Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Institute Profile

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 Linguistic and Cultural 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. [more]


News

New research reveals that many of the most familiar fruits in our kitchens today were cultivated in Central Asia over a millennium ago. These arboreal crops appear to have been an important part of the diet, and likely the commerce, along the Eurasian trade routes.

Origins and spread of Eurasian fruits traced to the ancient Silk Road

New research reveals that many of the most familiar fruits in our kitchens today were cultivated in Central Asia over a millennium ago. These arboreal crops appear to have been an important part of the diet, and likely the commerce, along the Eurasian trade routes. [more]
Researchers applied Bayesian phylolinguistic methods from evolutionary biology to the Transeurasian language family for the first time to address the long-standing debate about its internal structure.

Structure of Transeurasian language family revealed by computational linguistic methods

Researchers applied Bayesian phylolinguistic methods from evolutionary biology to the Transeurasian language family for the first time to address the long-standing debate about its internal structure. [more]
Her project, entitled ‘Teaching in New Caledonian Crows’, will examine the factors that influence the evolution of teaching.

Natalie Uomini awarded Templeton World Charity Foundation grant

Her project, entitled ‘Teaching in New Caledonian Crows’, will examine the factors that influence the evolution of teaching. [more]
New study argues that the greatest defining feature of our species is not ‘symbolism’ or dramatic cognitive change but rather its unique ecological position as a global ‘generalist specialist’.

Homo sapiens developed a new ecological niche that separated it from other hominins

New study argues that the greatest defining feature of our species is not ‘symbolism’ or dramatic cognitive change but rather its unique ecological position as a global ‘generalist specialist’.

[more]
The highly competitive grants will allow the recipients to fund research groups on their projects, “Communicable Disease Exchange in the Age of Seafaring” and “Cultures of dairying: gene-culture-microbiome evolution and the ancient invention of dairy foods”.

Kirsten Bos and Christina Warinner awarded ERC Starting Grants

The highly competitive grants will allow the recipients to fund research groups on their projects, “Communicable Disease Exchange in the Age of Seafaring” and “Cultures of dairying: gene-culture-microbiome evolution and the ancient invention of dairy foods”. [more]
Over the last 2000 years Christianity has grown from a tiny religious sect to the largest family of religions in the world. How did Christianity become so successful? Did Christianity spread through grass-roots movements or political elites? And what can the spread of Christianity tell us about how widespread social change happens?

How do religious ideologies spread?

Over the last 2000 years Christianity has grown from a tiny religious sect to the largest family of religions in the world. How did Christianity become so successful? Did Christianity spread through grass-roots movements or political elites? And what can the spread of Christianity tell us about how widespread social change happens? [more]
Researchers from the Department of Archaeology, MPI-SHH argue that archaeology and the study of past environments are crucial for defining the point at which our species began to dominate Earth systems.

"Pre-industrial Anthropocene in tropical forests" - New publication in the journal Anthropocene

Researchers from the Department of Archaeology, MPI-SHH argue that archaeology and the study of past environments are crucial for defining the point at which our species began to dominate Earth systems.

[more]
A systematic study of dental calculus from the Iron Age to the present proves the potential of proteomic analysis to reveal information about individual diets, including plants, animals and dairy products consumption.

Potential of protein analysis to retrieve dietary information from ancient dental calculus revealed by new study

A systematic study of dental calculus from the Iron Age to the present proves the potential of proteomic analysis to reveal information about individual diets, including plants, animals and dairy products consumption.

[more]
Humans did not stem from a single ancestral population in one region of Africa, as is often claimed. Instead, our African ancestors were diverse in form and culture, and scattered across the entire continent.

Our fractured African roots

Humans did not stem from a single ancestral population in one region of Africa, as is often claimed. Instead, our African ancestors were diverse in form and culture, and scattered across the entire continent.

[more]
New research reveals that the practice of veterinary dentistry was innovated on the open steppes of Mongolia and eastern Eurasia – and dates back more than 3000 years.

Oldest evidence of horse veterinary care discovered in Mongolia

New research reveals that the practice of veterinary dentistry was innovated on the open steppes of Mongolia and eastern Eurasia – and dates back more than 3000 years.

[more]
Patrick Roberts is a co-lead investigator of the joint UK German project LOMVIA. Together with Norman Ratcliffe he uses biochemical and ecological studies of indigenous and invasive Arctic seabirds to study the local impacts of climate change and resource stress on species composition and competition in this increasingly changeable environment.

New funding initiative enables researchers from Germany and the United Kingdom join forces to study the impacts of climate change and resource stress on Arctic ecosystems

Patrick Roberts is a co-lead investigator of the joint UK German project LOMVIA. Together with Norman Ratcliffe he uses biochemical and ecological studies of indigenous and invasive Arctic seabirds to study the local impacts of climate change and resource stress on species composition and competition in this increasingly changeable environment. [more]
Joint Workshop Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution& Friedrich Schiller University JenaDate: July 13, 2018Room:  Villa V14Hosts:  Martine Robeets & Volker Gast

Historical and comparative linguistics in Jena

Joint Workshop Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution& Friedrich Schiller University Jena
Date: July 13, 2018
Room: Villa V14
Hosts: Martine Robeets & Volker Gast [more]
New Caledonian crows can recreate tools from memory according to a study published today in Scientific Reports.
Mental template matching is a potential cultural transmission...(Scientific Reports - open access)  Mental Template Matching in New Caledonian Crows  (YouTube-Video)  Crows Learn More About Toolmaking (New York Times, June 28)  Crow vending machine skills 'redefine intelligence' (BBC, June 29)

Crows can make tools from memory

New Caledonian crows can recreate tools from memory according to a study published today in Scientific Reports.

Mental template matching is a potential cultural transmission...(Scientific Reports - open access)
Mental Template Matching in New Caledonian Crows (YouTube-Video)
Crows Learn More About Toolmaking (New York Times, June 28)
Crow vending machine skills 'redefine intelligence' (BBC, June 29)

Differences in carbon and nitrogen isotope values between ancient livestock indicate that horses were grazed extensively, while ruminants were grazed intensively.

Evidence for variation in ancient livestock pasturing strategies in the Kazakh steppe

Differences in carbon and nitrogen isotope values between ancient livestock indicate that horses were grazed extensively, while ruminants were grazed intensively. [more]
Susanna Sabin was awarded an Outstanding Abstract Award for her submission to the American Society for Microbiology Microbe 2018 conference, titled "Application of a 17th Century Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome to mycobacterial dating and phylogeography".

Outstanding Abstract Award for Susanna Sabin

Susanna Sabin was awarded an Outstanding Abstract Award for her submission to the American Society for Microbiology Microbe 2018 conference, titled "Application of a 17th Century Mycobacterium tuberculosis genome to mycobacterial dating and phylogeography". [more]
Director Johannes Krause hosted a group of diplomats from Africa, who are participating in the 12th Executive Seminar by the German federal Foreign Office. The course is targeted towards young diplomats from sub-Saharan countries. It is designed to transcend political boundaries and strengthen their awareness of opportunities in a regional and multilateral context.

Visit of young African diplomats on June 21st

Director Johannes Krause hosted a group of diplomats from Africa, who are participating in the 12th Executive Seminar by the German federal Foreign Office. The course is targeted towards young diplomats from sub-Saharan countries. It is designed to transcend political boundaries and strengthen their awareness of opportunities in a regional and multilateral context. [more]
Researchers recovered three genomes of the bacterium Treponema pallidum from skeletal remains from colonial-era Mexico, and were able to distinguish the subspecies that causes syphilis from the subspecies that causes yaws.

First ancient syphilis genomes decoded

Researchers recovered three genomes of the bacterium Treponema pallidum from skeletal remains from colonial-era Mexico, and were able to distinguish the subspecies that causes syphilis from the subspecies that causes yaws. [more]
Heirloom Microbes Project WorkshopDate: June 17-20, 2018Room: Villa V03Host: Heirloom Microbes Project

Microbial Diversity of Traditional Dairy Ecologies

Heirloom Microbes Project Workshop
Date: June 17-20, 2018
Room: Villa V03
Host: Heirloom Microbes Project [more]
A group of pre-school children from the Dualingo Kindergarten visited the MPI for the Science of Human History at the beginning of June. Jana Zech and her colleagues have explained to the children how and what archaeologists research. Picture: skull models of various primitive human beings called Hominins.

Archaeology for Kindergarten kids

A group of pre-school children from the Dualingo Kindergarten visited the MPI for the Science of Human History at the beginning of June. Jana Zech and her colleagues have explained to the children how and what archaeologists research. Picture: skull models of various primitive human beings called Hominins.
A pair of 3,800-year-old skeletons buried together in Russia test positive for a strain of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis that is ancestral to the strain that caused the Black Death.

Oldest bubonic plague genome decoded

A pair of 3,800-year-old skeletons buried together in Russia test positive for a strain of the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis that is ancestral to the strain that caused the Black Death. [more]
Date & Time: June 8, 2018, 15:30 Room: Villa V14 Host: Annemarie Verkerk, Equal Opportunities Officer

Distinguished Lecture by Prof. Dr. Jadranka Gvozdanovic (Univ. Heidelberg) - “The impact of implicit bias for women in academia and what to do about it”

Date & Time: June 8, 2018, 15:30
Room: Villa V14
Host: Annemarie Verkerk, Equal Opportunities Officer
The Federal Foreign Office's Foreign Service Academy brings together young diplomats from around the world in its 9th International Diplomat Programme. The aim of this training initiative is to perceive foreign policy as an opportunity for cooperation and as a basis upon which to build the foundation for a working partnership on global matters. The programme offers a broad selection of seminars, informative visits and study tours, such as a visit at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

Visit of young international diplomats on June 6th

The Federal Foreign Office's Foreign Service Academy brings together young diplomats from around the world in its 9th International Diplomat Programme. The aim of this training initiative is to perceive foreign policy as an opportunity for cooperation and as a basis upon which to build the foundation for a working partnership on global matters. The programme offers a broad selection of seminars, informative visits and study tours, such as a visit at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. [more]
Rats were carried on ships as humans settled the remote islands of the Pacific - analysis of the rats’ remains reveals changes humans made to the island ecosystems.

Pacific rats trace 2000 years of human impact on island ecosystems

Rats were carried on ships as humans settled the remote islands of the Pacific - analysis of the rats’ remains reveals changes humans made to the island ecosystems. [more]
The invention of agriculture changed humans and the environment forever. The practice originated independently in a least a dozen different places over several thousand years. But why did agriculture begin in those places and at those particular times in human history?

New clues to the origins of agriculture

The invention of agriculture changed humans and the environment forever. The practice originated independently in a least a dozen different places over several thousand years. But why did agriculture begin in those places and at those particular times in human history? [more]
Verónica Zuccarelli presented data from her DAAD-funded research stay at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History to the VIIth Argentinian Congress on Archaeometrics, 17-20 April 2018.

DAAD-funded project presented at the 7th Argentinian Congress on Archaeometrics

Verónica Zuccarelli presented data from her DAAD-funded research stay at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History to the VIIth Argentinian Congress on Archaeometrics, 17-20 April 2018. [more]
In a new video from Latest Thinking, Russell Gray describes his research investigating the cooperative abilities of kea birds, and what this can tell us about ourselves.

"Do Kea Birds Have Cooperative Abilities?"

In a new video from Latest Thinking, Russell Gray describes his research investigating the cooperative abilities of kea birds, and what this can tell us about ourselves. [more]
A smartphone game designed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History aims to study how languages evolve.

The evolution of language? There’s an app for that

A smartphone game designed by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History aims to study how languages evolve. [more]