EAnotes

Adventures in Bookland: Ancestral Journeys by Jean Manco

Few books manage to be simultaneously so fascinating and so eye glazing. The tale of the movements of the successive waves of people that have made and remade Europe is fascinating, and the new science of DNA analysis that allows for the extraction of ancient DNA and its comparison to the modern inhabitants of a country is a salutary corrective to the strong tendency in archaeology and historical studies in the latter half of the 20th century to deny all movements of people in favour of cultural overlay and small groups of elite warriors while the peasants remain, lumpen and unmoved on the land (although these lumpen peasants do, by this view, display a remarkable ability to change languages and cultures at the arrival of a new bunch of guys waving swords). Since all the contemporary accounts of the age of migration talk about the movements of peoples, it’s good to accord the contemporary witnesses some credit for telling what they saw. However, on the eye glazing front, I defy anyone to get through a few pages of Y-DNA haplogroup R1a1a and the like without their head drooping.

 

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