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KU professor's first book lands on New York Times' best-seller list

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Chrissy Baigent holds a human pelvic bone from the field.
Rae Ellen Bichell
/
NPR
Bones reveal where ancient humans lived. Now genetics is helping to track their migration across the western hemisphere.

"Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas" by Jennifer Raff uses DNA evidence to tell how the first peoples came to the Americas.

Anthropological geneticist Jennifer Raff says she was "flabbergasted" when her book, "Origin," became an instant New York Times best-seller.

Asked to explain the sudden success, the University of Kansas professor replied, "I think that there is a great deal of genuine curiosity by people to know ancient history."

Raff acknowledges that there are several approaches to explaining when and how the first peoples arrived in and then moved across the Americas. Hers is based on genetics but says archaeologists have developed their own theories of what occurred. In addition, Raff points to the histories of the indigenous peoples.

"Many of these histories say that they came from this land," Raff said, "and I think it's important to recognize that these differ, sometimes, from archaeological and genetic approaches and we should be respectful of all these different kinds of views."

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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
Eleanor Nash is an intern for KCUR's Up To Date. You can reach her at enash@kcur.org
Reginald David is an assistant producer with Up To Date. You can reach him at reginalddavid@kcur.org.