Johannes Krause is the scientist here and Thomas Trappe is the journalist and together they’ve written this and other books in German which Caroline Waight has translated into English.
I both read and listened but the Kindle copy was very helpful in that it had maps and photos as well as Informational Notes and Source Notes
A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe
by Johannes Krause, Thomas Trappe, Caroline Waight (Translator)
2021 / 253 pages
Read by Stephen Graybill 6h 9m
Rating – 9 / world history – genetics
(Both read and listened)
Genetics has come a long way in the last decade and there are companies who will, for a fee, tell you where on the globe your ancestors originated. But there are other people called archeo-geneticists – or the genetics of ancient peoples. They can find out using DNA samples from bones and other remains where these people really came from, what they ate, how they lived, how they died and probably more, what diseases they had. These scientists are generally not at all impressed with the work of the commercial products.
If you’ve been keeping abreast of the field from a layman’s point of view, or if you’re catching up now that these companies seem to be having such success, this is an excellent book – imo anyway, The narrator is a bit monotoned but it’s a science book, not a thriller, even if Neanderthals are involved.
The last time migration affected European DNA in a major way occurred about 5,000 years ago. A Short History of Humanity traces the journeys of the large migrations out of Africa and then into western Europe. Migration is something humans do and have done since way before the first hominid left Africa.
After being in Europe awhile some of the migrating groups found each other and we had Neanderthals mixing with Homo sapiens and Denisovans and probably a few others. DNA also shows the advent of agriculture and the impacts of war, trade, plagues and pandemics from the Black Plague to Covid-19 (although not much is known yet about the long term effects of Covid yet).
DNA shows a lot of things – immunity for instance. But it doesn’t show other things – race or even skin tone directly because, although they are inherited, other things affect them. Intelligence is not defined well enough for scientists to know and there is more variation “within” so-called races than between them.
And now we have DNA splicing or CRISPR which actually changes DNA structure. Is that good or bad?
All of this is explored and explained by the very knowledgeable authors in nicely readable language. It was a very good read.
(A chart on the lower right show timeline of the evolution of “Homo.”)