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Spencer Wells, The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (New York: Random House, 2002; paperback 2003).
[Thesis. Population genetics demonstrates that the ancestors of modern humans erectus : "modern humans evolved very recently in Africa" (38). The key is analysis of the diversity of polymorphisms (39-40). Ch. 3: Eve's Mate. The Y chromosome (50 million nucleotide units) is uniquely passed through males, as mitochondrial DNA (16,000 units) is uniquely passed through females (41-45). Mathematics of ancestry (46-48). The early search for polymorphisms in the Y chromosome was fruitless (48-49). Development in Luca Cavalli-Sforza's lab at Stanford in the early 1990s of denaturing High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (dHPLC) made it possible to "assay the level of genetic diversity in the human species rapidly and efficiently" (53; 50-53). Wells was coauthor of a 2000 paper showing a common male human ancestor in Africa perhaps 59,000 years ago (53-55). "[A]ll modern humans were in Africa until at least 60,000 years ago" (55). The !Xu languageof the San (formerly called Bushmen), with 141 phonemes, "strongly suggests . . . a direct link back to our earliest human ancestors" (56-57). What our common ancestor might have looked like: "a dark-skinned (although perhaps not as dark as some Africans today), reasonably tall, thin person—perhaps with an epitcanthic fold" (59). "[A]ll modern human genetic diversity found around the world was in Africa around 60,000 years ago" (59). Ch. 4: Coasting Away. The strangeness of Australia (61-63). Isotopic decay dating explained; Carbon-14 is not accurate beyond 40,000 years (64-65). Other techniques suggest human settlement of Australia as long ago as 60,000 years (65-66). In ice ages humans may have been forced to live in coastal environments, and migration along a coastal route to the southern coast of Asia could plausibly account for humans in Australia (66-70). A man labeled M168 who lived 31,000-79,000 years ago "could be seen as the Eurasian Adam" (71; 70-71). "[T]he Y-chromosome does provide us with the cleanest distillation of human migrational history" (71). Mitochondrial patterns suggest a female "Eurasian Eve" (L3) around the same time (71). Other evidence (71-75). Difficulties in the evidence, perhaps caused
migrated outside of Africa about 59,000 years ago. The multiregionalist hypothesis is dead.]
Dedication. To the author's wife and two daughters. Epigraph. Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo. List of Maps. 3 maps. List of Figures. 9 figures. Preface. This book is not about human origins, but about the journey of humanity out of Africa (xiii-xiv). It was produced at the same time as a documentary film project of the same name, but stands alone as a separate and independent work (xiv). It follows only male lineage (hence the title) (xiv). Overview of book (xiv-xvi). Ch. 1: The Diverse Ape. An imaginary equatorial journey shows human diversity (13). The Darwinian revolution (3-8). How species is defined is linked to racism (8-10). Eugenics (10-13). Ch. 2: E pluribus unum. The discovery of that 85% of human genetic diversity exists even in small populations (14-18). Population genetics concepts: mutation, selection, genetic drift (18-20). Variation the rule, not the exception (20-22). CavalliSforza invoked Ockham's razor (parsimony) to calculate when populations diverged (2224). Emile Zuckerkandl proposes (1965) that due to variation, DNA molecules are like documents that can be read (24-27). Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) by Rebecca Cann of Allan Wilson's lab at UC Berkeley in the 1980s according to the principle of parsimony shows that all humans stem from one woman in Africa 150,000200,000 years ago, dubbed 'Mitochondrial Eve' (27-33). Other hominid species: Neanderthals, Homo erectus, Australopithecus africanus (33-38). But Homo sapiens did not descend from Homo
by coastal flooding (75-79). Some speculate that Australia or south Asia could have been "the main conduit through which the rest of our journey flowed" (80). Ch. 5: Leaps and Bounds. Genetic markers (81). The "Great Leap Forward" theory, according to which one clever child helped a clan establish a radically new kind of life, perhaps with the beginnings of art and language, some 50,000-70,000 years ago, perhaps related to the challenge of climate change (83-90). Genetic variation indicates that the human population began to expand at an exponential rate about 50,000 years ago (90-93). When humans began to expand through the Levant around 40,000 years ago, they were carrying these advanced technology and cultural innovations (93-99). Ch. 6: The Main Line. Relative and absolute dating of genetic polymorphisms (100-06). Desssication of the Sahara may have trapped humans in the Middle East circa 45,000 years ago (M89), then proceeding east in two separate branches, to India and south Asia (M20), and north to central Asia (M45) (106-17). M175, which is most frequent among Koreans, "unites most Asian men living east of the Hindu Kush and Himalayas, defining an east Asian clan" (119; 118-19). Homo erectus apparently died off or left before this other group arrived (119). Movement into east Asia from the south along the coastal route is suggested by M130 chromosomes (120-21). Ch. 7: Blood from a Stone. Genetic sequences obtained from Neanderthal remains (the first hominid ancestor to be discovered in 1856) showed that "Neanderthals represented a local population of archaic hominids who were later replaced by modern Homo sapiens—with no detectable admixture"; the common human/Neanderthal ancestor was about 500,000 years ago (125; 122-25). The M173 marker, present in more than 90% of western European men, appeared about 30,000 years ago (126-30; 132-34). Why Neanderthals disappeared is uncertain (13032). Native Americans descend from a very small group from Siberia circa 15,000 years ago (134-40). Linguistic evidence of indicates a second migration occurred (140-
44). It took about 40,000 years for humans leaving Africa to colonize all the world's continents (145). Ch. 8: The Importance of Culture. Polynesian voyages occurred no more than 4,000 years ago (146-47). With the end of the ice age came agriculture and the 'Neolitihic Revolution' (148-51). Controversies on the relation between agriculture and population genetics: did people, or culture, move? Wells thinks the latter was more important (151-56). But in Asia, migration carried culture (rice cultivation) (156-57). Consequences of agriculture: resource depletion; large population foster diseases; society stratified (158-60). In general, genetic and linguistic groups are close to one another (160-63). Speculation on the spread of Indo-European languages (163-70). The search of language origins and affiliations goes on (170-73). This is a specific example of the general problem of cultural diffusion ( 173-74). Study of the effect of culture (e.g. in patrilocal [most] vs. matrilocal [e.g. Karen] societies) will be a hot area in anthropology in coming decades (174-78). Polynesian voyages were predicated on agricultural mastery, an example of ever-expanding choices "that would produce the final Big Bang of human evolutionary theory" (180; 178-80). Master chart of Y-chromosome markers discussed (181). Master map of the chronology of Y-chromosome lineages around the world (182-83). Ch. 9: The Final Big Bang. Recent human mobility has complicated many genetic histories (184-87). Nationalism's effect on language has reduced linguistic diversity, and the same thing may happen to genetic diversity, so pursuing this research project now is important (187-96). Acknowledgments. Peter Underhill, discoverer of the genetic markers discussed in the book; colleagues, assistants, friends, producer, family (197-98). Further Reading. Luca Cavilla-Sforza, The History and Geography of Human Genes (1994) and Genes, Peoples and Languages (2000); chapter-by-chapter suggestions; 8 pp.
Index. 11 pp. About the Author. Spencer Wells was born in 1969 and grew up in Texas. His 1994 Ph.D. in population genetics is from Harvard. On a post-doc at Stanford where he worked with Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Wells began to research the genetics of Central Asian populations, continuing when he moved to Oxford in 1999. He has headed the population genetics group at Oxford's Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and served as research director for a biotech company. In 2001 he turned to freelance writing and film (PBS, Discovery Channel, National Geographic), while continuing scientific research. He has authored more than 30 scientific publications and received many grants. He lives both in the U.S. and in France, where his wife and two children live. [Additional information. Spencer Wells was born on Apr. 6, 1969, in Atlanta. His B.S. is from the Univ. of Texas at Austin (1988). He did his Ph.D. work with Richard Lewontin. He is Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of '56 Professor at Cornell. In 2006, with the support of the National Geographic Society, IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation, he launched the Genographic Project, which is
collecting DNA samples globally from hundreds of thousands of people to map human migration patterns; the project has been denounced as "exploitative and unethical" by some indigeous peoples' groups, and a few tribes in North America have refused to participate, but others are participating.] [Critique. A fascinating book written with perspicacity at a fairly high level for the educated reader. The Journey of Man might better have been titled The Journey of Men, but it deserves the laudatory reviews it received. — Wells's expository prose style is refreshingly sober and to the point. It conveys a sense of the complexity and technical detail involved in his field without overwhelming readers with technical detail. — Wells's preference for the understated leads him avoid the religious, political, and philosophical questions that make his discipline a minefield. This is more a strength than a weakness of the volume. Nevertheless, in Wells's discussion of causes as "reasons for" and "reason[s] why" [e.g. 28] it is hard to say whether the author realizes he is really only describing how things happen or happened, not why.]
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