Friday, December 28, 2012

Meeting the family: one man's journey through his human ancestry by Donovan Webster

I’ve watched a couple of docos on the National Geographic channel about the National Geographic’s genographic project and the whole idea of the project, and human genetics, has had a long-term fascination for me (as my university transcript attests, with a stage two Human Evolution paper to my credit).

With all this in mind, I was expecting a lot from this book – particularly with the foreword by Spencer Wells, head of the genographic project. On the whole, it didn’t disappoint. (As long as you can ignore the glaring reference to Christchurch being New Zealand’s national capital, that is. I expect better from you, National Geographic!)

Geographic error aside, this offers a look into one person’s genetic heritage – with the understanding that many of us will have similar genes (at least, if you’re descended from Northern European / British stock). From Tanzania to Lebanon to Uzbekistan to Spain to his home in Virginia, Webster explores the commonalities of human existence, and how the race spread around the globe.

By the end of the journey you, like me, might have been seduced by the apparent simplicity and joy found in the lives of the Hadzabe in Tanzania. You might also be worried about our future. Or maybe, reassured by Webster’s argument – quite sanguine about it. What I can say is that I’m desperate to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, but not too sure about their house specialty dessert (I’m not an eating-with-your-hands sort of gal).

Some other intriguing titles you might like are:
  • The seven daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes.
  • The journey of man by Spencer Wells.
  • Homo mysterious by David Barash.
  • The first human by Ann Gibbons.
Reviewed by Thalia.

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