Till startsida
Till innehåll Läs mer om hur kakor används på gu.se

The seven daughters of Eve

In the late 1980s, Bryan Sykes and his research team at Oxford University's Institute of Molecular Medicine were among the first to use the newly-invented polymerase chain reaction to amplify DNA from archaeological specimens. This was initially done using a home-made thermal cycler (christened 'Genesmaid') which incorporated a kettle element and a washing-machine valve taken from Sykes's kitchen.

Taking their lead from the pioneering work of the late Allan Wilson (who first proposed the concept of an 'African Eve' using mitochondrial data), Sykes and other scientists soon realised that mitochondrial DNA, inherited down the maternal line, provides a invaluable tool for measuring the pulse of evolution and tracing the relationships between people.

Bryan Sykes guides the reader on a tour of his groundbreaking anthropological research over the last 12 years or so. This could so easily have been a journey through an arid and dull landscape - except that Sykes has a great story to tell, and he does it brilliantly.

The book covers some of the most exciting findings of the '90s, from the 5 000 year-old 'Iceman' recovered from the Italian Alps to the origins of the South Pacific islanders and the fate of the Russian Imperial family. In return for a practical workshop, school students gave DNA samples to help in the initial research, only to find that their history teacher was a direct descendant of Cheddar Man FUNKAR INTE ?????????? (a 9 000 year-old fossil human found in Gough's Cave in Cheddar Gorge).

It wasn't all plain sailing however. There was a nasty moment with a newspaper reporter at a school in Dolgellau, who was convinced that Sykes's investigations had something to do with the nearby nuclear power station. At one point the very basis of the research looked as though it could be undermined, and there were tense moments when supporters of opposing views came face-to-face at a scientific conference.

Sykes has the knack of explaining science without excessive simplification, but he also knows how to create a compelling narrative. He explains how most Europeans are descended from just seven individuals - a finding that overturned one of the accepted interpretations of the conventional archaeological evidence.

The book's conclusion is that although we're all different, through our DNA we're all intimately related. As the Genome Project nears completion, this is a message that needs to be conveyed to a wide audience. Bryan Sykes does this clearly, with humour and, ultimately, humanity.

Dean Madden
National Centre for Biotechnology Education
The University of Reading
Reading RG6 6AP
The United Kingdom

Web sites
Oxford Ancestors
Surnames, Genes and Genealogy (BBC Radio 4) www.bbc.co.uk/education/beyond/factsheets/surnames/surnames_home.shtml FUNKAR INTE ?????????

Sidansvarig: Sven Toresson|Sidan uppdaterades: 2016-07-13

På Göteborgs universitet använder vi kakor (cookies) för att webbplatsen ska fungera på ett bra sätt för dig. Genom att surfa vidare godkänner du att vi använder kakor.  Vad är kakor?