Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

ISBN : 9780198821267

David Reich
368 ページ
129 x 196 mm


  • A gripping account, from the head of a world-leading lab, of the picture of human history and ancestry emerging from the revolution in the study of ancient DNA
  • Describes the evidence for ancient migrations and ghosts of long-lost populations, now revealed through comparing the genomes of ancient modern humans, archaic humans, and present-day populations
  • Considers what the latest research tells us about the often surprising ancestry of the people who now inhabit Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas
  • Shows how there are no 'pure' races: all modern human populations are mixtures of more ancient ones
  • Shares new insights into how human populations spread across the world, and makes a compelling argument that ancient DNA is fundamentally changing our picture of who we are

The past few years have seen a revolution in our ability to map whole genome DNA from ancient humans. With the ancient DNA revolution, combined with rapid genome mapping of present human populations, has come remarkable insights into our past. This important new data has clarified and added to our knowledge from archaeology and anthropology, helped resolve long-existing controversies, challenged long-held views, and thrown up some remarkable surprises.
The emerging picture is one of many waves of ancient human migrations, so that all populations existing today are mixes of ancient ones, as well as in many cases carrying a genetic component from Neanderthals, and, in some populations, Denisovans. David Reich, whose team has been at the forefront of these discoveries, explains what the genetics is telling us about ourselves and our complex and often surprising ancestry. Gone are old ideas of any kind of racial 'purity', or even deep and ancient divides between peoples. Instead, we are finding a rich variety of mixtures. Reich describes the cutting-edge findings from the past few years, and also considers the sensitivities involved in tracing ancestry, with science sometimes jostling with politics and tradition. He brings an important wider message: that we should celebrate our rich diversity, and recognize that every one of us is the result of a long history of migration and intermixing of ancient peoples, which we carry as ghosts in our DNA.
What will we discover next?


Part I - The Deep History of Our Species

1: How the Genome Explains Who We Are
2: Interbreeding with Neanderthals
3: Ancient DNA Opens the Floodgates
Part II - How We Got to Where We Are Today

4: Humanity's Ghosts
5: The Making of Modern Europe
6: The Collision that Formed India
7: In Search of American Ancestors
8: The Genomic Origins of East Asians
9: Rejoining Africa to the Human Story
Part III -The Disruptive Genome

10: The Genomics of Inequality
11: The Genomics of Race and Identity
12: The Future of Ancient DNA


David Reich, Professor of Genetics, Harvard University
David Reich is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. In 2015 he was highlighted by Nature magazine as one of "10 people who matter" in all of science for his role in transforming the field of ancient DNA "from niche pursuit to industrial process." In 2017 he was awarded the Dan David Prize in the Archaeological and Natural Sciences for the computational discovery of intermixing between Neanderthals and modern humans.

"A thrilling account of mapping humans through time and place. . . Reich gives us a window into what ancient DNA can tell us about human evolution, the peopling of the world, continent by continent, and the population mixing that makes us who we are today." - Nature

"Few subjects fascinate us as much as human origins... If you want to understand our origins over the course of the last 100,000 years, this book will be the best up-to-date account for you." - Jared Diamond, New York Times Book Review

"its importance cannot be overstated" - Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times

"Remarkable. . . . Spectacular. . . . In making constant new discoveries about humanity, Reich and his Harvard team are now plunging into uncharted academic waters...Reich's influence in this field has been immense and the output of his department monumental...Thrilling in its clarity and its scope" - Peter Forbes, The Guardian

"The work in [Reich's] lab has reshaped our understanding of human prehistory. . . . He and his colleagues have shed light on the peopling of the planet and the spread of agriculture, among other momentous events." - Carl Zimmer, The New York Times

"Gives the first comprehensive account of this newly revealed prehistory... an astonishing book" - Juliet Sam, Daily Telegraph

"In this comprehensive and provocative book, David Reich exhumes and examines fundamental questions about our origin and future using powerful evidence from human genetics. What does "race" mean in 2018? How alike and how unlike are we? What does identity mean? Reich's book is sobering and clear-eyed, and, in equal part, thrilling and thought provoking. There were times that I had to stand up and clear my thoughts to continue reading this astonishing and important book" - Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies

"The breakthrough that all archaeologists have been waiting for; a truly exciting account of the way in which ancient DNA is making us rethink prehistory. Essential reading for everyone interested in the past." - Barry Cunliffe

"David Reich uses the power of modern genome analysis to show the fascinating complexity of human migration and history. By letting the data lead him, he treads a narrow path between racists and xenophobes on one side and left-wing ideologues on the other. Although many of his conclusions will be controversial, he starts a necessary conversation about what modern genome analysis can tell us about the variability of human populations." - Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society, London

"This riveting book will blow you away with its rich and astounding account of where we came from and why that matters. Reich tells the surprising story of how humans got to every corner of the planet, which was revealed only after he and other scientists unlocked the secrets of ancient DNA. The courageous, compassionate and highly personal climax will transform how you think about the meaning of ancestry and race." - Daniel E. Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease

"Who We Are and How We Got Here dramatically revises our understanding of the deep history of our species in our African homeland and beyond. Reich's beautifully written book reads like a detective novel and demonstrates a hard truth that often makes many of us uncomfortable: not only are all human beings mixed, but our intuitive understanding of the evolution of the population structure of the world around us is not to be trusted." - Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Professor of Literature at Harvard University and Executive Producer of "Finding Your Roots"

"In just five years the study of ancient DNA has transformed our understanding of world prehistory. The geneticist David Reich, one of the pioneers in this field, here gives the brilliantly lucid first account of the resulting new view of human origins and of the later dispersals which went on to shape the modern world." - Colin Renfrew, Emeritus Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge

"This book will revolutionize our understanding of human prehistory. David Reich sheds new light on our past from the vantage of a sparkling new discipline-the analysis of ancient DNA. He places migration in the limelight, demonstrating that humans did not just evolve, they spread, often on dramatic scales." - Peter Bellwood, Professor of Archaeology at Australian National University

"David Reich's magisterial book is a riveting account of human pre-history and history, through the new lens provided by ancient DNA data. The story of human populations, as he shows, is ever one of widespread, repeated mixing, debunking the fiction of a "pure" population" - Molly Przeworski, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University

"Powerful writing and extraordinary insights animate this endlessly fascinating account, by a world scientific leader, of who we modern humans are and how our ancestors arrived in the diverse corners of the world. I could not put the book down." - Robert Weinberg, Professor of Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Reich has produced an invaluable resource that is likely to become an enduring intellectual touchstone." - Tom Booth, British Archaeology

"The conclusions of this book are reassuringly complex and nuanced. But they are no less approachable, no less captivating for that. Indeed, the result is to bring prehistory almost disarmingly close. He brings whole societies from that past vividly to life" - Harry de Quetteville, The Daily Telegraph

"Reich's book reads like notes from the frontline of the 'Ancient DNA Revolution' with all the spellbinding drama and intrigue that comes with such a huge transformation in our understanding of human history." - Anne Wojcicki, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of 23andMe

"It is an incredibly exciting overview of a revolution in the making" - Leon Vlieger, The Inquisitive Biologist

"Reich's intellectual curiosity and passion for research shine through every page of his book... This book is required reading for everyone interested in an up-to-date account of the spellbinding story of human prehistory." - Debbie Kennett, Who Do You Think You Are?

"Professor David Reich of Harvard Medical School... is not a disinterested observer of a fast-developing field; he is a participant and, in fact, a driver, of the ancient DNA revolution and it is his and his team's research that has accomplished much of the reshaping of human history. So this book has the feel of a first-hand account from the trenches that also carries with it a high-level perspective of what is going on where and why." - Tony Joseph, The Hindu

"Introduces us to the 21st-century Rosetta Stone: ancient DNA, which will do more for our understanding of prehistory than radiocarbon dating did. . . . Who We Are and How We Got Here is less than 300 pages of text, but it is packed with startling facts and novel revelations that overturn the conventional expectations of both science and common sense" - The National Review

"Who We Are and How We Got Here provides a marvellous synthesis of the field." - Clive Cookson, Financial Times

"The Harvard professor, who is 43, was recently highlighted by the journal Nature as one of 10 people who mattered in all of science for his role in transforming the field of ancient DNA from "niche pursuit to industrial process"." - Paul Rincon, BBC News