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Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  62 reviews
Who are the Europeans and where did they come from? In recent years scientific advances have released a mass of data, turning cherished ideas upside down. The idea of migration in prehistory, so long out of favor, is back on the agenda. New advances allow us to track human movement and the spread of crops, animals, and disease, and we can see the evidence of population ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by Thames Hudson (first published September 9th 2013)
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Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

This is a multidisciplinary synthesis of all kinds of information about the populations of Europe and how they got here. There have been trends in understanding the movement of peoples that anyone dipping into the topic will know about, largely the great argument over migration and whether it’s ever really occurred or not. I think Manco’s book shows that, in the end, it’s the middle road that’s the answer: sometimes there has been movement, sometimes not; usually,
I'm something of a history nerd, and have always had a particular interest in how the patchwork of ethnicities in Europe came about, so I was always likely to find this interesting. Even so, I rate this one of the best books I have read on the subject. The author bases her conclusions on a thorough cross-referencing of genetic, archaeological and linguistic evidence as well as evidence from historical sources where these are available. There are times when the sheer number of Haplogroups and ...more
Jean Manco offers an interesting story of the period form the earliest European settlers to the recent times, especially in the point of view of the recent Y-DNA and MtDNA research results. This book was particularly interesting because I recently requested a DNA heritage at a DNA testing company, and was able to trace my haplogroup (H22) to one of the migrant waves during the last Ice Age.
An extremely dense but amazingly well researched and uptodate book about Europeans. Uses archeology, DNA, and a variety of scientific techniques, new and old, mixed with historical research to paint a complex picture of how humans came to Europe, how successive waves of newcomers mixed with them, and how everyone moved around. And boy did people move around. If you think your people were in the same place (even the same region) for the last 1000 years, you're almost certainly wrong.

I really wish
Feb 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I was skeptical about the new techniques that supposedly let us figure out the past via genetic analysis, so I was excited to find this book. It does nothing to calm my suspicions.

First, the book has its origin in blog entries. The author has a huge bibliography and has kept up with the material. But it's mainly a rehash of what the articles say, taken at face value. That is, there's very little defense of the actual methodology, and a lot of ipse dixit assertions with simply a footnote with a
Edoardo Albert
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Few books manage to be simultaneously so fascinating and so eye glazing. The tale of the movements of the successive waves of people that have made and remade Europe is fascinating, and the new science of DNA analysis that allows for the extraction of ancient DNA and its comparison to the modern inhabitants of a country is a salutary corrective to the strong tendency in archaeology and historical studies in the latter half of the 20th century to deny all movements of people in favour of cultural ...more
John Mccullough
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is an example of the new modern interdisciplinary scholarship reconstructing the story of human history. Combining archeology, DNA genetics, history, linguistics, and geography, Manco reconstructs the history of Europeans from the advent of modern humans to the end of the Viking incursions into so many areas of Europe, both east and west. For the interested layperson this is a treasure-trove of information collated and integrated to give as complete a picture of what happened as best ...more
Sam Worby
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting but problematic book that brings together DNA, language, archaeological and historical evidence for early migrations in Europe.

I'm intrigued by this subject and this book offered new ideas I had not seen before so it was enjoyable in that sense. I suspect it will be out of date very quickly.

There are issues, however, with both the style of the book and the thesis it presents. The style is choppy, uneven and a bit all over the place. It is broadly chronological but its coverage of
Dec 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
Could not finish. The language / style of the book uses passive voice too often, as well as shorter sentences than necessary. The overall result is that of a boring lecture. In addition, facts are often lumped together without a thesis-then-evidence or evidence-then-thesis structure, so while the facts may be related, the feel of the work is disjointed.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lots and lots of detail. Bottom line is that our ancestors, even in deep prehistory, appear to have been considerably more mobile than perhaps we imagined.

Henry Louis Gates: "Genetics deconstruct our notions about race." It looks like all of us are a combination of genetic backgrounds.
Jan 29, 2014 marked it as wish-list
Recommended to Bettie by: Neil
spotted on Neil's update
Spencer Clevenger
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The study of DNA is an exciting new field! It is expanding our knowledge of ancient cultures in a way the study of stones and artifacts never could.
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Technically done but parts need to be reread..Loved it!
Peter Bradley
Jun 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote -

Ancestral Journeys by Jean Manco

A guide to "deep history."

This is an interesting and frequently dense book. The author, Jean Manco, surveys the "peopling" of Europe from the Paleolithic (40,000 years ago) to the time of the Vikings. The sources she uses largely involves genetic, archaeological and linguistic evidence to describe the layers of migration that she finds in this deep history.

I found the discussions
Nathan Albright
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge-2018
As I was reading this book I was a bit unsure of what to think and how to feel about it. I am certainly fond of reading about European prehistory and the explorations of the Vikings as well as the proto-Indo European speaking peoples [1], but it appeared as if this book sat at an uncomfortable place as a work. The author wanted to speak authoritatively in both a scientific sense as a student of population genetics and the implications of various gene markers being present in certain populations ...more
Enkidu Jones
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
History as a discipline has got to be the most infuriating subject of study. The subject matter could not be more compelling: nothing less than the most interesting lives, events, places, times, things, in, … well …, history. The problem is when we try to get from interestingness to truth. We have documents, accounts, numbers, pictures, etc. Somethings are almost certainly true. But others only seem true until the next generation that is a bit more skeptical decides that, at best, there is no ...more
Koen Crolla
Apr 05, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
William Z. Ripley's The Races of Europe for the 21st century. It's not that haplogroup typing, on which Manco leans so heavily, is fundamentally as scientifically bunk as craniometry (though it's not far removed)—it's that the narratives it suggests, when it suggests any at all, are far more ambiguous than Manco pretends they are, especially given the sample sizes available. And she must know this—the same patterns on her own maps are abitrarily interpreted in dramatically different ways ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating read - not nearly as dry as one would expect. It's generally easy to follow, but some background knowledge on population genetics and the basics of European history would be helpful.

The last chapter about the Vikings drags on for far longer than it should, and I would rather the author have fleshed out the chapters on the other cultures more evenly than to have read about the Vikings for about a quarter of the entire book.

Other than that, the writing is basically flawless, and
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book is about a very interesting subject, and the idea of combining multiple lines of evidence from different disciplines is a great premise. Unfortunately, this book gets a little bogged down in the details. This book is about an epic saga of human history on a broad scale, but surprisingly, it lacks a strong narrative tying the pieces of information together. In particular, when discussing Y-chromosomal or mitochondrial DNA haplogroups, the book often devolves into just a laundry list of ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it liked it
While this book provides some information on the first people of Europe, it is too academic for my taste.
There was far more information on genetics than I expected, which is not too surprising, I guess, considering that is really the only solid information a person could use to explain the spreading of peoples across Europe. But I would have preferred to have this presented in a more palatable way. I have read my share of technical documents (I used to work as a Manager of Editorial Services at
Vera Webb
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is fascinating, but a bit technical in places. Jean Manco describes human migrations from before the end of the last Ice Age through the Norman conquest of of Britain in 1066. She uses three forms of evidence for the migrations described: archaeological (artifacts etc), linguistic, and genetic. This recounting of "the peopling of Europe" is timely for our current times. Ms Manco reminds us that "the national boundaries that now loom so large in self-perceptions meant nothing at all to ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is the fascinating story of European migration, traced through DNA, linguistic, and archeological research. Many myths about previously believed connections are put to rest, while the discussion of the migration of groups (and how we know what we know) is, though dense, written in a digestible manner. Some chapters are more interesting than others, depending upon personal taste. My largest complaint is when strings of numbers and letters are used to refer, like in the scientific literature, ...more
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is a brilliant overview of the emerging field of archeogenetics summarising the discoveries of the last decade. In chapter 2, Jean Manco explains with great clarity and accuracy how DNA can be used to trace back our ancestry over thousands of years, but also how archaeology and linguistics are used in in complementarity with ancient DNA to elucidate the mysteries of prehistory. This chapter is absolutely essential as too many newcomers to the field of population genetics jump to the wrong ...more
Pam Shelton-Anderson
This books takes a very multi-disciplined approach to tracing the migrations of the early peoples of Europe and elsewhere. She uses DNA of people as well as domesticated animals, pottery, archaeological findings, language and logic to piece together what may have occurred so long ago. I have done genealogical research for a long time and have been learning genetic genealogy, such a useful component now. However, some of the discussion on the subclades and hapogroups stretched the limits of my ...more
Anthony Cleveland
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author's inter-disciplinary approach using genetic, linguistic, and archaeological information represents an intriguing analysis of the pre-history migrations of Europe. I found the book challenging to read perhaps because each section attempts to weave together a highly complex story using a variety of data sources simultaneously. It can quickly become rather confusing. Reminded me of the transition between Calculus I, II, and III during my college days. You really had to remember the ...more
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was really the angles of evidence that settled me into this book--other histories, even ones I enjoyed, feel a little thin in comparison. Manco delivers conclusions based on archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence routinely to take us away from 'common sense' assumptions (was it Twain who said "common sense isn't"?) into a much more scientific approach of going where the evidence leads. Good work not just to offer us a fuller sense of the growth of our species but to show us how good ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brief but satisfying look into migrations through Europe stretching thousands of years into the past. Both genetic data, as well as linguistic information, is used throughout. Perhaps not ideal for people in the fields mentioned, but as a layperson it was enjoyable, especially following on the heels of The Horse, The Wheel, and Language, which I finished a few months ago.
Andrew Davis
A panoramic view of European population and its origins. One of the few books that combine so much history with science gained from the latest up to date DNA analyses. It covers a multitude of European cultures and their movement throughout the continent over the time. It provides great reference on the possible origin of an individual with known mitochondrial and Y-DNA results.
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Must Read For Lovers of European History

Highly recommend to lovers and students of European history. Author gives a sterling presentation of the various peoples that have historically settled in Europe. The writing is engaging and the research sound.
Seth Lynch
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting book. More heavy going than I expected, but worth the read. You could probably skip the heavy bits and not miss out.
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