Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

David Reich on who we are and how we got here

Over the last few weeks I have been binge watching YouTube videos about prehistory. I haven't been taking notes, simply immersing myself  in the latest content with a special focus on the latest results from DNA analysis. I suppose this approach lacks rigour, being more akin to the last minute approach I used to follow to get through exams, but I find that it works for me in providing structure and generating thoughts and linkages. 

As I listened, I thought how much our knowledge had changed and just how quickly.

This is a video of a talk given by Professor David Reich last year at Harvard: "Who we are and how we got here - Ancient DNA and the new science of the human past". This the second presentation I have seen on the same topic by Professor Reich, this is the link to the first. Both presentations follow  the release of his 2018 book of the same title.

The book has attracted some criticism not so much on the science but on some of the wording used. I haven't read the book, it seems to have got caught up in current preoccupations about language, but the presentation strikes me as scientifically rigorous and indeed quite fascinating.  It's quite a long video, over an hour, but will give you an insight into the way that scientific research is challenging our deeply held perceptions about the human past. 


Johnb said...

Yet another advantage to sexual reproduction Jim, once you have the science human ancestry is trackable. On a less grand scale than the Reich lecture is this paper illustrating just how important Berengia was for human populations in a time of great Climate changes.
and here’s the Guardian version.
It would appear that we are now moving into the realms of being able to identify ‘super archeic’ Populations of humans.
As you say, such exciting times.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks for these links, John. Will be interesting to see what comes next. The one thing that worries me, I started to write something on my personal blog, is that while I thought that all these discoveries would break down the concept of race, they may actually be reinforcing it!

Johnb said...

Agreed Jim, as if the 19th and 20thC weren’t enough of a lesson for humanity.

Johnb said...

I found this from 19th Feb Jim that touches on this sensitive subject.
“To my mind the virtually unsurmountable difficulty we have in reference to hominid differentiation is the historical legacy associated with it.
Colonialism, eugenics, the rascism of difference, how is that conversation to be conducted. My Haplogroup Ydna tells me it originated on the steppes of Central Asia before moving West into Central Europe and ultimately the UK. My Haplogroup mtdna had a different journey from North Africa via the Atlantic conveyor into UK. I share those Haplogroups with a large population and Within historical times this backbone dna has been added to by a Scandinavian and Irish contribution. My wife has a much greater Scandinavian contribution. That genetic inheritance is expressed in my physical form. “

Jim Belshaw said...

I had forgotten that comment, John. It is quite cogent. I will try to make use of it!