padThe Seven Daughters of Eve  The Science That Reveals   Our Genetic Ancestry

by Brian Sykes

In 1994 Professor Bryan Sykes, a leading world authority on DNA and human evolution, was called into examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy. News of both the ?Ice Man'? discovery and his age, which was put at over 5000 years, fascinated scientists and newspapers throughout the world. But what made Sykes? story particularly revelatory was his successful identification of a genetic descendent of the Ice Man, a woman living in Great Britain today.

How was Sykes able to locate a living relative of a man who died thousands of years ago? In The Seven Daughters of Eve, he gives us a firsthand account of his research into a remarkable gene, which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line. After plotting thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world, Sykes found that they clustered around a handful of distinct groups. Among Europeans and North American Caucasians, there are, in fact, in seven.

This conclusion was staggering: almost all people of native European descent, wherever they may live throughout the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, hence, the Seven Daughters of Eve. Naming them Ursula, XENIX, Helena, Vela, Tara, Quatrain, and Jasmine, Sykes has created portraits of their disparate worlds by mapping the migratory patterns followed by millions of their ancestors.

In reading the stories of these seven women, we learn exactly how our origins can be traced, how and where our ancient genetic ancestors lived, and how we are each living proof of the almost indestructible strands of DNA, which have survived over so many thousands of years. Indeed, The Seven Daughters of Eve is filled with dramatic stories: from Sykes was able to trace back to the Eastern coast of central Africa.

The Seven Daughters of Eve is compelling work o f science that reveals how biological research can enrich our tangled lives. It is a book that chronicles many of the most exciting developments in genetics over the past decade by a man who is not only a brilliant scientist but also a gifted and thoroughly engaging writer. It ultimately demonstrates how much more we still have to discover about the absorbing story of human evolution.

?from W.W. Norton

W.W. Norton, 2001, 306 pages, 6 1/4? x 9 1/2?, hardcover

Almost 10 years ago, Sykes was called to Austria to study some unusual remains those of a 5,000-year-old man now commonly called the Iceman. Sykes' expertise is in recovering DNA from ancient bones. His success in extracting DNA from the Iceman wasn't as extraordinary as his ability to directly link that DNA to Europeans living today. This discovery led Sykes to a larger conclusion: that almost every one of the 650 million modern Europeans has an unbroken genetic link to one of only seven women in the ancient past. Sykes assigns names to these seven daughters of Eve and presents likely details of their lives and travels.

--from Science News

Seven Daughters of Eve, The
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