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Reich and his senior collaborator Nick Patterson had established their names as skilled analysts of population genetic data.Pääbo had pioneered the exploration of historical questions through extracting genetic material from ancient remains.With the translation of hieroglyphics, the legend of Egypt came to life. In , David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard’s Medical School and the Broad Institute, introduces us to the 21st-century Rosetta Stone: ancient DNA, which will do more for our understanding of prehistory than radiocarbon dating did.Where the latter allowed archaeologists to create a timeline based on the material objects they excavated, DNA sequencing allows scholars to explore the genetics of the people who created those material cultures.
The ancestors of the modern British, for example, arrived 4,500 years ago and did not, in fact, raise up Stonehenge.The ancestors of these groups had left Africa over half a million years ago.And modern humans were present within Africa for hundreds of thousands of years before one small branch fatefully migrated out of that continent 50,000 years ago.At the end of the last Ice Age, Europe was dominated by hunter-gatherers, who carried the genes for blue eyes but not the ones modern Europeans have for light skin.Modern Europeans have very little ancestry from these people.
A similar dynamic of replacement or mixture applies to Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.