SCIENCES

A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe

Random. Apr. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9780593229422. $27. ARCHAEOL
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Krause (archaeogenetics, Max Planck Inst.), who helped discover the ancient Denisova hominins in Russia, and journalist Trappe have written a splendid account of human origins, migrations, and pathogens from the perspective of recent DNA evidence. The book’s scope is immense. It begins hundreds of thousands of years ago, mapping the migrations of Pleistocene humans, including Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans of the Russian steppes. The book then goes into the origins of civilization, aligning DNA evidence with the spread of Indo-European languages from ancient Iran. The second part of the book focuses on the origins of human diseases—particularly relevant in the COVID-19 era. Readers will find new information, such as the occurrence of plague in Stone Age societies. Krause has firsthand knowledge of this evidence, having performed some of the leading laboratory research in the genetics of human prehistory. Co-author Trappe uses easily understandable language to describe subjects that might otherwise be overly technical or scientific. What makes this book unique among other world histories is its focus on evidence newly acquired from DNA matter, which provides new avenues of understanding the human past.
VERDICT Scientific yet accessible, this original book offers much insight to readers of European history.
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