Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas

Twelve. Feb. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781538749715. $30. SCI
When did humans first arrive in the Americas? Who were they? Where did they come from? Raff (anthropology, Univ. of Kansas) tackles these questions using anthropological genetics, which she says offers a unique view of past populations that is inaccessible by other modes of historical and archaeological research. Mitochondrial and Y chromosome sequences show the unfolding of human expansion eastward across Eurasia and then Beringia (the region between Russia and Alaska, connected during the last glacial period). Raff traces these human movements across China and Siberia and into the Americas. Several maps in the book illustrate population movements and what’s known of their chronology. The book summaries many past theories of human migration while proposing updated understandings. Raff buries unsubstantiated notions of Native American origins, including the Solutrean theory which argues for an early European migration into North America. The author integrates her biological findings with those from linguistics and archaeology, illustrating multiple waves of immigration from Asia into the Americas. Raff discusses complex issues but explains concepts in easy-to-understand text.
VERDICT A thorough yet conversational outlining of the peopling of the Americas that will update any anthropology or world history collection.
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