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Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology

The Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology in Jena was founded in 2014 (as the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History) to target fundamental questions of human history and evolution since the Paleolithic. From the vantage point of three interdisciplinary research departments – the Department of Archaeogenetics (Director Johannes Krause), the Department of Archaeology (Director Nicole Boivin), and the Department of Cultural and Linguistic Evolution (Director Russell Gray) – the institute pursues an integrative approach to the study of human history that bridges the traditional divide between the natural sciences and the humanities.

By assembling experts from research areas as diverse as palaeogenetics, proteomics, bioinformatics, anthropology, archaeology, history, and quantitative linguistics, the MPI-SHH seeks to join and advance a broad range of methods, approaches, and datasets to explore big questions of the human past. Using state-of-the-art analytical techniques and technologies, the institute tackles these and other topics:

– The settlement history of the world through past human migrations and genetic admixture events
– The spread and diversification of human-associated microbes and infectious diseases
– The impact of climatic and environmental change on human subsistence in different world regions
– Human modification of ecosystems
– The rise of early forms of global trade systems
– The spread and diversification of languages, cultures, and social practices
– The co-evolution of genes and culture


Displaying 1 - 20 of 30 articles


Major new research claims smaller-brained Homo naledi made rock art and buried the dead. But the evidence is lacking

Homo naledi had a brain less than half the size of our own. Yet the new research claims it had cognitive abilities far beyond what we might expect.
Enterramiento de las víctimas de la peste negra en Tournai, Bélgica. Pierart dou Tielt / Wikimedia Commons

El polen nos dice que la peste negra fue terrible pero no tanto

Se cree que la Peste Negra fue la pandemia más devastadora de la historia de Europa. Ahora, paleoecólogos e historiadores han puesto en duda su gravedad dado que el impacto en algunos territorios no fue muy acusado.
Burying Black Death Victims in Tournai, Belgium. Gilles Li Muisis, Annales, Bibliothèque Royal de Belgique, MS 13076-77, f. 24v.

The Black Death was not as widespread or catastrophic as long thought – new study

The Black Death is believed to have been the most devastating pandemic in Europe’s history. Now paleoecologists and historians have cast doubt on how bad it was.
IMG. Photo credit: Wolfram Dressler

Indigenous knowledge and the persistence of the ‘wilderness’ myth

Aboriginal people view so-called wilderness as sick, neglected land. This runs counter to the view of wilderness as pristine and healthy, which underpins non-Indigenous conservation efforts.
Eleanor Scerri

Research reveals humans ventured out of Africa repeatedly as early as 400,000 years ago, to visit the rolling grasslands of Arabia

The new work presents the oldest dated evidence for hominins in Arabia, in the form of an ancient handaxe tool uncovered from the Nefud Desert.
Stone arrowheads (Maros points) and other flaked stone implements from the Toalean culture of South Sulawesi. Shahna Britton/Andrew Thomson

Who were the Toaleans? Ancient woman’s DNA provides first evidence for the origin of a mysterious lost culture

The first ancient human DNA from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi — and the wider Wallacea islands group — sheds light on the early human history of the region.
S. Anna Florin.

Burnt ancient nutshells reveal the story of climate change at Kakadu — now drier than ever before

Tiny nutshell fragments, found at a rock shelter in the Kakadu region, have helped researchers track past climate change in the region.


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