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Who We Are and How We Got Here

Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

David Reich



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Oxford University Press
01 April 2018

The past few years have witnessed a revolution in our ability to obtain DNA from ancient humans. This important new data has added to our knowledge from archaeology and anthropology, helped resolve long-existing controversies, challenged long-held views, and thrown up remarkable surprises. The emerging picture is one of many waves of ancient human migrations, so that all populations living today are mixes of ancient ones, and often carry a genetic component from archaic humans. David Reich, whose team has been at the forefront of these discoveries, explains what genetics is telling us about ourselves and our complex and often surprising ancestry. Gone are old ideas of any kind of racial 'purity.' Instead, we are finding a rich variety of mixtures. Reich describes the cutting-edge findings from the past few years, and also considers the sensitivities involved in tracing ancestry, with science sometimes jostling with politics and tradition. He brings an important wider message: that we should recognise that every one of us is the result of a long history of migration and intermixing of ancient peoples, which we carry as ghosts in our DNA. What will we discover next?

By:   David Reich
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 243mm,  Width: 162mm,  Spine: 33mm
Weight:   618g
ISBN:   9780198821250
ISBN 10:   0198821255
Pages:   336
Publication Date:   01 April 2018
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

David Reich is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. In 2015 he was highlighted by Nature magazine as one of 10 people who matter in all of science for his role in transforming the field of ancient DNA from niche pursuit to industrial process. In 2017 he was awarded the Dan David Prize in the Archaeological and Natural Sciences for the computational discovery of intermixing between Neanderthals and modern humans.

Reviews for Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

Powerful writing and extraordinary insights animate this endlessly fascinating account, by a world scientific leader, of who we modern humans are and how our ancestors arrived in the diverse corners of the world. I could not put the book down. * Robert Weinberg, Professor of Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology * In this comprehensive and provocative book, David Reich exhumes and examines fundamental questions about our origin and future using powerful evidence from human genetics. What does race mean in 2018? How alike and how unlike are we? What does identity mean? Reich's book is sobering and clear-eyed, and, in equal part, thrilling and thought provoking. There were times that I had to stand up and clear my thoughts to continue reading this astonishing and important book. * Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies * David Reich's magisterial book is a riveting account of human pre-history and history, through the new lens provided by ancient DNA data. The story of human populations, as he shows, is ever one of widespread, repeated mixing, debunking the fiction of a pure population. * Molly Przeworski, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University * This book will revolutionize our understanding of human prehistory. David Reich sheds new light on our past from the vantage of a sparkling new discipline-the analysis of ancient DNA. He places migration in the limelight, demonstrating that humans did not just evolve, they spread, often on dramatic scales. * Peter Bellwood, Professor of Archaeology at Australian National University * Who We Are and How We Got Here dramatically revises our understanding of the deep history of our species in our African homeland and beyond. Reich's beautifully written book reads like a detective novel and demonstrates a hard truth that often makes many of us uncomfortable: not only are all human beings mixed, but our intuitive understanding of the evolution of the population structure of the world around us is not to be trusted. * Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Professor of Literature at Harvard University and Executive Producer of Finding Your Roots * This riveting book will blow you away with its rich and astounding account of where we came from and why that matters. Reich tells the surprising story of how humans got to every corner of the planet, which was revealed only after he and other scientists unlocked the secrets of ancient DNA. The courageous, compassionate and highly personal climax will transform how you think about the meaning of ancestry and race. * Daniel E. Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease * Reich's book reads like notes from the frontline of the 'Ancient DNA Revolution' with all the spellbinding drama and intrigue that comes with such a huge transformation in our understanding of human history. * Anne Wojcicki, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of 23andMe * In just five years the study of ancient DNA has transformed our understanding of world prehistory. The geneticist David Reich, one of the pioneers in this field, here gives the brilliantly lucid first account of the resulting new view of human origins and of the later dispersals which went on to shape the modern world. * Colin Renfrew, Emeritus Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge _ * The breakthrough that all archaeologists have been waiting for; a truly exciting account of the way in which ancient DNA is making us rethink prehistory. Essential reading for everyone interested in the past. * Barry Cunliffe * Whole genome mapping hasn't just revolutionised our world, it has helped us rethink our past. * Simon Ings & Liz Else, New Scientist * Gives the first comprehensive account of this newly revealed prehistory... an astonishing book. * Juliet Sam, Daily Telegraph * Reich gives us a window into what ancient DNA can tell us about human evolution, the peopling of the world, continent by continent, and the population mixing that makes us who we are today. * Turi King, Nature * Thrilling in its clarity and its scope. * Peter Forbes, The Guardian * Who We Are and How We Got Here provides a marvellous synthesis of the field. * Clive Cookson, Financial Times * This is a compendious book... its importance cannot be overstated and neither can some of its best stories. * Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times * Reich has produced an invaluable resource that is likely to become an enduring intellectual touchstone. * Tom Booth, British Archaeology * David Reich uses the power of modern genome analysis to show the fascinating complexity of human migration and history. By letting the data lead him, he treads a narrow path between racists and xenophobes on one side and left-wing ideologues on the other. Although many of his conclusions will be controversial, he starts a necessary conversation about what modern genome analysis can tell us about the variability of human populations. * Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society, London *

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