cover image A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe

A Short History of Humanity: A New History of Old Europe

Johannes Krause and Thomas Trappe, trans. from the German by Caroline Waight. Random House, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-22942-2

Krause, director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and journalist Trappe track the genetic history of Europe in this fascinating exploration of early human migration and humankind’s millennia-long struggle with deadly pathogens. They begin with Krause’s 2010 discovery—by way of a finger bone found in a Siberian cave—of a group of archaic humans independent from Neanderthals. From there, the authors detail the various migrations that followed this genetic split half a million years ago; the warming temperatures that led to the rise of farming in Anatolia at the beginning of the Holocene period nearly 12,000 years ago; and the takeover of Europe by horse-riding steppe peoples about 4,000 years ago. With DNA analysis and other modern scientific methods, the authors note, researchers can piece together the past by tracking the spread of diseases such as bubonic plague and syphilis during human migrations. Krause and Trappe make complicated scientific processes accessible to lay leaders, and offer hope that the ongoing study of ancient genetics and the development of new technologies such as genome editing will help to fight pathogens including Covid-19. The result is a captivating and informative look at the origins and future of humanity. (Apr.)