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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Y" is the answer - not the question
A few years ago a furor arose over the announcement that a calculation of mitochondrial DNA mutation rate formulated an "African Eve". Since then other genetic ancestral studies have been undertaken. Most notable of these was the determination that Neanderthal was not a direct ancestor of modern humans. Spencer Wells provides an enthralling overview of the...
Published on Sept. 21 2003 by Stephen A. Haines

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No photos in the paparback edition!!!
The paperback edition does not include any photographs. They are essential and included in the hardcover edition in a great number!!!
Published on June 3 2004 by Eugene Tenenbaum


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Y" is the answer - not the question, Sept. 21 2003
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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A few years ago a furor arose over the announcement that a calculation of mitochondrial DNA mutation rate formulated an "African Eve". Since then other genetic ancestral studies have been undertaken. Most notable of these was the determination that Neanderthal was not a direct ancestor of modern humans. Spencer Wells provides an enthralling overview of the research tracking changes in the Y [male] chromosome. The studies verify again that our origins are African. Somewhere, around 60 000 years ago, lived one man, a flesh and blood individual, from whom we've all descended. His progeny, in an amazingly short span, scattered around the globe. The scattering isn't news, but the verification of the paths and chronology is lucid and vividly outlined in this book.
The key to the tracking, as Wells makes abundantly clear, are various polymorphisms [changes] in the Y chromosome. These mutations are reflected in today's populations and the rate of their diversity indicates the approximate age of the various regional groups. These changes, nearly all prefixed "M" [male?] are used as ingredients in recipes Wells offers as illustrative metaphor. It's a clever ploy, so long as you remember ingredients may only be added, never removed nor replaced. That's how genetics works, he reminds us. He portrays the build-up of recipe ingredients with maps and diagrams. The diagrams are almost redundant as the clarity of his prose enables you to envision them.
Following the paths of migration, Wells shows how some archaeological finds offer support for the patterns he sees. Fossils are rare, elusive and sometimes misunderstood. Genetics, buried deep in our cells, are unequivocal in providing their evidence. Dating methods are briefly described and their shortcomings mercilessly paraded. Wells doesn't give the paleoanthropologists much voice. His story needs telling and the reader may go elsewhere for countering information. Yet he acknowledges the importance of confirming information from various digs around the world.
Wells firmly addresses a great anomaly - if modern humans arose from the evolutionary bouillabaisse about 60 millennia ago, how did the Aborigines arrive in Australia at nearly the same time? His answer is that the track followed shore routes, not inland ones. Hunter-gatherer groups, subject to the whims of climate, food resources and population pressure took the softest trail. Africa to Australia during ice ages was a gentle, if lengthy, stroll.
Nit-picking department: Wells' opening gun is turned on the racial "expert" Carleton Coon, who asserted the human races each followed a separate evolutionary path. Coon has been refuted in so many ways by so many researchers, Wells' effort seems superfluous. There are more competent scientists adhering to the "Multiregional" thesis. Some of these researchers might have been given a small voice in an annotated bibliography. While Wells offers a reading list for each chapter, a full bibliography would be an enhancement. Many of his references are remote. That doesn't tarnish the value of this book. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why I love this book!, June 14 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (Paperback)
I am Indian (with roots in the Indian subcontinent) and I like the way Spencer Wells touches upon our "aryan" Y-chromosome that (as he explains) we share with the eastern europeans. Take that Hitler. And yes I too feel this book beats Seven Daughter of Eve (by Bryan Sykes)by far.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No photos in the paparback edition!!!, June 3 2004
By 
Eugene Tenenbaum "reluctant reader" (Bronx, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (Paperback)
The paperback edition does not include any photographs. They are essential and included in the hardcover edition in a great number!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Way better than Sykes's egotrip Seven Daughters of Eve, May 21 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (Paperback)
That's for sure. Author Spencer Wells doesn't blab endlessly about himself in it like like Bryan Sykes did about himself in SDOE. Wells just sticks more to Genetic science facts. This book also is the reverse of SDOE in that that book, when it wasn't about Sykes (which was rare), concerned the mitochondrial DNA inherited from mothers. This better book by Wells concerns the Y-chromosome inherited from fathers. There is info info on the Aryan dna y chromosome, which does scientifically exist. Also, Wells mentions rarely-known fact that Indians of India posses some aryan Y Chromosomes plus they (like nearly all europeans) have the Mid-East Y chromsome from the neolithics who left Syria around 10,000 years ago trekking to various part of the wortld. Great book all around (Wells's book that is, not Sykes's).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of it's kind!, May 22 2004
By 
Vicki L. (New Hampshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (Paperback)
Spencer Wells, unlike Bryan Sykes who wrote Seven daughters of Eve, is not an egomaniac. Wells mostly sticks just to the facts. Included in JOM are some excellent bits on the Aryan YChromosome being present in Indians of India to Eastern Europeans. Plus, that India-Indians also often possess the Y chromosome of Neolithic Middle Eastern ancestry that nearly all European have in their bodies as well. Other good facts in JOM too. Thanks Spencer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How All of Us Got Here, Feb. 6 2003
By 
R. Hardy "Rob Hardy" (Columbus, Mississippi USA) - See all my reviews
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Archeologists dig all over the earth to find the history of people who existed too early to leave a written history. There is a new sort of archeology, however, that is changing our long-range view of human pre-history. Scientists are digging into cells, into the genes that everyone knows make us what we are. The details from this new research have given revolutionary insight into where humans came from, how they spread, and the origin and superficiality of races. In _The Journey of Man_ (Princeton University Press), Spencer Wells, a population geneticist, has written a wonderfully clear book of origins, drawing upon not just genes but history, geography, archeology, and linguistics.
In part, the book is a summary of refutations against the ideas of anthropologists who maintained that different races were subspecies that arose in different regions at different times. No such hypotheses could be tested in the time they were issued, and now they can. DNA in the cells from mitochondria, and the DNA in the male Y chromosome do not shuffle the way ordinary chromosomes do, and thus are very stable from one generation to the next. Mutations happen, and accumulate, and may be used to see how closely related humans from different regions of the world are. The genetic results of both mitochondrial and Y chromosome research confirm each other, and are unambiguous. We are all out of Africa. We stayed in Africa as humans for generations, and almost all the genetic variation we were going to get was within us at that time. Then around 40,000 years ago, propelled perhaps because of weather changes, we started our travels. _Journey_ has good diagrams, but a map showing the flow of different Y chromosome linkages around the world can be regarded with awe, for the history it shows and for the scientific advances that have made such a diagram possible.
Our current way of living has wrought changes in plenty of the subjects in this book. The trail of languages in many ways parallels the trail of genes around the world, but as we develop a global culture, languages are dying out at a faster rate than ever before. Also, there is greater mixing of genes from different cultures now that easy travel makes possible the meeting of members of tribes that would never have met before. It could be that we have passed the heyday for the sort of research reported here, as populations swap genes in unprecedented ways. Nonetheless, Wells's book is full of enthusiasm for basic research, and the results described here are fascinating. We can look back at our origins with new respect for how long and how strange a journey it has been, and with the increasing realization that that our one species has one shared history.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One family � sibling rivalry continues, March 28 2004
This review is from: The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (Paperback)
Self proud humans with basic understanding of biology cannot even imagine that 50-60,000 yrs or up to 150,000 (or more) ago we all came from one man and one woman who mated, until geneticists revealed the undeniable evidence (our mitochondria DNA or Y chromosome DNA sequences) showing that we all are related. Yes, no matter what race or whomever you are looking at on this earth, tall or short, dark or pale, charismatic or repulsive, civilized or primitive, violent or gentle, we all share the same ancestors. Just like any species. Will knowing that we all share the same ancestors make us respect or understand each other more? Just think of the cases of sibling rivalry, it is unlikely that humans will buy much of the fact that we share the same ancestor so that we would live more peacefully. Nonetheless, science does provide a powerful tool to understand ourselves. Perhaps the next step is to unravel those genetic traits that render us accumulate hate so easily and manage this destructive behavior more easily.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating History of Mankind Revealed by Genetics, Nov. 28 2003
By 
Q. Publius (Annandale, VA USA) - See all my reviews
I first heard the author speak at the Smithsonian on the genetic odyssey of mankind, in the best talk I've ever heard, and I go to many talks every year. Then I read the book and watched the two-hour PBS presentation by the same title. The author does a great service by summarizing much scholarship in genetics, archaeology, and linguistics, to paint a family portrait of the human race based on analysis of the Y chromosomes of peoples all over the world--an intriguing story, well told and accessible to the non-specialist, if not the general reader with a minimal background in college biology and biochemistry. The author's sense of humor adds to the delightful tale of mankind's journey. This is the most interesting book I've read since Jared Diamond's best seller, "Guns, Germs, and Steel," and encourages me to read more books in this area. Dr. Wells, who refers to himself in the PBS show as a "lab rat," has done a great service both to his field and to the public by sharing the results of detailed and laborious scientific research with the larger human race whose ancestors are the subject of this fascinating history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Death Blow for the Multiregionalists, Oct. 26 2003
By A Customer
After reading this book, I don't know how anyone can seriously entertain the theory of multiregionalism anymore. The genetic evidence is conclusive and proves that we have all descended from a band of anatomically modern humans somewhere in Africa 50,000 years ago.
Wells has written a cogent and persuasive book that looks at every phase and aspect of the human odyssey from these African origins to modern times. If I have any criticism, however, it's that the book tends to slow down a bit after the settlement of the Americas is discussed. The chapters on the spread of agriculture and the evolution of language were less coherent than the others and seemed to digress from the central thesis. Still, I highly recommend the book to anyone interested in the recent origins of modern man. It shows that only 2000 generations ago, we were all one family living in one place. The racial differences we all note today are thus very recent and very superficial. This is all the more important to understand now that the world is heading toward genetic convergence rather than genetic divergence. In another couple thousand years, we will probably all look like Tiger Woods (one of the multi-racial examples Wells cites in his book).
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliantly-told History of Man's Genetic Past, July 22 2003
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Spencer Wells has written the definitive popular account of the search for man's origins and his populating of the planet. Not just a popularizer, but an actual scientist who has worked in the new discipline of population genetics, Wells presents complicated scientific findings with surprising precision and clarity, and still avoids the common mistake of most popular scientific accounts by never overstating his claims.
The book begins with a short historical sketch of the scientific notions of man's beginnings. Did Homo sapiens evolve independently in several different parts of the globe, as some anthropologists believed, or do all men have a common beginning, a single root? After surveying the early scientific opinions, Wells looks at what genes have to say about man's origins and how he populated the planet.
Wells covers some archaeological finds and, later in the book, uses linguistics to buttress his genetic evidence, but he primarily looks at DNA patterns found today in local populations believed to have existed in their areas for millennia. The results are fascinating. An early coastal migration from Africa to Australia, for example, is hypothesized to take into account remnant black populations spread throughout Southeast Asia, a relatively early settlement of Australia compared to other places on the globe, and the lack of archaeological finds, which suggests the migration stayed close to the water's edge and was later swallowed up by the rising oceans after the end of the ice age.
But it is not the results that make this book so much as Wells' brilliant, short descriptions of the science behind the answers. He has a concrete way of describing everything from the statistics behind DNA sampling to why the conceptual Adam and Eve did not co-exist at the same time.
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The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey
The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey by Spencer Wells (Paperback - Feb. 17 2004)
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