Archaeogenetics: Genes for a Lesson in History
Manu Mehrotra & Ambika Mohan
A SHORT HISTORY OF HUMANITY: HOW MIGRATION MADE US WHO WE ARE by Johannes Krause and Thomas Trappe Translated from the original German by Caroline Waight WH Allen, Penguin Random House, UK, 2021, 274 pp., 620.00
July 2021, volume 45, No 7

Abiochemist and a health journalist come together to write about what happens when biology and history come together—the field of archaeogenetics opens up and lets the human story unfold in exciting new ways. In fact, the authors state that genetics must become an essential element of historical writing, thus, shaking up our knowledge-building concepts.

Biological concepts, primarily Carbon-14 dating, have previously been used in deciphering our ancient history. However, archaeogenetics is a relatively new field, and is being applied for revealing earth’s history only now, after the fundamental foundations, in the form of our understanding of DNA and genome sequencing, are strongly laid. The field hinges on two key factors: 1. The age of DNA may be deciphered based on the extent of its degeneration, and 2. Comparisons of DNA sequences from different sources can inform about how closely related those sources have been.

The authors reckon that European genetics was shaped by prehistoric migrations during the Stone and Bronze ages and the book uses archaeogenetics to make educated guesses and convincing arguments about what may have happened as a result of migration.

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