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Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
Genetics Book Section
From Publishers Weekly
"A traveler from an antique land... lives within us all," claims Sykes,
a professor of genetics at Oxford. This unique traveler is mitochondrial
DNA, and, as this provocative account illustrates, it can help scientists
and archeologists piece together the history of the human race. Mitochondrial
DNA is present in every cell in the body, and it remains virtually unchanged
(aside from random mutations) as it passes from mother to daughter. By
quantifying and analyzing the mutations of this relatively stable circle
of DNA, Sykes has solved some of the hottest debates about human origins.
For example, he clarified a long-running debate among anthropologists over
the original inhabitants of the Cook Islands. After retrieving mitochondrial
DNA samples from the island natives, Sykes concluded that the natives emigrated
from Asia, not America, as many Western anthropologists had contended.
In a similar manner, Sykes analyzed samples from native Europeans to determine
that modern humans are not at all related to Neanderthals. The book's most
complex and controversial find that the ancient European hunter-gatherers
predominated over the farmers and not vice versa leads Sykes to another
stunning conclusion: by chance, nearly all modern Europeans are descendants
of one of seven "clan mothers" who lived at different times during the
Ice Age. Drawing upon archeological and climatic records, Sykes spins seven
informative and gracefully imagined tales of how these "daughters of Eve"
eked out a living on the frozen plains. (July 9)Forecast: Sykes is a bit
of a celebrity geneticist, as he was involved in identifying the remains
of the last Romanovs. This fame, plus his startling conclusions augmented
by a five-city tour should generate publicity and sales among science,
archeology and genealogy buffs.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Eve, the earliest known hominid, discovered in Africa, geneticist
Sykes traces a genetic linkage to seven prehistoric European women. A gifted
writer, he conveys the excitement and drama of his discovery of strands
of DNA that passed unbroken through the maternal line. He names the seven
women he found in that line and extrapolates probable lives for them, based
on anthropological data, thereby bringing them to life. His particular
quest began with examining the remains of a 5,000-year-old man found in
Italy and proceeded amidst the competitive pressure of other scientists,
professional tensions between colleagues, and his sense of the fun involved
in making his discoveries. In the end, he can trace living Europeans from
some of Eve's seven daughters. Sykes is keenly aware of the professional
and human significance of scientific inquiry and discovery, as well as
of the woeful history of the use of genetics by racist theories--awareness
that adds to this exciting contribution to showing that all humans share
a common ancestry. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
A momentous scientific discovery that reveals how we are descended
from seven prehistoric women. As provocative as Stephen Jay Gould's The
Mismeasure of Man and as controversial as E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology,
The Seven Daughters of Eve offers a fascinating history of the world as
revealed through genetics. After years of research that resulted in headlines
across the world, Bryan Sykes, an Oxford University geneticist, now lays
the foundation for an entirely new branch of the study of DNA. After being
summoned in 1997 to an archaeological site in Italy to examine the remains
of a five-thousand-year-old man, Sykes ultimately was able to prove not
only that the man was a European but also that he has relatives living
in England today. Sykes found a particular strand of DNA that passes unbroken
through the maternal line, allowing us to trace our genetic makeup back
to prehistoric times to seven primeval women, or the "seven daughters of
Eve." This book is popular science at its best, and its scientific and
cultural reverberations will be discussed for years to come. 6 b/w line
About the Author
Bryan Sykes is professor of genetics at the Institute of Molecular
Medicine at Oxford University and was the editor of The Human Inheritance:
Genes, Language, and Evolution.
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