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Deep Ancestry: How DNA Reveals the Roots of Your Family Tree
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Deep Ancestry: How DNA Reveals the Roots of Your Family Tree

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  408 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The fossil record locates human origins in Africa, but little is known about the great journey that took Homo sapiens to the far reaches of the Earth. How did we, each of us, end up where we are? Why do we appear in such a wide array of different colors and features? Such questions are even more amazing in light of genetic evidence that we are all related--descended from a ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 256 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by National Geographic (first published November 21st 2006)
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Deep Ancestry: The Landmark DNA Quest to Decipher Our Distant Past by Spencer Wells

“Deep Ancestry" takes the reader on a scientific journey to the past with the goal of seeking our common ancestors of everyone alive today. With the focus predominately on reading DNA as a historical document and with the assistance of converging scientific knowledge, the author provides an overview of what we know today. While the topic is fascinating and the book is accessible the prose lacks panache. This mildl
Describes for the common reader the methodology and results so far of a study of human genetic roots through DNA in Y-chromosomes and mitochondria in females which demonstrates migration patterns of our earliest ancestors.
This arc has been lying around since 2006, but it was well worth the wait. Now I want to know more -- what new has been learned. I went right to the website - but discovered that it costs $100 to fit yourself into that data. The arc did not have the illustrations, but for the m
Michael Mcclelland
There was potential here to make this a much more fascinating book. The science itself should be fascinating enough (noting inherited mutations and "copying errors" in DNA, across indigenous societies, to determine probable migration paths - and the timing of such - of humans from where they first arose), but the delivery is quite dry. Much of it reads as a thesis introduction or a submission to a network for a TV documentary special. Perhaps I simply wanted the author to appear as excited as I ...more
As part of my goal to read more non-fiction, I created a mini anthropology class. It started a few years ago with "The Seven Daughters of Eve" by Bryan Sykes. I then read 4 more books in quick succession beginning with this book by Spencer Wells. Wells discusses, through representative stories, the travels of the human species around the world and how the genographic project will map the human experience. There are instructions for obtaining a kit to add your DNA to the data. I enjoyed the book ...more
Bob Nichols
This book, which follows Wells’ 2002 Journey of Man, traces the male and female migrations out of Africa and then across the globe. This story is fascinating and Wells’ TV special on this topic was excellent. The same cannot be said for this book, however. Deep Ancestry is a muddle of hard-to-follow labeling designations that are a nightmare to sort out.* Apparently there’s a consortium that supervises these designations, at least for mtDNA, and I suppose it all makes excellent sense to those in ...more
Very accessible intro to the Genographic Project, which aims to map out human migration over the past 100,000 years by comparing genetic similarities and differences between X and Y chromosomes. The section at the end describing the major haplogroups around the world was very interesting. It inspired me to buy a kit to test my own Y chromosome. Fascinating to see how related we are and how concepts like race don't mean anything at a genetic level.
Short, comprehensive, simple and written for beginners- what else can you ask from a book on a really complicated scientific project! I found it engrossing and I immediately purchased the National Geographic kit after I read it. Having my mtDNA analyzed was an amazing experience. Highly recommended!

I support this project wholeheartedly!

Well done Spencer Wells and National Geographic.
Timothy Riley
This was my second introduction to genetics after high school Biology class. Lots of good stuff in here including helpful "maps" of haplogroups. I have a basic handle of migrations out of Africa and into Eurasia, coastal Asia and Europe. When there was a wave of modern humans from Africa to Europe there were already Neanderthals there. Some warfare and some interbreeding meant that modern Europeans are on average 2% Neanderthal, who were out-performed and went extinct. This book has to be follow ...more
Mike Smith
The style is a bit dry, and the content doesn't seem to add much to Wells's earlier book "The Journey of Man", but it still provides a fascinating glimpse into what modern genetics is teaching us about mankind's origins. This book provides early results of a project to unravel the history of human migration around the globe by charting the variations in our DNA. The key to this work is finding populations of indigenous peoples who have been living and, more importantly, reproducing in the same g ...more
Deep Ancestry - Spencer Wells

I definitely recommend this.

Well written and presented, this is a fascinating story of human pre-history. It's a playful sort of dialogue and it gives source to much imagining for the reader.

There is so much new with human population genetics, it's good to find a source that draws it all together, and gives it a story and a voice. This book definitely swept me along as it zooms round the globe, forward and back in time, and through arcane bits of science and historic
Sort of an add for the National Geographic project, but still an informative overview of genetic ancestry projects with some interesting stories of people from various parts of the world.
Enjoyable read about our origins. I thought the author did a good job explaining the science of the project to layman's terms. I was particularly fascinated with tracing the paths of the various haplogroups and their journeys to the four corners of the world.
Meg Bortin
Another fascinating look back in time by Spencer Wells, head of the Genographic Project and specialist on deciphering the secrets of human ancestry. While his previous book on the subject, 'The Journey of Man', concentrated on exploring human roots via the Y-chromosome - which women do not share - this one also includes mitochondrial DNA, which is passed along through the female line. Thus we learn much about how the genes of both men and women can reveal our haplogroups, helping to answer the u ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Kim rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: genealogists
I'm not good at writing reviews of books I like, especially non-fiction ones. With that said, Deep Ancestry lays out an enormous, ongoing scientific project in a way that laypeople can understand. It's a fascinating introduction to the topic of genography, and next on my to-read list is The Seven Daughters of Eve. This book inspired me to participate in the Genographic Project myself, and I now know more about my ancestry than I ever thought possible. I highly recommend this book.
Very well written and compelling book, packed with details of genetic history. This is the book that describes the beginnings of the Genographic (currently Geno 2.0) project by National Geographic. https://genographic.nationalgeographi...

Although the project is 7 years further along than the book, it provides solid background and relevant information. The focus of the book is on human migration as told through mtDNA and Y-DNA (maternal and paternal lines).
This is a fascinating read explaining how DNA, both migrochondrial and y, show how the peoples of the world are related through ancestral mothers and fathers--and it's not the way we think. Well-written and full of understandable science., this is a break from the genres that are one's usual fare, and it is engrossing.

(Read on NOOKcolor ebook. I'm not recommending this device, but the ebook editions are not like physical books in layout or even misprints)
I found this book interesting, but I'm giving it a 3 because it seems outdated. This was written when the Genographic Project had samples from 10,000 people. Now they have samples from nearly a million people. A new version of the book is scheduled to be released later this year. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that before I purchased this one. I look forward to reading the updates, and I'm actually glad I read the original version for comparison.
Jan 01, 2009 Billy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Melissa
Trying to make history of prehistory, Spencer Wells attempts a summation of what we know of our human ancestors by studying the DNA of people alive today. The book filled in many of the gaps in my knowledge of this complex puzzle. The DNA story collapses our many differences our at least puts them in a more scientific context, which I think is a good thing. An illustrated, more atlas-like version with big maps would be helpful.
I'm trying so very hard to like this book, because the subject matter is so fascinating, but every time I make the attempt I end up putting it down and not picking it up again. The writer's style goes from over-simplified analogies, to leaping to conclusions too rapidly to follow, and then back, so I'm never too sure if I'm not making the connections, or if he's leaving things out.
I found this really fascinating. The science went over my head in a few places, but on the whole I was able to understand and appreciate how the field of genetics is giving us a whole new view of human development and the population shifts that eventually peopled the whole world. If you are interested in anthropology or evolutionary biology you will enjoy this book.
Jan 03, 2008 Libby rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Libby by: Larry Garnett
Shelves: non-fiction
A partner book to The Journey of Man by the same author. The combination of these two books is powerful - like the backstory to lots of archeological, anthropological, historic, and linguistic information I've gathered over my life. This pieces it all together and puts us all more closely related than we'd ever have thought.

I've heard the TV special is also good.
Craig Silver
Apr 26, 2008 Craig Silver rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the so-called "ascent of man."
Fascinating overview of recent discoveries in human prehistory found through DNA research, which can determine to a certain extent when and where human populations diverged. The author, Spencer Wells, was recently in the news because it was reported that humanity had once nearly been wiped out, possibly as a result of droughts in Africa 70,000 years ago.
Billie Mulcahy
Wells, using data from the Human Genome Project, traces human migration patterns and tries to link them with events that would affect population movement, e.g. the retreat of the glaciers. He also uses mitochondrial DNA to look for the last universal human female ancestor, as well as the Y chromosome to find the last male common ancestor.
Good but short

For an introduction of genetic anthropology - or how genetics can help us trace human migration, and your families part in it, this is a good introduction.

My only complaint is, it is quite short, really only a hundred pages or so, the rest is glossary, indexes etc.

But, as a place to start learning's an excellent start.
Gordon G. Smith
This book reveals just how closely related we all are. The book at times got a little more techincal than I had patience for, but for the most part the author does a good job illustrating and explaining how humans spread out around the globe. This is a great book for anyone interested in truly learning about ancestry!
Scott Miller
Our genes are living historic documents that we can now read, and learn about our evolutionary past. This book covers the ambitious genographic project and it's quest to trace human ancestry back millions of years. It's an amazing journey backwards through time.
Provides an interesting look into how advances in understanding the human genome are helping us track our ancestry but feels like an introduction to a larger project, not a finished story. Worth a read if free or on sale but not worth paying full price.
Mrs N
Aug 20, 2010 Mrs N rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in history or science
Recommended to Mrs N by: Mentioned in a footnote of Mystery of the Snake Goddess
Shelves: 2010, nonfiction, science
Very readable introduction to the Genographic Project, which is pursuing many interesting avenues of research. The scientists involved are using genetics to study human migrations, clarify linguistic development, and increase understanding of early hominids.
Sheri Fresonke Harper
Everything you want to know about the Genographic Project and what it tells about human movements between continents over the ages. Read my review at:
Sami Ismail
This book was very good, but I have to feel that it could have been spiced up a little more. I liked it, but Wells rights in a manner similar to giving a lecture, which is informative, if at times a little dry.
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