Ancestral Journeys by Jean Manco

Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings: Jean Manco, Thames & Hudson.

A Merging of Disciplines to Explain a Complex Story of Human Evolution

Thames & Hudson have a new book out on the peopling of Europe, “Ancestral Journeys” by Jean Manco. The general picture is that Europeans arise from three main groups: the Mesolithic hunters, Levantine farmers, and Indo-European horsemen off the steppe. It’s a good synthesis of archaeological, linguistic, and genetic evidence. Her general thesis appears to be in the right ball park: not correct in every detail, but it’s a refreshing antidote to previous accounts from the school of Professor Barry Cunliffe based on the pots-not-people fad that originated back in the 1960s, like so many other revisionist theories by archaeologists that are at odds with the view of historians. Large scale migrations and population replacement became unfashionable back then, the new breed of archaeologists were taught to think that invasions and Völkerwanderungs were never the explanation, even though historical sources record many events of this kind.

This is one of the very best books I have read to put readers into the picture regarding the latest understandings of human settlement history in Europe from the earliest hunters to the Medieval era. It is written is a style that balances a lot of detail with conveying the big picture in an easy flowing narrative. Its a very useful book full of references to the latest research that would be of interest and very good reference source to the specialist genealogist but written in a narrative style that the general reader interested in Europe's human history but without any detailed knowledge would very much enjoy too. It’s the first book I have come across that really combines the new DNA evidence with the latest archaeological and linguistic research in a way that provides the big picture. This book will save the general reader having to wade through hundreds of specialist papers and publications across several disciplines by bringing it all together.

Jean Manco's mastery of the details of populations and their movements across Europe, North Africa and the Near East across a time period stretching from 46,000 years ago to the early mediaeval is truly staggering - she has absorbed and synthesised hundreds of sources. The clarity of her thinking and the organisation of her material saves the reader from being totally lost in the details. If you are interested in finding out more about those distant E3b, R1b and R1a relatives of yours without having to wade through seemingly incomprehensible academic literature this is the book to get hold of.

Dr. John Scaife