On the Trail of Human History

New doctoral program started by Friedrich Schiller University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

November 07, 2018
An ancient human question is: where do we come from? Since 2014, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) have been looking for answers in new ways. They leave the old paths of classical disciplines such as archaeology, genetics or linguistics and use new interdisciplinary approaches to come to amazing findings. The result is a research landscape that attracts more and more young researchers from all over the world. For them, the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for the Science of Human History was launched in July 2018, and officially opened on November 6.

The new IMPRS offers the doctoral students of the Institute optimal working conditions in a structured program: supervision, laboratories, courses, networking with each other and with partners at Friedrich Schiller University (FSU). "Close cooperation with a university is the key aspect of all International Max Planck Research Schools," explains Prof. Dr. Johannes Krause, one of the two Spokespersons of the graduate school. "’Synergies’ and ‘interdiscipline’ are now much-used buzz words, but here you can see how it can really work," adds co-Spokesperson Prof. Dr. Martin Joachim Kümmel. The two Spokespersons are examples of this: Krause as a geneticist and one of the directors of the MPI-SHH and Kümmel as a linguist and head of the seminar for Indo-European Studies at FSU.

The topics of the future IMPRS doctoral students will also show how “interdiscipline” is to be imagined: for example, some of them analyze the proteins from the dental plaque from human skeletal remains, while others study the DNA from the same dental material, and others identify and date animal bone finds from the same site. By combining the results, they are able to shed light on the question: When did dairying begin in certain regions of the world, and did it involve the migration of new populations?

From different angles, the researchers explore how humans have conquered new habitats and what problems they faced (some of which, such as serious illnesses, still persist today). The young researchers come from a wide variety of disciplines: from anthropology of all kinds, biology, bioinformatics, zooarcheology and bioarchaeology, as well as different subfields of linguistics, mathematics, psychology and others.

On November 6, the new "International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS) for the Science of Human History" at the MPI-SHH was inaugurated by the Managing Director Prof. (University of Auckland) Russell Gray and Spokesperson Prof. Dr. Martin Kümmel, with Dr. Ute Zopf, Head of Institutional Research in the Thuringian Ministry of Economics, Science and Digital Society, in attendance.

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