic time. That is a phenomenal result.
We just have to cross this research with research on the phylogeny of language and the psychogenesis of language to understand the various and successive waves of human migrations out of Africa. But that is linguistic research and that is where I am working. You cannot imagine how happy I am in discovering this book that supports my own research and justifies some of my purely linguistic hypotheses.
This is a classic that everyone who is looking for our distant history should read at least three times and upon which they should meditate at least till they reach the linguistic and humanistic nibbana (sorry nirvana in Sanskrit) of Enlightenment.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
However the last couple of chapters I personally felt were a bit of a drag.