Sykes uses mitochrondrial DNA to discover western Europe's true historical roots.
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The review of this Book prepared by Re Bartholomew
Brian Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at Oxford University, explains his work on the genetic history of mankind with particular emphasis on Europe and the Near East. In what is essentially a genetic extension of the 'Out of Africa' hypothesis, he maps the origins of the surprisingly few seven main clans, from Spain in the west to Syria in the east. With mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) he shows that it is possible to trace origins as diverse as that of a woman from Bristol, England, previously from Jamaica, to the modern Kenyan Kikuyu tribe; or relate the butler of Lord Bath of Longleat to the mtDNA found in the bones of Cheddar Man, carbon-dated to 9,000 years ago. Each of the seven clans is traced via mtDNA which is only inherited from the mother's side, and has a number of key characteristics which make it an excellent biological clock (which 'ticks' once every ten thousand years). The oldest genetic line goes back 45,000 years and the most recent 10,000. The clan founders are shown to be all specific individual women and are glamorously named Katrine, Xenia, Jasmine, Velda, Ursula, Tara, and Helena.
As a scientist Brian Sykes makes a very good writer, explaining the science in a painless way and with the right number of diagrams andthe evidence, what about my reputation!'). Great fun. no maths. Imaginative fictional scenarios are painted for the matrilineal lines which by and large work very well, picking up fundamental themes like the Stone Age cave art of Chauvet and Lascaux, agriculture, domestication of animals, and tool-making. One of the best sections is the vivid and entirely non-fictional description of the personalities and politics involved in championing a new scientific theory, as it often upsets the establishment applecart. ('Never mind
Along the way he also explains the recent history of advances in genetic science to which he has contributed greatly. Topics include the genetics of the Syrian hamster (all descended from one original captive hamster female, poor thing), hunter-gatherers in Europe, Polynesian islanders, and the true fate of the last of the Romanovs, the royal house of Russia. An outstanding coverage for a book of just 300 pages and unreservedly recommended.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose