September 5, 2017

IT’S LIKE HUMAN HISTORY, REWRITTEN BY ROBERT E. HOWARD, to quote a Facebook friend. Deeper Than Deep: David Reich’s genetics lab unveils our prehistoric past.

This is not “ancient history,” which goes back a few thousand years to the dawn of writing. This is deeper in the past than “deep history,” which takes us even further back—before the invention of agriculture, before the invention of language, before the invention of the wheel.

This is deep, deep history, tens of thousands of years ago. When, it’s now emerging, hordes of humans, vast tribes of variations of hominids—Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, the newly discovered “Denisovans,” the mysterious “ghost populations”—ranged and thronged and clashed and bred and interbred (and probably exterminated large portions of each other) across vast landscapes that were battlefields and graveyards.

It’s deep, deep history that’s beginning to unscroll a vast pageant through the wonders of big data crunching and the analysis of ancient DNA samples from fragments of bone and mummies that have been rotting away in the dusty basements of museums.

And we’re just starting, though I hope the results are more reliable than Ancestry.com.