A Genetic History of the Americas
From celebrated anthropologist Jennifer Raff comes the untold story—and fascinating mystery—of how humans migrated to the Americas.
ORIGIN is the story of who the first peoples in the Americas were, how and why they made the crossing, how they dispersed south, and how they lived based on a new and powerful kind of evidence: their complete genomes. ORIGIN provides an overview of these new histories throughout North and South America, and a glimpse into how the tools of genetics reveal details about human history and evolution.
20,000 years ago, people crossed a great land bridge from Siberia into Western Alaska and then dispersed southward into what is now called the Americas. Until we venture out to other worlds, this remains the last time our species has populated an entirely new place, and this event has been a subject of deep fascination and controversy. No written records—and scant archaeological evidence—exist to tell us what happened or how it took place. Many different models have been proposed to explain how the Americas were peopled and what happened in the thousands of years that followed.
"Social and genetic history cannot be disentangled. ORIGIN also highlights the colonizers’ evolving cultural myths that shape and are shaped by their science. This is a valuable read for consumers of popular genetics who are not aware how much science is built on colonial theft, and how Indigenous peoples push back to improve science."—Dr. Kim TallBear (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate), Professor, Faculty of Native Studies University of Alberta, Canadian Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience, and Society, and author of NATIVE AMERICAN DNA: TRIBAL BELONGING AND THE FALSE PROMISE OF GENETIC SCIENCE
"Rarely does a book combine the scientific, the compassionate, and the respectful when engaging with genomes, histories, and the movement of peoples. Even more rarely does a non-Indigenous scientist listen to—and learn from—Indigenous interlocutors, past and present. Jennifer Raff’s ORIGIN deftly weaves a critical narrative of discoveries, biases, achievements, faults, and possibilities, offering an integrative, caring, and scientifically rigorous approach to thinking with and about the histories of the First Peoples of the Americas. Filled with complex but accessible archeological, historical, and genomic analyses presented in the context of honest and often difficult narratives, ORIGIN is a necessary and elegant text."—Agustín Fuentes, professor of anthropology at Princeton University and author of WHY WE BELIEVE
"The deep history of the lands that became the Americas is one of the most fascinating, under-explored, and politicized branches in the story of humankind, and is being retold today with DNA as a source. In ORIGIN, geneticist Jennifer Raff tells that tale with great scholarship, respect, and the verve of a natural storyteller."—Adam Rutherford, geneticist and bestselling author of A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED