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.
Dr. Krause himself being one of the pioneering archaeogeneticists perhaps adds a lot of depth and first-hand excitement to the historic story being told. A few anecdotes of the experience during the process itself are a wonderful addition. The maps are interesting and informative. Endnotes include useful notes, sources of information, and an index. The introduction draws the reader in with the prevailing pandemic and talks about the often occurring plague that started in the East four thousand eight hundred years ago and the impact such events had on the people inhabiting Europe.
Although the original book was published before COVID-19 struck, the role of disease and pathogens in shaping our evolution forms a dominant thread throughout the book. According to the authors there is increasing evidence that early waves of migration were connected to the spread of infectious diseases around the world. This is becoming evident as archaeogeneticists are also working on decoding the DNA of ancient pathogens.