The Journey of Man

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17 March 2016

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Haley Reames
Book Review

“The Journey of Man”

Have you ever wondered where mankind first began or what life was like for the first man? In this book review over The Journey of Man by Spencer Wells I can answer those questions. The author of this book sets out on an amazing journey to revolutionize our understanding of where we came from and how we travelled through history.

Informed by this new science, The Journey of Man is replete with astonishing information. Wells tells us that we can trace our origins back to a single Adam and Eve, but that Eve came first by some 80,000 years. We hear how the male Y-chromosome has been used to trace the spread of humanity from Africa into Eurasia, why differing racial types emerged when mountain ranges split population groups, and that the San Bushmen of the Kalahari have some of the oldest genetic markers in the world. We learn, finally with absolute certainty, that Neanderthals are not our ancestors and that just ten individuals can account for the entire genetic diversity of Native Americans.

In this surprisingly accessible book, British geneticist Wells sets out to answer long standing anthropological questions of where humans came from, how we migrated and when we arrived in such places as Europe and North America. To trace the migration of human beings from our earliest homes in Africa to the farthest reaches of the globe, Wells calls on recent DNA research for support. Clues in the blood of present groups such as eastern Russia’s Chukchi, as well as the biological remnants of long extinct human clans, allow Wells to follow the Y chromosome as a relatively unaltered marker of human heritage.

Eventually, working backward through time, he finds that the earliest common “ingredient” in males’ genetic soup was found in a man Wells calls the “Eurasian Adam,” who lived in Africa between 31,000 and 79,000 years ago. Each subsequent population, isolated from its fellows, gained new genetic markers, creating a map in time and space. Wells writes that the first modern humans “left Africa only 2,000 generations ago” and quickly fanned out across Asia, into Europe, and across the then extant land bridge into the Americas. Using the same markers, he debunks the notion that Neanderthals were our ancestors, finds odd links between faraway peoples, and most startlingly discovers that all Native Americans can be traced to a group of perhaps a dozen people. By explaining his terminology and methods throughout the book, instead of in a chunk, Wells makes following the branches of the human tree seem easy.

This book relates to the four major subfields of Anthropology, which are cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistics by cultural anthropology is the study of living societies and their life-ways. This book explains in depth the living of each of the places Spencer Wells visited. Archaeology is both a set of investigative methods and an ever-changing body of knowledge and theory about human socio cultural diversity and change.

The book relates to this because it very well explained the changes we had to undergo with the journey that was taken by our first ancestors. Biological anthropology is the study of human behavior from a bio-cultural perspective, and includes the study of hominid evolution. Which the book does just that in explaining what everyone acts and speaks in each of the places that Spencer Wells visited. Linguistics is the study of human languages, their synchronic structure, and their diachronic evolution. As Spencer Wells takes his journey through which our ancestors took, he finds out every little thing about them, which includes their language and structure. Which is how linguistics relates to the book.

My opinion of this book was that it showed a very different way of learning about how our ancestors came across the world. I wouldn’t say this was my favorite book to read but I certainly enjoyed the way that Spencer Wells explained his personal journey so in depth. The book was hard to understand at times but once I watched the video, the things that were unclear, became much clearer. Because of reading this book and watching the video, I know have a better understanding of how we survived and the language we used throughout the world.

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"The Journey of Man" StudyScroll, 17 March 2016,

StudyScroll. (2016). The Journey of Man [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 4 June, 2023]

"The Journey of Man" StudyScroll, Mar 17, 2016. Accessed Jun 4, 2023.

"The Journey of Man" StudyScroll, Mar 17, 2016.

"The Journey of Man" StudyScroll, 17-Mar-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 4-Jun-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). The Journey of Man. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 4-Jun-2023]

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