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The Great Human Diasporas: The History Of Diversity And Evolution Paperback – Nov 6 1996

4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (Nov. 6 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0201442310
  • ISBN-13: 978-0201442311
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 549 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #435,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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The title The Great Human Diasporas implies that this book is a history of human migration, but it is much more. It is a readable, accessible summary of the lifework of Luca Cavalli-Sforza, who has done more than anyone else to reveal the genetic makeup of human populations. Originally written in Italian with Cavalli-Sforza's filmmaker son Francesco, it maintains some qualities of an interview: The Great Human Diasporas is full of anecdotes about the Pygmies with whom Cavalli-Sforza works, the text is frequently personal yet not self-serving, and it clearly shows how he helped tie together population genetics, linguistics, and anthropology to offer a new, non-racist view of human diversity.

From Publishers Weekly

Stanford geneticist Luigi Cavalli-Sforza has spent more than 30 years studying genetic variations in DNA samples from the people around the world. The evidence, he says, supports the belief that modern humans originated in Africa, the Middle East or both regions, then spread around the planet. In this lucid report, written with his son Francesco, an educational film director, he uses genetic differences, maps, computer simulations and an analysis of linguistic changes in the world's languages to hypothetically reconstruct the mass migrations of people across continents since modern humans first appeared. He begins this scientific odyssey with an account of his hunt with pygmies-one of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers-in an African rain forest; then he discusses the spread of agriculture, cultural transmissions of behavior patterns, the Human Genome Project and the exceedingly slight differences among the races.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
The most rewarding part of this popular science book is the middle, fifth to seventh chapters, in which Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Professor of Genetics at Stanford Medical School, draws on scientific research in human population genetics, in which he has been a well respected pioneer, to describe the migration of human populations beginning about 100,000 years ago out of Africa until recent times. Because patterns of genetic and linguistic evolution exhibit high intercorrelations--even though their respective elements and mechanics differ--he also cites linguistic evidence for this account of migratory prehistory.
The most valuable contribution of this book to popular understanding is that population genetics provides possibly the best though not sole scientific basis on which to construct the prehistory of human "races." By this evidence, we learn, for example, about the migration of modern Homo sapiens to Southeast Asia and Australia approximately 55,000 to 60,000 years ago or about the spread of Neolithic farmer-cultivators from the Middle East into Europe beginning about 9,000 to 10,000 years ago. I suspect that readers unfamiliar with modern human evolution will find the genetic tree of the world's populations on page 119 intriguing. The diagram shows, for example, that Northeast Asians are more closely related to Europeans than Northeast Asians are to Southeast Asians.
For as rapidly advancing a science as human population genetics, it should not be surprising that some findings are dated.
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Format: Paperback
Imagine a scientist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, recounting his professional life to his son, Francesco Cavalli-Sforza, a creator and producer of educational films. That is more or less what this book is all about. But it is still written as a first-person account, presumably because the interview form would have been too dry. Because the author speaks to a non-scientist you can imagine that the book is not intended for specialists. Obviously a great effort was deployed to make a difficult subject, population genetics, accessible to a vast public. The chapters are quite varied and the reader may have the impression that the author is jumping from one topic to another; but this only reflects the fact that the book covers the entire career of the author and that his professional endeavours are relatively vast in scope. But the overall coherence is preserved because all the topics have something to do with population genetics, which is the common thread here.

If you are already familiar with the basic concepts of the gene you may have the impression at the beginning that the book was written for children. The author seems to assume that the reader knows next to nothing about biological sciences. If that is the case for you you will love it. But if you have already been initiated you will have to be patient and wait for the second half of the book where we enter into the meat of the subject. Here is what you can expect, as presented in the preface:

Chapter 1 discusses the pygmies and the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers, those who still practice the lifestyle that characterized the whole species until ten thousand years ago.
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Format: Paperback
This collaboration between one of the great population geneticists and his filmmaker son promises much but lets down on delivery. The style and content of the book are uneven. Some topics are told in detail and with compelling narrative, particularly the account of L. L. Cavalli-Sforza's work since the 1960s to establish correlations among genetic, linguistic, and archaeological evidence for the history and relationships of the major human groups. Much weaker, however, is his grasp of cultural anthropology, whether in details or in methods. He attempts to convey an impression of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle (predominant through almost all of human history until the last 10,000 years) through extended references to his field research among African pygmies.
Unfortunately, though he is quite sympathetic to the pygmies and their way of life, much of the effect is lost in empty generalities (p. 16: "The forest may look gloomy to us but pygmies feel entirely at home and safe there. It is a place where little that is untoward can happen to them, where danger is limited and life very pleasant."), and his cross-cultural examples come almost exclusively from pygmies or from his personal experience of various Western Europeans. Some points of history, used as examples, are in error (Bede was an English monk who lived from 672 or 673 to 735; not a "sixth-century Irish monk" p. 80).
Cavalli-Sforza also seems to have little knowledge of modern cultural anthropology.
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