book: 1 jan 1995
The Great Human Diasporas
The History of Diversity and Evolution
The title The Great Human Diasporas implies that this book is a history of human migration, but it is much more. It is a readable, accessible summary of the lifework of Luca Cavalli-Sforza, who has done more than anyone else to reveal the genetic makeup of human populations. Originally written in Italian with Cavalli-Sforza's filmmaker son Francesco, it maintains some qualities of an interview: The Great Human Diasporas is full of anecdotes about the Pygmies with whom Cavalli-Sforza works, the text is frequently personal yet not self-serving, and it clearly shows how he helped tie together population genetics, linguistics, and anthropology to offer a new, non-racist view of human diversity.
Stanford geneticist Luigi Cavalli-Sforza has spent more than 30 years studying genetic variations in DNA samples from the people around the world. The evidence, he says, supports the belief that modern humans originated in Africa, the Middle East or both regions, then spread around the planet. In this lucid report, written with his son Francesco, an educational film director, he uses genetic differences, maps, computer simulations and an analysis of linguistic changes in the world's languages to hypothetically reconstruct the mass migrations of people across continents since modern humans first appeared. He begins this scientific odyssey with an account of his hunt with pygmies-one of the last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers-in an African rain forest; then he discusses the spread of agriculture, cultural transmissions of behavior patterns, the Human Genome Project and the exceedingly slight differences among the races.