Monday, June 20, 2011

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes was not on the list that I'd been compiling of books that I might like to read, but I'd heard of it before & was looking for a book to start my summer reading program so I checked it out--& I'm glad I did!

Even though the book discusses the science behind DNA & genetic testing, it is an easy read. In addition to some discussion of genetics, the author shares stories of his career in which his team is involved in genetic testing of the Iceman that was found in the Alps in the 1990s & of the bodies found in Russia, also in the 1990s, that may have belonged to the last tsar of Russia & his family. I found these stories of using genetics in these ways very interesting because they put the revelance of genetics into a historic context that I wasn't expecting.

The author explains how similar genetic testing helped to prove how the peoples of both Polynesia & Europe came to inhabit those places & explains the concept of the "seven daughters of Eve"--the theory that almost all native Europeans are descended from only seven women. He also spends a significant portion of the book describing what life might have been like for these seven women. This part was slightly disappointing to me because instead of only describing the genetic background on each woman or even the world in which each woman lived, the author created fictional stories about each woman's life. While this was interesting enough (especially for me, a fan of The Clan of the Cave Bear), it wasn't what I was expecting & seemed kind of odd in a nonfiction book.

Even though I realized that this book is 10 years old--a period in which science could change drastically--I still found it very interesting & educational. Not only did it discuss genetics, but to some extent, it covered archaeology, anthropology, & history--something for everyone!

Monica Boyer

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