Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Ultimate in Genealogy

There is a fascinating article, by John Derbyshire on the National Review Online web site, about human development and evolution entitled "The Ultimate in Genealogy" here. It describes in detail the new book Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade, the New York Times science editor since 1982.

Some snippets:

Wade’s new book Before the Dawn brings together a selection of these early results to tell the story of modern man, homo sapiens sapiens. We have known a good deal about this topic for decades, from investigations in archeology, anthropology, and comparative linguistics. However, our new, detailed knowledge of the human genome has clarified our understanding dramatically.

Then a tremendous event occurred. A small band of modern humans — it may have been as few as 150 people — crossed from Africa into Arabia via the Bab al-Mandab (“Gate of Grief”) at the southern end of the Red Sea. Their descendants proceeded to populate all of Eurasia, Australasia, Oceania, and the Americas. Moses and Mao Tse-tung, Socrates and Sitting Bull, Gandhi and Geronimo, Queen Anne of England and Queen Kamehameha of Hawaii, are all descended from that same tiny band. Those modern humans who were left behind in Africa of course had 50,000 years of history ahead of them, too, and Wade covers it fully; but it is no slight on anyone to say that for sheer drama and wonder, the epic of that little group of emigrants and their descendants, told in this book, takes some beating.

And finally:
Before the Dawn is beautifully done, a grand genealogy of modern humanity, rooted in fact but spiced with an appropriate measure of speculation and hypothesis.

Read the whole article. Fascinating.

This may be a book that I buy rather than wait for it on the library shelf.

I wonder who will be the first to finish this book and write a review for Juliana Smith? Maybe she can just reference Derbyshire's article.

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