Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors

4.3 19
by Nicholas Wade
     
 

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Nicholas Wade’s articles are a major reason why the science section has become the most popular, nationwide, in the New York Times. In his groundbreaking Before the Dawn, Wade reveals humanity’s origins as never before—a journey made possible only recently by genetic science, whose incredible findings have answered such questions as: What

Overview

Nicholas Wade’s articles are a major reason why the science section has become the most popular, nationwide, in the New York Times. In his groundbreaking Before the Dawn, Wade reveals humanity’s origins as never before—a journey made possible only recently by genetic science, whose incredible findings have answered such questions as: What was the first human language like? How large were the first societies, and how warlike were they? When did our ancestors first leave Africa, and by what route did they leave? By eloquently solving these and numerous other mysteries, Wade offers nothing less than a uniquely complete retelling of a story that began 500 centuries ago.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Meaty, well-written. (Kirkus Reviews)

Impeccable, fearless, responsible and absorbing . . . Bound to be the gold standard in the field for a very long time. (Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University)

Timely and informative. (The New York Times Book Review)

By far the best book I have ever read on humanity’s deep history. (E. O. Wilson)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101052839
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/27/2007
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
250,842
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Meaty, well-written. (Kirkus Reviews)

Impeccable, fearless, responsible and absorbing . . . Bound to be the gold standard in the field for a very long time. (Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University)

Timely and informative. (The New York Times Book Review)

By far the best book I have ever read on humanity’s deep history. (E. O. Wilson)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Wade received a BA in natural sciences from King’s College, Cambridge. He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal’s Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor.

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Before the Dawn 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book tells a fascinating story of modern man's development and capabilities which likely enabled our successful escape from the confines of eastern Africa into other parts of the world. Nicholas Wade, an excellent and entertaining science writer, brings together paleontological evidence and research from the study of the human genome to create a plausible story of the modern man's emergence as a globally dominant species. He cleverly creates a timeline of the major evolutionary features which have enabled our species to expand into Asia, then Europe, and finally the Americas from our ancestral home in east Africa. What's striking is the continual evolution of our species and its adaptability to take advantage of changing climatic conditions of the past 50 thousand years and more. Wade explains the evidence behind modern man's developing complex speech syntax as a strategic advantage to overcome entrenched tribes of Neanderthal in Europe and Homo Erectus in Asia. His story covers modern man's evolutionary changes to adapt to dramatic climate swings of the last ice age maximum and subsequent interglacial warming. He also presents a clever hypothesis for man's domestication of the wolf as a necessary part of his continuing expansion into new territory. If you've ever wondered how we've evolved from our shared ancestry with gorillas and chimpanzees to our current status as a species which is capable of unlocking the secrets and resources of planet earth, you'll find this book a fascinating and entertaining read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For those with interest in human evolution and where modern society came from, Wade makes us comfortable with some of the technical terms while painting the big story of how deep human history is currently understood. He is balanced in presenting both sides of still-controversial debates. Much emphasis on new DNA data.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was thoroughly absorbed by Before the Dawn. Wade tells a detailed story of prehistoric humans and makes it fascinating. The DNA evidence combined with archeology reveals the dates for when we lost our 'pelts', started wearing clothes, domesticated dogs, developed language and became farmers. The author has a theory for why we are hard-wired to be religious beings. My science-minded uncle is reading it, now, enthusiastically. If the Jefferson/Hemmings DNA issue was not portrayed accurately, that is unfortunate. As I understand it, the DNA evidence did show that someone 'in Jefferson's immediate family' was the father of Sally Hemming's child, not necessarily Jefferson. But, this constitutes a fairly minor criticism of the book. I recommend it for all curious science geeks.
LDAJr More than 1 year ago
Nothing quite like a talented science writer to extract a good story from scientific discoveries; Nicholas Wade has made a difficult subject understandable.
Tunguz More than 1 year ago
History can be a very fascinating subject, and one can easily spend a whole lifetime exploring different historical periods and events. However, the recorded history can take us back only to roughly the beginning of the fourth millennium BC. Most of human history lies well before that date, and it has long been supposed that we'll never get a complete picture of the earliest epochs of our species. That is still the case insofar as particular events and individuals are concerned, but in recent years we've been getting an increasingly detailed and fascinating picture of that "pre-historic" age. A variety of new research techniques and tools have come of age, and they are employed to shed more and more light on pre-historic events from a variety of different angles. Evolutionary psychology, DNA analysis, and linguistic analysis are some of the tools that have augmented our knowledge of the past as they have gone well beyond what we've been able to glean from just archeology. All of these tools and the remarkable discoveries that they elicited are described in "Before the Dawn." The book reads like a cross between a popular science book and a historical novel. At every turn of page there is a new twist to the story, and some of the insights are quite remarkable and unexpected. On an occasion one gets a sense that some of the tales have been oversold as compared to the available evidence, but overall the book is based on solid scholarship and multiple sources of evidence that mutually support the same conclusions. If you are interested in the early human history, I could not recommend a better book to read as an introduction to this exciting subject that promises to reveal even more surprising insights in the upcoming decades.
OLochlain More than 1 year ago
Before the Dawn is a great, educational book for aspiring scientists and curious homebodies alike. For a book centered on science and despite relying on genetic research for evidence as heavily as it did,it was a notably easy read, accessible and understandable. I have done previous research on the topic, but the author introduced branches of thought and provided a summary of recent research comprehensivly enough to make the overall picture, the current theory of the origins of modern man, clear. I would absolutely recommend this book. Even readers without previous knowledge of genetics will be able to read and enjoy this book, and ultimately, they will better understand how man first emmerged from Africa to populate and reshape the Earth.
taciii More than 1 year ago
Just purchased my second copy in case my loaned original doesn't return. I was fascinated by the progression of information that was unfolded as the human genome was traced back to Africa (not the country) to explain our evolution. Genome changes were then melded with archeological records to show the spread of humanity. That said, I have to admit that I'd not followed the genome based story of evolution and was thoroughly fascinated by the information. I followed up by reading Darwin for the first time, as interesting but much drier. I really enjoyed this book.
DrCSC More than 1 year ago
Information given was well supported and of various professional opinions. I enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a little intimidated by the scientic jargon and seemingly overwhelming amount of facts that this book contains, but found myself drawn in to this most amazing discussion of human history that I have ever encountered. Laid out in a step-by-step, linear fashion, this book leads you through the various opinions, the timeline and reasoning behind those opinions, and the current opinion based on current evidence, leaving open room for the next new discovery. I have a much better "feeling" for where I came from and why.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Wade's seven page unsubstantuated 'blast' at Thomas Jefferson (pgs. 257-263), about his personal life is most biased and several statements made are absolutely unproved. '....clearly attested to in the historical record: Thomas Jefferson fathered an unacknowledged family with his slave mistress Sally Hemings.' Now where would a famous science writer get such 'proof', if he had it, why didn't he cite his source or reference? The truth being that Nicholas Wade knows nothing more about the Jefferson-Hemings DNA Study than what he has read from sensational and biased media and unproved Campaign Lies of James Callender and others. He doesn't tell the reader that a blue ribbon study was performed by 13 prominent and full professors that found NO PROOF of a Jefferson-Hemings affair. See the Scholars Commission Report as a link from the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Socity. He doesn't tell the reader that the Samuel Wetmore/Madison Hemings claim in the Pike Co., Ohio newspaper was badly flawed. The Jefferson-Hemings DNA Study may be consulted for details. He doesn't inform his reader that Annette Gordon-Reed, 'Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, An American Controversy', twisted a family letter to indicate a completely new and anti-Jefferson meaning. The Scholars Commission Report points this out. Can other statements in other parts of the book be so well received, I don't know, but I do know the Jefferson-Hemings Study, (I assisted Dr. Foster with the study)? As I have reported above, he knows no original facts about the study and is not interested in searching later research on this topic. Does he tell you that there is very valuable Hemings DNA available but that Monticello researcher, Dan Jordan, or the Hemings family members will NOT pursue that because as Hemings spokesperson, Shay Banks-Young, told me.., 'we are happy with our oral history and will never permit the gathering of DNA from William Hemings, son of Madison Hemings, why, there was only ONE Hemings tested. Why doesn't Mr. Wade pursue this story? Herb Barger Jefferson Family Historian herbar@comcast.net