Nicholas Wade] Before the Dawn

Review :

Having just read Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived by Chip Walter, and being somewhat unimpressed, I was a little leery of reading another book on more or less the same subject by another non-scientist author. However, Nicholas Wade almost immediately won me over with his smooth flowing narrative and excellent writing style. Plus his knowledge of the subject matter did not suffer by approaching it from the outside, at least not for this lay reader.

Wade begins each chapter with an epigraph from Darwin's The Descent of Man and it never ceases to amaze me how prescient he was. I only wish Darwin could come back to life today to find out how close to the truth he was in so many things.

Essentially the book is about the new field of archaeogenetics, which is the application of the techniques of molecular population genetics to the study of the human past.

Wade relates how, sometimes to the delight and sometimes the dismay of authorities in such fields as archaeology, anthropology, paleoanthropology and linguistics, the biologists have been able to either confirm, supplant or destroy their theories using the latest techniques of genetics coupled with statistics.

A new history book of the species Homo sapiens is currently being written and re-written. This book is a very readable summary of the most recent findings. There are so many wondeful insights that it would be frustrating to pick just a few. Highly recommend.

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