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REVIEW Õ Ancestral Journeys ↠ Who are the Europeans and where did they come from In recent years scientific advances have released a mass of data turning cherished ideas upside down The idea of migration in prehistory so long out of favor is back on the agenda New advances allow us to track human movement and the spread of crops animals and disease andAlly Visions of continuity have been replaced with a dynamic view of Europe’s past with one wave of migration followed by another from the first human arrivals in Europe to the VikingsAncient DNA links Europe to its nearest neighbors It is not a new idea that farming was brought from the Near East but genetics now reveal an unexpectedly complex process in which farmers arrived not in one wave but severa. I was skeptical about the new techniues that supposedly let us figure out the past via genetic analysis so I was excited to find this book It does nothing to calm my suspicionsFirst the book has its origin in blog entries The author has a huge bibliography and has kept up with the material But it's mainly a rehash of what the articles say taken at face value That is there's very little defense of the actual methodology and a lot of ipse dixit assertions with simply a footnote with a reference to some article that supposedly backs up the assertion Apparently the author has no doubts Also there's a certainly lack of cohesion in the book Basically the chapters are simply chronological starting with the mesolithic and ending with the Vikings Sometimes there's a feeling that stuff gets stuck where it was because there was a blog entry about it and it gets stuck in the relevant chronological chapterAs for the argument itself there are two basic principles First the general notion is that genes change through mutation at a or less constant rate and where you get the highest piling up of mutations in the present day is where the genes started out while groups that move out from the center have fewer mutations The idea that the rate of change is predictable is manifestly false eg the evolutionary effective mutation rate generally overestimates ages dramatically p 231 So much for that premise Further the idea that present day distributions can tell you anything about what expansions of populations took place in the distant past is on the surface of it ludicrous and the results are often absurd For instance the haplogroup J1 is supposedly associated with the spread of agriculture from the Near East and one reflection of this is the fact that it's particularly dense among Palestinians Wait what The thin neck of habitable land connecting Egypt with ancient Syria is supposed to reflect the population there from something like 5000 8000 years ago Oh so all those Egyptian Near Eastern Persian Roman Hellenistic Arab Crusader and Ottoman armies that marched back and forth over this small area left no effect Who could believe such an interpretationIt used to be that students of the pre historic period ie before the development of written records tried to associate linguisticethnic groups with particular physical remains mainly pottery With this method you'd think you could march back from the historically attested levels to a clear break in the archaeological record and that break would represent the arrival of the historically attested population Turns out that wasn't so easy to do eg it wasn't possible to figure out when the Greek speakers showed up in Greece Now we associate historical populations with haplogroups and subclades and can confidently plot the march of the Celts or Sarmatians across Europe see for example the maps of distributions in Ch 9 that show the spread of the Indo Europeans via gene distribution or the march of the Celts in Ch 10 But the fallacy of associating modern distributions with ancient movements is shown by Map 82 on p 180 The distribution of Y DNA R1b U152 is associated with the Iron Age Celts for basically no better reason than the fact that it supposedly corresponds to their greatest extent as if this has been left undisturbed for the past 2500 years or so But it doesn't even really fit First the density argument indicates that the Celts came from north western Italy and Corsica which is ridiculous and we also have the special treat that the invasion of Asia Minor by the Celtic Galatians is still represented by a nice bubble of this sort of DNA in Asia Minor The only problem is that even if one were willing to imagine that it had sat there undisturbed by all of the population changes there since the third century BC and there have been a lot the unfortunate fact is that that bubble of Y DNA is not in fact where ancient Galatia was which is located noticeably to the east So I guess either the DNA is not in fact a vestige of the Galatians or they moved a bit to the west as a mass I'm going with the whatever it represents it ain't the Celts versionFor another example of the absurdity of this methodology look at Map 109 on p 233 This supposedly shows a Slavic gene While it is true that the area covered has a slight similarity to the eastern Slav linguistic group even this isn't very exact eg the gene covers southern but not northern Poland But it also includes a lot of non Slavic territory eg the Hungarians the Albanians the Greeks Indeed it spills over into eastern Asia Minor The author is reduced to mentioning the Janissaries Ottoman troops consisting of children taken from Christian populations in the Balkans and forcibly converting to Moslem soldiers in Constantinople but if that's the case why did it spread to only western Asia Minor Further the density argument would lead you to believe that the Slavs started on the Dalmatian coast of what used to be Yugoslavia and spread from there to the the Balkans and the southern stepped of Russia and the Ukraine which is absurd If one weren't determined to make the association of gene and ethnic group a much different picture emerges Rather than representing the spread of the Slavs from the steppes into the Balkans the obvious interpretation of the map is the spread of a trait that starts in Dalmatia and spreads out like the increasingly weaker waves from dropping a rock into water at the edge of a pool to the east becoming weaker as it spreadsOne really bizarre characteristic of the methodology is that whereas we get really detailed claims about the exact course of expansion of specific cultures across Europe during the pre historic period when it comes to the interesting uestions of the movement and arrival of historically attested populations the genetic data is incapable of explaining anything When did the Greeks arrive in Greece Don't know What of the gap between the Mycenaean and Dark Ages Isn't even mentioned Where did the Etruscans come from and when did they arrive in Italy No idea What of the break between the Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement patterns in Italy and the arrival of the Latins Not even mentioned What about the spread of the Germans and their subgroup the Vikings Nope Turns out there is no genetic distinction among these widespread groups operating over many centuries of time One truly astonishing admission is that the present day population of Hungary is indistinguishable from the surrounding Slavic populations and presumably the Romanians whereas of four bodies from the time of the arrival of the non Indo Europea

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Who are the Europeans and where did they come from In recent years scientific advances have released a mass of data turning cherished ideas upside down The idea of migration in prehistory so long out of favor is back on the agenda New advances allow us to track human movement and the spread of crops animals and disease and we can see the evidence of population crashes and rises both continent wide and loc. I'm something of a history nerd and have always had a particular interest in how the patchwork of ethnicities in Europe came about so I was always likely to find this interesting Even so I rate this one of the best books I have read on the subject The author bases her conclusions on a thorough cross referencing of genetic archaeological and linguistic evidence as well as evidence from historical sources where these are available There are times when the sheer number of Haplogroups and archaeological cultures gets a bit overwhelming for the general reader but in this case it is the price we must pay for accuracy and completeness and taken as a whole the author pulls off the difficult task of making the book both scholarly and accessibleThe subject matter is evidently a fast moving area of research since only a few years ago I was reading books that claimed the majority of Europeans were directly descended from indigenous hunter gatherers sprung from the soil as it were It seems that in recent years that concept has been completely overturned by improved sampling of ancient DNA The author also provides the best explanation I have read about the difficulties of drawing conclusions about ancient migration from genetic evidence due to multiple cross migration patterns different ways of genetic spread and contacts between different cultures This seems to me to be an impressive work

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Ancestral JourneysL Even unexpected is the evidence that the European gene pool was stirred vigorously many times after farming had reached most of Europe Climate change played a part in this upheaval but so did new inventions such as the c and wheeled vehicles Genetic and linguistic clues also enhance our understanding of the upheavals of the Migration Period the wanderings of steppe nomads and the adventures of the Vikin. This book is an example of the new modern interdisciplinary scholarship reconstructing the story of human history Combining archeology DNA genetics history linguistics and geography Manco reconstructs the history of Europeans from the advent of modern humans to the end of the Viking incursions into so many areas of Europe both east and west For the interested layperson this is a treasure trove of information collated and integrated to give as complete a picture of what happened as best we can reconstruct The history is fascinating One myth the book will erase is racial purity Europe is a fascinating mix of influences some indigenous hunter gatherer most immigrants from the Middle East Asia and Africa again For the professional this is a rich mosaic of what we knew several years ago some now out of date because new discoveries are being made every day not just every year Nonetheless the basic outline of European history is now approaching some clarity and with many illustrations is available for all who are curious The book has a nice referencing system good bw illustrations and chapters conveniently divided Most references are from the rofessioal literature but many are from books readily available in major libraries The book assumes a detailed knowledge of Eurasian geography including ancient names for regions eg Illyria Pontic Steppes Sea of Azor Tarim Basin etc that many know but may to know all; Have Wikipedia and a good atlas at hand at all times In sum a very impressive book at a reasonable price