The Origins of Evolutionary Research in Jena

Interdisciplinary evolutionary research has a long tradition in Jena: about 150 years ago August Schleicher created his famous phylogenetic trees of languages in Jena. Also, Ernst Haeckel’s probably even better known phylogenetic trees were drawn here.

Matthias Jacob Schleiden, Director of Jena’s botanical garden, was one of the first botanists who accepted the evolutionary theory. He regarded the cultural evolution of mankind as a continuation of its biological evolution. [more]

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The Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) in Jena was founded in 2014 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 MPI-SHH 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 MPI-SHH 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

With the establishment of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, a long tradition of phylogenetic and evolutionary research is revitalized in the city of Jena [learn more].

 
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