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British Wildlife is the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiast and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Published eight times a year, British Wildlife bridges the gap between popular writing and scientific literature through a combination of long-form articles, regular columns and reports, book reviews and letters.

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Academic & Professional Books  Organismal to Molecular Biology  Genetics & Genomics

Unlocking the Past How Archaeologists Are Rewriting Human History with Ancient DNA

Popular Science
By: Martin Jones(Author)
348 pages, no illustrations
Unlocking the Past
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  • Unlocking the Past ISBN: 9781628724479 Paperback Jul 2016 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 2-4 weeks
  • Unlocking the Past ISBN: 9780140289763 Paperback Dec 2002 Out of Print #128147
  • Unlocking the Past ISBN: 9780713994230 Hardback Sep 2001 Out of Print #124910
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About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Please note that this book was originally published in 2003 with the title The Molecule Hunt: How Archaeologists are Bringing the Past Back to Life. This 2017 version features a new foreword by the author. The chapters have not been rewritten but each feature a short afterword reflecting on developments over the last 15 years as they pertain to each chapter.

In Unlocking the Past, Martin Jones, a leading expert at the forefront of bioarchaeology – the discipline that gave Michael Crichton the premise for Jurassic Park – explains how this pioneering science is rewriting human history and unlocking stories of the past that could never have been told before. For the first time, the building blocks of ancient life – DNA, proteins, and fats that have long been trapped in fossils and earth and rock – have become widely accessible to science. Working at the cutting edge of genetic and other molecular technologies, researchers have been probing the remains of these ancient biomolecules in human skeletons, sediments and fossilized plants, dinosaur bones, and insects trapped in amber. Their amazing discoveries have influenced the archaeological debate at almost every level and continue to reshape our understanding of the past.

Devising a molecular clock from a certain area of DNA, scientists were able to determine that all humans descend from one common female ancestor, dubbed "The Mitochondrial Eve", who lived around 150,000 years ago. From molecules recovered through grinding stones and potsherds, they reconstructed ancient diets and posited when such practices as dairying and boiling water for cooking began. They have reconstituted the beer left in the burial chamber of pharaohs and know what the Iceman, the five-thousand-year-old hunter found in the Alps in the early nineties, ate before his last journey. Conveying both the excitement of innovative research and the sometimes bruising rough-and-tumble of scientific debate, Jones has written a work of profound importance. Unlocking the Past is science at its most engaging.


- A different kind of past
- The quest for ancient DNA
- Our curious cousins
- Final traces of life
- Gaining control
- Ending the chase
- Great journeys
- Beyond DNA
- Friends and relations
- Enemies within
- The hunt goes on

Customer Reviews


Martin Jones is the first holder of the George Pitt-Rivers Professorship of Archaeological Science at Cambridge University and was chairman of the international Ancient Biomolecules Initiative research program.

Popular Science
By: Martin Jones(Author)
348 pages, no illustrations
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