Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Min europeiska familj: De senaste 54 000 åren

Rate this book
The story of Europe and its peoples, told through its genetic legacy and woven together using the latest archaeological findings, will fascinate anyone interested in genealogy.

Karin Bojs grew up in a small, broken family, and at her mother's funeral she felt this more acutely than ever. As part of the healing process, she decided to use DNA research to learn more about herself, her family, and the interconnectedness of society. She went deep in search of her genealogy, having her DNA sequenced and tested, and effectively becoming an experimental subject.

Remarkably, she was able to trace the path of her ancestors through recorded history and into prehistory. Through the course of her research, she met dozens of scientists working in genetic research. The narrative travels the length and breadth of Europe, from the Neanderthals of central Germany to the Cro-Magnon in France. Bojs visited the ancient caves, realizing that her direct ancestors must have been living in the area when the cave art was painted. A second DNA analysis later revealed she has Sami (i.e. Lapp) genetic material in her genome, and there were further revelations about her hunter-gatherer, Bronze-Age, and Iron-Age relatives, including the Vikings.

This fresh, first-person exploration of genes and genetics goes well beyond personal genealogy and reveals much about the shared history of European peoples.

485 pages, Hardcover

First published August 1, 2015

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Karin Bojs

7 books30 followers
Karin Bojs is an author and science journalist. She was head of the science desk at Dagens Nyheter, the leading daily newspaper in Sweden, for nearly two decades. Karin has an honorary doctorate from Stockholm University, and has received several awards, including the 2015 Swedish August Prize for My European Family.

Karin lives in Stockholm on top of a hill with a view over Lake Mälaren. She often leaves her apartment for her country house where she keeps honey bees, produces cider and maintains an orchid meadow. During the long, dark Scandinavian winter nights she enjoys dancing the tango.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
370 (22%)
4 stars
744 (46%)
3 stars
408 (25%)
2 stars
74 (4%)
1 star
20 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 179 reviews
Profile Image for Marc.
3,072 reviews1,094 followers
September 29, 2020
Karin Bojs is a science journalist for a Swedish quality newspaper. For decades she has been following the enormous leap in genetic research, with a particular interest in the insight it offers into early human history. Especially since 2010, there has been a real DNA revolution, in which sometimes a completely new light was shed on our human ancestors, very different from the view that has been built up through classical archaeology. To name just one: the precise relationship between Neanderthal and homo sapiens.

Bojs does not present a classic, scientific exposé. In fact she kind of tells her own family history, but going back to what is called “Deep History”, the period formerly described as “prehistoric”. She starts with the arrival of the homo sapiens species in Europe, around 54,000 BP (before present) and she sketches in several steps how genetic research has mapped the successive migration flows, in a much more precise way than the classical archaeology ever could.

This is a very fascinating, very informative and up-to-date book, but of course this approach means that her story is very Scandinavian oriented. Understandably, but a limitation nonetheless. Nevertheless, a great read. For a more detailed review, see my History account on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Sense of History.
389 reviews434 followers
August 27, 2022
The genetic revolution is the central focus of this book. In recent decades genetic research has yielded revolutionary new insights into the earliest history of man. Swedish publicist Karin Bojs begins her story around 54,000 BP, with some probable encounters between Neanderthal and homo sapiens groups, living in the Middle East, based on findings in classical archaeology. Eventually genetic research confirmed that the two hominid species did indeed interbreed.

I will go into this in more detail because it settled an old debate, while at the same time demonstrating the relative limitations of genetic research. Genetic research on the ancient lineage of humankind initially was limited to a very small part of the human genome, the so-called mitochondrial DNA, which is located outside the cell nucleus, is only passed on from woman to woman and is relatively easy to “read”. In those early studies (back in the 1990s) no Neandertal traces whatsoever were found in Sapiens DNA, so scientists concluded that there was never any interbreeding, or at least no mixing leading to progeny. But genetic research did not stand still and after a few years, analysis of the (male) Y chromosome and eventually the entire nucleus DNA became possible, and that proved unequivocally that there was indeed interbreeding. On average, the genome of contemporary non-African people contains 1.5 to 2% typical Neandertal mutations (in East Asians even a little more). But that is not evenly spread over the entire genome, which indicates a very complex interaction and therefore room for further research and new insights.

A second finding that Bojs elaborates on is the old debate about the spread of agriculture to Europe. Until recently, there was a fairly large consensus among archaeologists that agriculture originated in what we call the Levant, the far west of Asia, but that it mainly spread across Europe via adaptation: hunter-gatherers gradually took over agriculture and became sedentary. A small group of archaeologists adhered to the migration thesis, namely that farmers migrated in different waves to Europe and there supplanted the hunter-gatherers, perhaps even just killed them. Around 2010 genetic research has proved that the latter thesis was correct: mutation types (the so-called haplogroups) can be found all over Europe that unambiguously can be traced back to groups departing from the Middle East. According to Bojs, only the North-Scandinavian Sami can boast a more European descent line, that is that they are more the offspring of local hunter-gatherers, though of course, these also originally can be traced back to the origin of homo sapiens in Africa.

But here again, even the genetic picture about farming coming to Europe is much more complicated than it appears at first glance. Because the genetic research also makes it clear that there have been various waves of migration in Europe (from different directions and in different times) and that there is undoubtedly also a certain mixing with local hunter-gatherer populations, how could it be otherwise. After all, genetic research on ancient DNA still is in its initial phase; the number of investigated ancient human fossils remains relatively limited, so that it seems premature to draw definitive conclusions.

Anyway, the story that Bojs brings - from the viewpoint of her own 'family'-history -is very well founded. This is evident from the bibliography alone: it hardly consists of monographs, because they are almost immediately dated, but mainly from recent articles in specialized scientific journals. Bojs has done a very good job.
Profile Image for nettebuecherkiste.
514 reviews125 followers
February 4, 2021
Wer mich kennt, weiß, dass mich nichts mehr interessiert als Vor- und Frühgeschichte. Außerdem ist Ahnenforschung ein Hobby von mir. Einem Buch, das beides miteinander verbindet, kann ich natürlich nicht widerstehen. Karin Bojs hat mit DNA-Tests ihre mütterliche Abstammung bestimmen lassen, mithilfe ihres Onkels außerdem auch die Abstammung ihres Vaters. Heraus kam, dass sie auf mütterlicher Seite von den Jägern abstammt, die Europa als erste Homo Sapiens-Gruppe besiedelten, und auf väterlicher Seite von den Bauern, der zweiten großen Einwanderungswelle, die die Landwirtschaft nach Europa brachte. Wie alle Europäer trägt auch sie geringe Mengen von Neandertaler-DNA in sich.

Karin Bojs wollte mehr über ihre frühesten Vorfahren erfahren. Sie begab sich auf eine Reise durch Europa.

Populärwissenschaftliche Bücher wie dieses von der Wissenschaftsjournalistin Karin Bojs haben für uns Laien den Vorteil, dass sie uns nicht trockene Fakten um die Ohren donnern, sondern erzählen. Karin Bojs erzählt uns gleichzeitig die Geschichte aller Europäer und von ihrer ganz persönlichen Reise in die eigene Vergangenheit. Das liest sich nicht nur gut, sondern ist auch leicht verständlich und in gut verdauliche Einheiten aufgeteilt. Grob ist das Buch in drei Teile eingeteilt, „Die Jäger“, in dem es wie schon erwähnt um die ersten ursprünglich aus Afrika kommenden modernen Menschen geht, „Die Bauern“ über die zweite Einwanderungswelle aus dem Nahen Osten und „Die Indoeuropäer“ über die dritte Welle, die uns unter anderem die Sprache mitgebracht hat, aus der sich nahezu alle europäischen Sprachen entwickelt haben. (Innerhalb dieser großen Wellen gab es natürlich kleinere Migrationsbewegungen.) Bojs spekuliert unter anderem über die Begegnungen mit den Neandertalern und reist auf die Schwäbische Alb, wo die ersten Kunstobjekte in Europa mit einem Alter von rund 40.000 Jahren gefunden wurden. Sie erzählt uns von der Domestizierung der ersten Haustiere, vom ersten Bier und warum wir heute davon ausgehen können, dass die nicht die ursprüngliche Jägerbevölkerung die Landwirtschaft übernahm, sondern dies mit der Einwanderung neuer Siedler einherging, die dieses Wissen mitbrachten. Die Indoeuropäer schließlich stammten aus den Steppen des Ostens, sie kamen mit Pferden und mündeten in uns vertrauten Kulturen wie dem Keltentum.

Wer sich für frühe Menschen interessiert, sollte dieses Buch unbedingt lesen, denn Karin Bojs vermittelt uns nicht nur die Erkenntnisse von berühmten Forschern wie dem Paläogenetiker Svante Pääbo, sondern erzählt uns auch die spannende Geschichte von der Entstehung der europäischen Kultur. Darüber hinaus enthält das Buch umfangreiche Tipps zu weiterführender Literatur sowie für Besuche der archäologischen Stätten.

Es sei noch vermerkt, dass die Autorin sich explizit von Vorstellungen der Ahnenforschung distanziert, wie sie im Dritten Reich vorherrschten.
Profile Image for Marie-Paule.
72 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2017
An amazing book about how modern DNA techniques contribute to anthropological and (pre-)historical research. DNA-research tells us that the European population is the result of three important migration waves:
a) a migration of hunters-gatherers (coming from Africa) as a result of the ice ages;
b) agriculture is not a result of a naturally occuring 'evolution' in several populations of hunters. Agriculture arose at one specific time in one specific area, viz. the surroundings of Syria. Once farmers needed more farming land, they started to migrate from the 'south to the north' (6000 BC.);
c) around 2800 BC, large groups of shepherds migrated from the drylands in the east (Russia etc). Here, DNA-research is in line with the findings of linguistic studies (Indo-European languages).

These are the three main immigration waves, but of course, a lot of economical and political factors have added additional 'layers' to this general picture, e.g. the Vikings coming to Western Europe. Even in prehistorical eras, commerce and ships have played a far more important role in the development of Europe, than I could have imagined.

This book also gives an interesting insight in the appearance of dogs, horses and cats in human existence.

And last but not least, the author makes some interesting ethical remarks about do's and don'ts when we are dealing with genetic research in an anthropological setting.

I dare to recommend this book to my fellow GR-friends !
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,127 reviews104 followers
April 29, 2022

So yes and in my humble opinion, author Karin Bojs does present with her 2015 Min europeiska familj: De senaste 54 000 åren (and by extension of course also translator Fiona Graham with the 2017 English language translation titled My European Family: The First 54,000 Years) a generally interesting, enlightening and also (importantly) a stylistically approachable (with thankfully not too much scientific and especially not too much genetic jargon) account of prehistoric Europe and how most modern Europeans actually do contain multiple traces of Neanderthal DNA, thus demonstrating solid genetic proof that once Homo sapiens sapiens, once anatomically modern humans arrived out of Africa and settled in Europe, they did in fact interbreed with the Neanderthals, and that yes, this has now scientifically been proven through solid DNA evidence.

However, as much as I have both enjoyed and been enlightened by Karin Bojs’ musings and presented evidence in My European Family: The First 54,000 Years I have found a few statements especially in the beginning of the book which kind of do make me academically and intellectually cringe a trifle. For yes, I kind of have the sneaking feeling that Karin Bojs is not really a total supporter of the out of Africa theory and kind of seems more a believer of multi-regionalism, that she does to and for me appear to be (below the surface) of the opinion that anatomically modern humans, that Homo sapiens sapiens in fact independently developed from Homo erectus in different areas of the world (a theory that has now been rather majorly discredited, and that yes, even the now pretty well solid genetic proof of Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis interbreeding does nothing to in any way resurrect multi-regionalism, but in my opinion simply augments and even strengthens the out of Africa theory).

And combined with the fact that I do find the bibliographic and secondary resources sections of My European Family: The First 54,000 Years not really all that user and research friendly (and would definitely want the travel suggestions appearing in a separate area of the book altogether), while I have certainly found My European Family: The First 54,000 Years sufficiently interesting, my issues with Karin Bojs’ text far to often reminding me of a multi-regionalist approach to human origins and that I have found the extensive bibliographic materials rendered a bit confusing because of the inclusion of travel suggestions, this has most definitely affected my reading pleasure enough for my rating for My European Family: The First 54,000 Years to only be three stars maximum (and really, the travel suggestions do kind of feel a bit out of place in this book).
Profile Image for Frank.
439 reviews65 followers
January 3, 2020
Das Buch erinnert mich sehr an die Begeisterung, die ich als Junge für Ur- und Frühgeschichte hatte. Vieles von dem, was hier nach neuesten wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen (DNA- Analysen) seine Bestätigung findet, war früheren Archäologen (in der DDR und also auch mir) aus ihrer quasi "analogen" Arbeit schon bekannt. Dennoch überzeugt das Buch durch die Stringenz, mit der die Forschungen und auch die dazugehörigen Debatten zur Ausbreitungs- und Besiedlungsgeschichte der menschlichen Gattung dargeboten werden. Es ist schon erstaunlich, von welch geringer Zahl von "Urmüttern" bzw. "Urvätern" riesige und heute nach Millionen zählende Populationsgruppen abstammen. Dabei ist es durchaus spannend "mitzuerleben", wie anhand von winzigsten DNA- Spuren (Abweichungen/ Übereinstimmungen) mehrere Siedlungswellen nachgezeichnet oder das Vorkommen von Jagd- oder Bauerngemeinschaften rekonstruiert werden können. "Miterleben" ist nicht falsch, denn die Autorin lässt den Leser an der eigenen Suche nach "Vorfahren" teilhaben, ein Verfahren, das über das trockene Darlegen des Stoffes hinaus dem Sachbuch literarische (zumindest gute journalistische) Qualität verleiht. Traurig sind die Exkurse zum Streit unter Wissenschaftlern, die einerseits zeigen, wie primitiver (Futter)Neid und Selbstverliebtheit in eigene Überlegungen die Zusammenarbeit verhindern und Karrieren beenden, wo man meinen sollte, dass denkende Menschen über solchen Primitivitäten stehen. Dem ist aber nicht so. Alles, was die Dummen tun, haben sie von den Klugen - sonst wären sie keine Dummen! Sie's drum: Im Buch gibt es Gott sei Dank auch genügend Gegenbeispiele! Zweitens ist aber erschreckend, wie viel Widerstand solche Forschungen aus nationalistischer und rassistischer Ecke erfahren. Unglaublich, dass darum, ob es vor 5000 Jahren Migration und Kulturtransfer - um es mal modern zu sagen - gegeben hat, oder ob eine bestimmte Kulturleistung autochthon ist, wirklich gestritten werden kann. Was haben Menschen vor 5000 Jahren mit den heutigen Ungarn oder Schweden zu tun? Gar nichts! Aber der Streit ist relevant, denn die Frage, wem Shakespeare oder Beethoven denn nun "gehören", dürfte auch heute noch Quelle von dämlichem Nationalstolz sein. Warum sollte Goethe mir mehr als Shakespeare zugehörig sein, wo ich doch weder an dem Werk des einen noch an dem des anderen irgendwie beteiligt war? Kultur gehört uns allen und so ist es auch mit den Errungenschaften der frühen Menschen, die aus Afrika kamen und die wichtigsten für uns relevanten "Erfindungen" irgendwo im vorderen Orient (Landwirtschaft) oder in den kasachischen Steppen (Pferde) gemacht haben. Dass so etwas Wichtiges wie Rad und Hakenpflug womöglich aus "Deutschland" kommen, hat mich verwundert, schließlich komme ich aus Mecklenburg, wo man nur so Ackerbau betreiben konnte, weshalb diese erschwerten Bedingungen entweder Rad und Pflug erforderlich oder aber Rad und Pflug die Arbeit dort erst möglich gemacht haben. Aus "Deutschland"? Blödsinn. Da war kein "Deutschland" und aus genetischer Sicht waren da keine "Deutschen". Die gibt es so wenig wie Schweden oder Slawen und unsere Vorfahren waren vielleicht blauäugig, ansonsten aber dunkel und schwarzhaarig. Genetisch sind wir auf der Welt fast alle irgendwie miteinander verwandt. Schön zu wissen im Beethoven- Jahr, in dem Schillers toller Satz "Alle Menschen werden Brüder" in der wirkmächtigen Vertonung des Meisters sicher oft zu hören sein wird. Interessant ist es in diesem Zusammenhang zu erfahren, dass "Genie und Wahnsinn" (auch genetisch gesehen) nahe beieinander liegen. Eine kleine Nebeninformation, die zeigt, wie treffend manchmal die einfache Beobachtung (in diesem Falle von Freud!) ist. Schade auch, denn so wird verständlich, warum Kreativität mit so viel Leid und oft auch psychischem Elend erkauft ist. Um es kurz zu machen: Weil das Buch solche Gedanken inspiriert und ganz nebenbei dem dumpfen Rassenblödsinn, der neuerdings wieder fröhlich Urständ feiert, den Wind aus den Segeln nimmt, ist es fünf Punkte wert und sei jedem zur Lektüre empfohlen, der sich auch nur ein bisschen dafür interessiert, wo wir herkommen und warum wir so geworden sind, wie wir sind. Nebenbei: Früher waren erwachsene Menschen laktoseintolerant- das war mir neu und das habe ich wirklich gelernt! ;-)
Profile Image for Mikko Saari.
Author 3 books184 followers
February 7, 2017
If you don't know anything about using DNA to track the historical movement of people, goods and ideas, here's a good place to start. Karin Bojs is an experienced science journalist and writes well - her look into the development of what Europeans are and where they came from is both personal and universal.

The essence of it is clear: Europeans are all immigrants, in the end, a mixture of hunterer-gatherers who arrived first, the farmers who arrived later and the steppe nomads who were the last to arrive. Mix in some Neanderthal blood in it, and there you go, the variety of Europeans who live in Europe today.
Profile Image for Berit Lundqvist.
578 reviews25 followers
June 27, 2018
The deputy speaker of the Swedish Parliament, the Sweden Democrat Björn Söder, has for the second time started a debate about who is Swedish and who is not. According to himself, he of course is a pure breed, but Samis and Jews are not.

Well, dear Björn, I’m sorry to inform you that none of us are pure breeds. We’re all Africans, spiced up with a little Neanderthal.

The first ”Swedes” were hunters, and they arrived from the European continent just after the last deglaciation, more than 10,000 years ago. Their hair and skin were dark, and their eyes probably blue.

A couple of thousand years later the first light skinned and brown-eyed farmers arrived from - wait for it - Syria. How does that make you feel, Björn? Having Syrian genes, I mean?

Then, about 5,000 years ago a new wave of indoeuropean immigrants came from Central Asia. You know, Björn, those people you think are superior to others.

What about the Samis then? The first arrived from northeast just after the deglaciation. Then there was a second immigration wave between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago. Numerous groups have come since then. All have lived side by side and exchanged genes with each other.

And Björn, if a may ask a personal question: My very blonde and blue-eyed aunt, who has converted to Judaism - is she a real Swede?

Lesson learned: When cultures meet and interact generally great progress is made.
48 reviews4 followers
February 24, 2019
Volete capire da dove venite? vi siete fatti fare l'analisi del DNA ed avete scoperto, come è capitato a me, di non essere neanche italiano (sic) ma sardo greco e spagnolo? bene questo libro non vi aiuterà molto. Se non a ricordare che l'Africa ed il Medio Oriente sono stati la culla dell'uomo biologicamente moderno e quindi le terre natie vostre e mie. Sempre che non siate asiatici, perché allora è un altro discorso. Le nostre origini di europei possono fare riferimento al massimo a popoli nomadi della Russia degli Urali e chissà anche a qualche tribù dell'Asia Centrale che aveva ben imparato a servirsi dei cavalli, anche bevendone il latte fermentato.
Imparerete che l'uomo Cro-Magnon e l'Homo Sapiens si sono incontrati con i Neanderthal, hanno fatto sesso assieme, magari stupri dei Neanderthal in danno di giovani donne sapiens, perché le due razze non si amavano, e ne nacquero bambini "troll" più resistenti a certe malattie, dai capelli lisci mentre gli altri, i Sapiens li avevano crespi. Ma la cosa non funzionò. Ci fossero stati molti troll, avessero superato la massa critica, il mondo avrebbe potuto popolarsi di una nuova razza, gli homo SapilessNead cioè meno sapiens e più resistenti. Ma sembrerebbe, secondo Karin, che i Sapiens li abbiano surclassati, i Neanderthal, nella loro capacità di ambientarsi e cacciare, coprirsi contro il freddo con abiti ad hoc, predisporre utensili ed armi per la caccia e l'offesa. Ed i Neanderthal si sono estinti. Li abbiamo estinti. Nel nostro DNA qualcosa di loro è rimasto però.
Scoprirete che l'abilità nell'agricoltura non si sviluppò in Europa del centro e del nord, gli uomini lì erano essenzialmente "rozzi" cacciatori, ma venne anch'essa dalle migrazioni del medio oriente ad insegnare la tecnologia a quelli che poi vorranno millenni dopo chiamarsi ariani o vichinghi.
E molti antropologi scandinavi ne facevano una malattia. Non sopportavano di dover accettare quello che loro spregiativamente chiamavano "migrazionismo".
Scoprirete anche che non solo i bianchi anglosassoni sopraffecero con le brutte i nativi, ma anche gli scandinavi, e sino ai giorni nostri, avevano un contenzioso piuttosto sgradevole con i lapponi, considerati un popolo inferiore.
Scoprirete che non tutto è assodato senza dubbi e le teorie anche fantasiose circolano.
Noi italiani siamo poi lieti del grande contributo dato alla storia dell'uomo primitivo europeo dal ritrovamento dell'uomo di Similaun Otzi, un po' cacciatore ed un po' agricoltore, ben conservato al Museo di Antropologia di Bolzano. Da visitare assolutamente.
In definitiva un saggio interessante per persone curiose di antropologia e analisi del DNA e forse noioso per le altre. Ricco comunque di un armamentario bibliografico piuttosto corposo.
Profile Image for Joy.
123 reviews24 followers
May 21, 2017
I won this ARC through a Goodreads giveaway!

Reading about Ms Bojs scientific journey as she traces her ancestry was very interesting and detailed, though sometimes I found myself a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information given (not boring at all, just a little above my head at times).

Overall, I am glad I read this book, and my interest in genealogy has peaked a bit.
Profile Image for Erika.
664 reviews48 followers
July 27, 2018
Karin Bojs skriver om Europas befolkning, varifrån den kommit och hur den rört sig över kontinenten. Den personliga touchen med inslag av hennes egen DNA-släktforskning fungerar som en ram som gör det här lika mycket till en berättelse som en populärvetenskaplig bok. Det märks att Bojs är en van vetenskapsjournalist – Min europeiska familj är hela tiden lättillgänglig och informativ. Och så intressant! På ett märkligt sätt känner jag samhörighet med dessa människor som levde för tiotusentals år sedan, dessa tidiga människor som skapade konst och gjorde musik, som tyckte om att slå sig ner på platser med kvällssol och utsikt över vatten. Människor som reste långa sträckor innan moderna fortskaffningsmedel var uppfunna. Människor som levde på områden som idag ligger under vatten, eller färdades med båt över områden som numera rest sig ur havet. Vi tror vi är så unika – men vi är det inte. Vi är delar av en bred väv som rör sig genom årtusenden och kontinenter.
Profile Image for Cecilia.
112 reviews2 followers
October 23, 2017
Inte så imponerad. Alltför mycket detaljer som bara är intressanta för författaren själv. Dessutom en hel del motsägelser t.ex. vad gäller våra kusiner Neandertalarna. Å ena sidan utgår författaren från att det är självklart att Homo Sapiens utrotade Neandertalarna, å andra sidan utgår hon från att hybrider uppkommit genom att Neandertalare våldtagit Homo Sapiens-kvinnor. Jag finner det märkligt, fördomsfullt och helt ologiskt. Jag tror inte sådana fördomar har stöd i forskning och därför ser jag inte denna bok som pålitlig för den mer forskningsintresserade. Visst medger författaren att hon blandar forskning med sina egna tankar, men ärligt talat; för mig är inte den bland-genren särskilt intressant.
Profile Image for Jukka Joona.
9 reviews1 follower
November 25, 2015
Helt suveränt. Bland det bästa jag läst på länge. Intressant och bra skrivet. Dessutom vann Karin Bojs Augustpriset med boken :)
Profile Image for Ingie.
1,344 reviews169 followers
January 18, 2023
5 Stars ~ Interesting and interest-generating

Just before Christmas, I happened to listen to a radio show (on public service radio SR P1) with a annual review of science news in 2022 and the radio journalists' favorites happenings from the year. A book about women's and mothers' old long orgin history was mentioned. It was the book called Europas mödrar : de senaste 43 000 åren written by Karin Bojs. I bought the mentioned book (still only as a paper book … lovely to visit a “old fashioned” bookstore), but realized then that there already were one, or actually two, earlier books written by the author and her first book in this series was also published as an audiobook in my Storytel subscription.

… So I started with the first book on the subject, this one just finished from 2015 (also published in English as: My European Family: The First 54,000 Years). - Narrated by the author herself.


The author Karin Bojs is a Swedish science journalist (formerly at one of Sweden's largest daily newspapers). Based on the interest she has gained over the years in topics such as DNA research, she has written an easy-to-read book about the history of the European population over 54,000 years. Amazingly captivating and super interesting. What did I know, or remembered from school, about all the different cultures and movements people here made between ice ages and warmer millennia.

At the end of the book, Karin also tells what she has been able to find out about her own origins through research. Of course, the book gives extra interest to the development and the archaeological findings that are assumed about people's relationships and kinship here in Sweden and in this part of northern Europe and Scandinavia respectively.

Note that during these 54,000 years it was what we commonly call the Stone Age the majority of the time. The times with people's development and use of bronze, copper and iron metals and above all the one regarding parts of my ancestors' antics, the so popular and talked about wild Viking age, are quite late and recent in the long perspective. For a very very long time we were either hunters or agricultural people who lived very simply and struggled with ice ages and hard lives. - It is comforting that new facts and discoveries are constantly being made with methods such as DNA etcetera.

Maybe I should do a DNA test to find out more about my history and ancestors? I have a mother with Swedish roots and a father who immigrated from Hungary as a teenager. Exciting what kind of different threads it would give on my mother's and the father's side.

… Anyway, I’ll definitely read more by Karin Bojs and other books on this very interesting topic.

Recommended read if you also are curious.


Read January 6, 2023.

Afterwards I bought the paperback (after listening to the audiobook). I felt the need to watch some pictures and photos in the printed edition ... and of course to just feel the good feeling to actually own a good (non fiction) book for real and see it there in my bookshelf.
Profile Image for Tanja Berg.
1,866 reviews427 followers
April 27, 2019
Det här var en stor, positiv överraskning. Jag köpte boken för de vacrka, färgglada bilderna, men föll snabbt för innehållet. Karin tar oss med på en resa i Eurpa de sista 54000 åren - från stenåldern till järnåldern. Hon knyter ihop historien med att analysera sina egna gener och jämföra dem med andras.

Hon visar till att de få tillfällena av Neandertal och människoparingarna sannolikt ledde till mer livskrafitga barn. Annars skulle generna ha försvunnit. Tänk at Jean M. Auel hade rätt om något!

Karin visar till ny forsning med DNA för att blottlägga invandrings- och förflyttningsmönster. I Sverige så blev inte jägarna bönder. Bönderna flyttade in och samhällena levede sida om sida. Jägarna var sannolikt mörka. Ljus hud i Nordeuropa blev en fördel med böndernas fattiga kost. Jägarna kom undan detta eftersom de åt mycket säl.

Karin berättar också om Doggerland - ett område mellan England och Danmark. Nu är Doggerland havsbotten, men under istiden var den torrlagd.

Detta är en spännande, underhållande bok som kan lära sig mycket av. Karin nämner att våra gener är mer som vatten i havet än som träd, så upplandat är det.
Profile Image for Michael Bafford.
549 reviews11 followers
July 19, 2017
This was very interesting. It seems that DNA research is answering questions deemed unanswerable not that long ago. It also raises at least as many new questions, but hey, that's science.

We are all descended from Mitochondrial Eve who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Before Eve people were not like us; were not "modern" humans, not homo-sapiens. I find it intriguing to wonder what triggered the mutation that gave Eve that slight advantage which, in the end, won out over every other human type. I happened across a lecture on You-tube where the answer was aliens. Not that surprising, I suppose. Maybe it was God, or an accident?

This story hops forward a bit to 54,000 years ago when some of our ancestors somewhere in the middle east were raped - probably - by Neanderthals. Or maybe they were just into beefy guys. I find it exciting to learn that I have at least 2% Neanderthal in me; as does everybody else.

What was also interesting was how, with DNA technique, it is possible to trace the invasion of Europe. The native Europeans - the Neanderthals - disappeared shortly thereafter. Shortly, in a relative, prehistory, perspective. They had been living here already for over 200,000 years when we arrived, but...

A second wave of emigrants left the fertile crescent and came wandering up into Europe about 9,000 years ago, bringing bronze, farming, farm animals, ceramics and cats. Archaeologists would apparently rather not believe that farming was brought by immigrants; assuming rather that the knowledge was passed on culturally, but dead men tell the tale. Actually, it's mostly dead women. I learned more about DNA here than I really wanted to know, but it probably did me good.

And a final wave of immigrants - invaders? - came from the East a mere 5,000 years ago, probably in better boats, riding on horses and speaking an Indo-European language.

Thre are some things I take issue with. Ms. Bojs' interpretation of a rock carving from Vitlycke in which she sees a man holding a hammer, with a lightning bolt in front of him, riding in a cart pulled by a horse, for example. I can't say I see it that way. Another interpretation is that the cart is drawn by a goat - compare the Thor mythology. To me the lightning bolt looks like a snake, the hammer seems just to be a disfigured hand and the man seems to have antlers. But what do I know. I have always thought the "boats" look like sledges. That men were generally erect seems pretty certain - and that girls wore pony-tails is for sure.

The personal side of the story with Ms. Bojs' travels and meetings was a nice change from the hard facts. And at times I find her insights enlightening. As in the chapter "The Mothers" discussing Dawkins: The Selfish Gene. "Rather than "selfish genes" I would like to speak of "double genes". Genes may be good or bad, depending on the environment in which they occur. They can lead to mental illness or great creativity. To ample flesh that allows survival in an austere environment but a risk for overweight when food is in abundance. Hyper-sensitivity to impressions helps the hunter discover the prey, but can be devastating in classrooms and offices. What is good and bad depends on the combination and the context. (p. 414-15, translation by Google and me).

The book also contains tips to museums and ancient sites and caves. Recommended to all students of human history.

Profile Image for Alex Knipping.
215 reviews3 followers
February 2, 2019
Eigenlijk is het verbazingwekkend dat er inmiddels via DNA-onderzoek zoveel bekend is, terwijl diezelfde kennis slechts heel mondjesmaat tot het grote publiek doordringt. Karin Bojs heeft me in aangename zin verrast met wat we allemaal al weten over de herkomst van alle verschillende bevolkingsgroepen. En wat een geruststellende gedachte is het dat we uiteindelijk allemaal afstammen van een paar avontuurlijke verre voorouders die om een of andere reden besloten om vanuit Afrika noordwaarts te gaan. Onze voorouders en de Neanderthalers leefden vooral op gepaste afstand van elkaar, maar heel af en toe leverden de waarschijnlijk vrij zeldzame ontmoetingen gezamenlijk nageslacht op en in meer of mindere mate dragen we de genen die daar het bewijs van zijn met ons mee. Verder is veel van onze genetische variatie het gevolg van migratie van onze voorouders en het leuke is, is dat je dat bij jezelf kunt laten onderzoeken op basis van je eigen DNA. Karin Bojs slaagt erin om ook de meer ingewikkelde aspecten van DNA-onderzoek op een heldere manier uit te leggen. Ze is behoedzaam in haar conclusies en ze sluit aan bij de meerderheid van de wetenschappelijke bevindingen. Dat lijkt saai, maar het tegendeel is waar. De verhaallijnen over onze afkomst zijn interessant en vol onverwachte wendingen. Ook de individuele verhalen zijn boeiend. Op basis van DNA-onderzoek in relatie tot andere onderzoeksmethodes is bijvoorbeeld vast komen te staan dat Ötzi, de beroemde ‘gletsjerman’ in de onmiddellijke omgeving heeft geleefd van de plek waar zijn lichaam is gevonden, maar dat zijn directe voorouders een paar honderd kilometer verderop hebben gewoond. Ook wordt duidelijk wat hij zoal at en hoe gezond hij was. Allemaal kennis die iets toevoegt aan wat we wisten. ‘Mijn Europese Familie’ is een aanrader en het maakt dat je meer wilt weten over je eigen herkomst. In het boek is dan zelfs te lezen wat je dan het beste kunt doen.
11 reviews
June 4, 2018
I enjoyed learning about the techniques a lot, and see what we can find out about ourselves these days and the language is good. Unfortunately, the book focused a little too much on Bojs herself (a bit I expected since you have to have a reference point, but not for it to dominate like it did). Moreover, she tended to accept some scientific research, and discard other just like that, so how am I supposed to know what to believe? Too much subjectivity, coupled with the fact that more (contradictory) scientific research was released as I was reading this.
Profile Image for Kristina Svensson.
Author 15 books11 followers
July 15, 2017
Jag plockade upp denna tillsammans med en hög med sommardeckare och feelgood. Detta är boken som jag fastnade snabbast i. Karin Bojs blandar personliga funderingar med intervjuer av ledande forskare på ett sätt som ger historien driv.

Något jag tar med mig är hur olika discipliner kan berika varandra. Data från geologer, lingvister, genetiker och arkeologer ger en bättre bild av vår förhistoria jämfört med när var och en ska tolka data i sitt fält.
Profile Image for Girl.
545 reviews38 followers
August 1, 2018
Bardzo ciekawe + bardzo dobrze opracowane wydanie polskie (przypisy redaktora naukowego!).
Profile Image for B. Jean.
1,147 reviews15 followers
April 8, 2019
When I first picked up this book, I had a different image in mind about what it would be about. Perhaps more anecdotal, or concerned only with her direct ancestors. Maybe it would be a lot of guesswork & stipulation.

I wasn't expecting her to be a science journalist who interviewed over 70 different researchers and was funded to write this by a leading Swedish journal. I also didn't expect to be given such a lovely introduction into DNA archaeology. I'd never made the connection between DNA & archaeology before this because I simply didn't think about it. This book opened my mind to all the possibilities and benefits this field offers to understanding the history of humankind.

This book goes way back...waaay back. Now I know more about neanderthals than I did before. Really, it was so full of information that it was hard to digest at first. The further I got into it, the easier it became to understand.

Also, I was so fortunate to take a trip to Ireland while reading this book and I got to see some bog bodies for myself. I loved looking up all the historic bodies & archaeological finds that were cited in the book. It was great to have seen the pictures on google and then to see some of the bodies in person at the National Museum.

I also appreciate that she added in the dangers of racial biology & how racists shouldn't stop our understanding of DNA. As she quoted in the book, ‘We can’t let Hitler dictate what subjects we can research, 50 years on.’

This gave me a great new direction to take my interests in, so hopefully I'll be reading up on burials & neanderthals & other such matters soon.
Profile Image for Anna.
248 reviews
August 23, 2020
Intressant om användningen av DNA och genetik inom antropologisk forskning. Författaren berättar om de första människornas förflyttningar runt om i världen fram till nutid. Ibland blev det lite för matig text som mest radade upp fakta. Men jag lärde mig mycket nytt. Sista biten om etik och genetik var särskilt intressant.
Profile Image for Heidi K.
81 reviews
January 9, 2022
Wow! Otroligt intressant och får mig att vilja veta mer om min egen familjs rötter. Den får mig också att vilja åka och besöka de platser som beskrivs i boken, som exempelvis grottmålningarna i Frankrike.
Profile Image for Flygaren Cederlöv.
509 reviews23 followers
May 11, 2017
Min europeiska familj har varit enormt upplysande och jag har lärt mig enormt om DNA-analys och människans evolution genom historien. Bojs har gjort ett enormt forskningsarbete med intervjuer och litteraturstudier. Boken är intressant att läsa och jag upplever både nostalgi och erfar ny forskning som inte historieböckerna hunnit med att uppdateras mot ännu.

DNA-analysen dvs. att använda kärnDNA eller mitokondrie-DNA för att kolla upp delar av sina gener handlar mycket om att spana på mutationer för att hitta sina tidigare anfäder. Detta är nästa steg i släktforskningen och historieskrivandet som både är fascinerande och lite skrämmande. Skrämmande ur den synvinkel att det ger ny grund för nynazister och stalinister (ej vetenskapligt grundande) samt att vi inom en snar framtid kan veta betydligt mer om oss själva än vi kanske vill veta. En DNA-analys går enkelt att beställa via nätet och sedan gäller det att vända sig till olika företag som profilerar sig med att använda resultatet för att bygga upp grenar i ditt familjeträd. Många av dessa företag (enligt Bojs) är inte professionella utan vill få fram den ariska rasens familjeträd. Tänk på att vara källkritisk om du vill kolla upp dina gener gentemot släktforskning. Att titta upp dina gener mot sjukdomar är något helt annat och ska utföras av sjukvården.

Det som drar ner recensionen en stjärna är att författaren mot slutet av boken springer genom historien och i de avslutande kapitlen främst är inriktad mot sin egen släktforskning. Det tappar mycket kring faktakunskaper kring historien som jag vill åt. Undantaget är kapitlet om Stalin och Hitler.
Profile Image for Alain.
139 reviews91 followers
March 28, 2018
Me ha gustado mucho. No me parece que Bojs escriba particularmente bien y, además, en muchas ocasiones se echan en falta transiciones más suaves entre tema y tema, ya que a veces opta por cortar bruscamente y pasar a otra cosa sin buscar una conexión más o menos explícita entre las cosas que trata. Pero bueno, que a pesar de eso me ha interesado muchísimo por su contenido.

Básicamente es una historia de los últimos 50.000 años de la raza humana basándose en teorías que ya conocemos y que se encarga de demostrar mediante la genética, insistiendo en el valor que tiene esta ciencia para la antropología y otras disciplinas académicas.

El libro está estructurado en tres partes alrededor de las cuales gira todo su contenido: la llegada de los cazadores recolectores a Europa desde África, la llegada posterior de la agricultura gracias a migrantes de zonas de la actual Siria y finalmente la llegada a nuestro continente de las tribus indoeuropeas.

Además, está lleno de reflexiones sobre el papel que debe jugar la genética en la sociedad contemporánea, el que debe jugar en otras ciencias y sobre cómo la ciencia y la política deben ser completamente independientes y se debe huir de las interpretaciones forzadas de la primera por parte de la segunda para justificar una hipotética inferioridad o superioridad de unos genes sobre otros que resume en la idea de que todos los seres humanos actuales, sin excepción, descendemos de un antepasado femenino común que vivió hace 200.000 años, por lo que al final venimos del mismo sitio.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 179 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.