Who we are and how we got here

ancient DNA and the new science of the human past

335 pages

English language

Published Jan. 18, 2018

OCLC Number:

View on OpenLibrary

4 stars (8 reviews)

"A groundbreaking book about how technological advances in genomics and the extraction of ancient DNA have profoundly changed our understanding of human prehistory while resolving many long-standing controversies. Massive technological innovations now allow scientists to extract and analyze ancient DNA as never before, and it has become clear--in part from David Reich's own contributions to the field--that genomics is as important a means of understanding the human past as archeology, linguistics, and the written word. Now, in The New Science of the Human Past, Reich describes with unprecedented clarity just how the human genome provides not only all the information that a fertilized human egg needs to develop but also contains within it the history of our species. He delineates how the Genomic Revolution and ancient DNA are transforming our understanding of our own lineage as modern humans; how genomics deconstructs the idea that there are no biologically meaningful differences …

1 edition

good read to get some perspective

4 stars

This book can be a bit of a slog but I think it's important to learn how DNA research is forcing us to reevaluate both scientific and popular (not to mention racist) conventional thinking about how humans migrated around the world. Turns out there's been a lot of mixing and remixing. The author is a bit tone-deaf when complaining about objections to how his research can be used to perpetuate racist views, as has been historically done and is still happening, but he does point out examples of such cases (Nicolas Wade) and sloppy representations by ancestry companies. It's worth knowing that you probably are not as Neanderthal as 23andMe might lead you to believe but not as ancestrally pure as your politicians and even some supposed intellectuals would like you to think.

Review of 'Who we are and how we got here' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

An excellent review of modern work on ancient DNA and its significance to human history. Most of the work discussed was done in the author's laboratory. The author is clear, but he is the head guy, not a science journalist like Carl Zimmer, and he cannot or will not elaborate on or repeat his explanations. I don't think anybody would expect a detailed explanation of principal component analysis in a work like this, for example, and some concepts like the four population test are greatly enhanced by good diagrams, but when Professor Reich points out a situation where frequent mutations are uncommon and infrequent ones are common, I found simple re-reading to be inadequate. In a final discussion of the significance of the newly discovered features and likely yet to be discovered features of our genomes on the concept of race, the author refreshingly says,
If we aspire to treat …

Review of 'Who we are and how we got here' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

The more-precise study of ancient human DNA that science now can accomplish allows us insight into parts of human history that had always before been considered "pre-history" and therefore mostly unknowable. In our genes is a record of our migrations and interactions that tells surprising tales. This book, though not easy reading, can catch the patient reader up on how this science is progressing.


  • Genomics
  • DNA
  • Human genetics
  • Human population genetics
  • Prehistoric peoples
  • Popular works
  • Analysis