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The past few years have seen a revolution in our ability to map whole genome DNA from ancient humans. With the ancient DNA revolution, combined with rapid genome mapping of present human populations, has come remarkable insights into our past. This important new data has clarified and added to our knowledge from archaeology and anthropology, helped resolve long-existing controversies, challenged long-held views, and thrown up some remarkable surprises.
The emerging picture is one of many waves of ancient human migrations, so that all populations existing today are mixes of ancient ones, as well as in many cases carrying a genetic component from Neanderthals, and, in some populations, Denisovans. David Reich, whose team has been at the forefront of these discoveries, explains what the genetics is telling us about ourselves and our complex and often surprising ancestry. Gone are old ideas of any kind of racial 'purity', or even deep and ancient divides between peoples. 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 recognize 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.
Part I - The Deep History of Our Species
1: How the Genome Explains Who We Are
2: Interbreeding with Neanderthals
3: Ancient DNA Opens the Floodgates
Part II - How We Got to Where We Are Today
4: Humanity's Ghosts
5: The Making of Modern Europe
6: The Collision that Formed India
7: In Search of American Ancestors
8: The Genomic Origins of East Asians
9: Rejoining Africa to the Human Story
Part III -The Disruptive Genome
10: The Genomics of Inequality
11: The Genomics of Race and Identity
12: The Future of Ancient DNA
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.
"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
"Gives the first comprehensive account of this newly revealed prehistory [...] an astonishing book."
– Juliet Sam, Daily Telegraph
"Whole genome mapping hasn't just revolutionised our world, it has helped us rethink our past."
– Simon Ings & Liz Else, New Scientist
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 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
"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
"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
"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