Using genetics and archaeology to study population history, MIchael Hammer

Interviewee: Michael Hammer. Evolutionary geneticist Michael Hammer speaks about the reliance of genetic research on fields such as archeology for reliable time estimates. (DNAi Location: Applications > Human origins > Gene genealogy > A molecular clock? > Calibrating the clock)

From genetics alone we can't tell all that much. We need to have a context to work in. So, if I'm interested in the peopling of the Americas – how long ago did people move into the Americas, how many people moved to the Americas, how many times did they move in the Americas – I can get genetic data that will show me patterns of variation of the Americas and I can compare those data with patterns of variation in Asia. But I need calibration points from the archaeological record, to know when we see evidence of culture in the Americas, how does that culture relate to culture in Asia? And it's a comparative process through genetics and archaeology, and sometimes linguistics and sometimes the fossil record, if we're going back deeper in time. You have to put the picture together with all of those pieces of the puzzle. One piece of the puzzle alone won't give you the whole picture. So we shouldn't lose sight of that. As powerful as genetics is, as a tool, to look at our own history, it can't tell us anything by itself. It has to be in a comparison framework.

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