Full Title: Ancient Journeys – The Peopling of Europe from the First Venturers to the Vikings
Author: Jean Franco
Publisher:Thames & Hudson
Pages: 311 including a long bibliography and footnotes. The book also has many maps and illustrations.
Who are the Europeans and where did they come from? In recent years scientific advances have released a mass of data, turning cherished ideas upside down. The idea of migration in prehistory, so long out of favour, is back on the agenda. New advances allow us to track human movement and the spread of crops, animals, and disease, and we can see the evidence of population crashes and rises, both continent-wide and locally. Visions of continuity have been replaced with a more dynamic view of Europe’s past, with one wave of migration followed by another, from the first human arrivals in Europe to the Vikings.
Ancient DNA links Europe to its nearest neighbours. It is not a new idea that farming was brought from the Near East, but genetics now reveal an unexpectedly complex process in which farmers arrived not in one wave, but several. Even more unexpected is the evidence that the European gene pool was stirred vigorously many times after farming had reached most of Europe. Climate change played a part in this upheaval, but so did new inventions such as the c and wheeled vehicles. Genetic and linguistic clues also enhance our understanding of the upheavals of the Migration Period, the wanderings of steppe nomads, and the adventures of the Vikings.
I was very excited to get this book, because I was interested in seeing a review of the genetic material evidence that is out there; and I wanted to see how the author would employ it to prove their main thesis of who the Europeans were and where they came from.
I’m thankful that the author took the time to explain the DNA evidence and how it works in chapter 2. I’m also grateful for the information on the problems it runs into. I just wish that I understood it all. That is not the author’s fault but my own since this is not something that interested me too much in the past so I never really read up on it. So I’m playing catchup. The author goes on to talk about the hunters and fisherman of the Mesolithic, the first farmers and dairy farming, the Copper Age, the IE family and its genetics, the Beaker folk and their relationship to the Celts and to the Italics, the Iron Age warriors, the Etruscans and Romans, the Slavs, the Bulgars and Magyars and finally the vikings.
The author also talks about not just genetics but history via archaeology and linguistics and some classical writers, a word of caution here because the author is not an archaeologist, or a linguist and it shows…for example, on page 205 the author says that Constantinople was re-named Byzantium…So I wasn’t very impressed in some places.
The author also starts out by saying that the genetic evidence should really be read carefully because ancient DNA is not the same as modern DNA, and the places were we are able to get ancient DNA, often times are comprised on one family buried together. And that it is pretty hard to link one genetic “haplogroup” with a language but you seem it done all over the book.
Honestly, but the end I think I got one thing from this book. The migration hypothesis is back in fashion. I don’t think this is a bad book. I think the author should have concentrated on one era or culture and researched the heck out of it to see if the linguistic and archaeological evidence lined up with the DNA evidence presented. Keep in mind that this book is from 2013…so the technology and DNA evidence presented here might already be obsolete.