News 2019

New archeological analysis challenges long-standing hypotheses about ostrich eggshell beads and the spread of pastoralism in Africa more
"The dead are very important in Wanniyalaeto society," said Chief Wanniya Uruwarige. "This reuniting of spirits and physical remains... is a very special moment for my people." more
Results of horseback surveys of ice patches in northern Mongolia provide the first archaeological insights from the region, revealing fragile organic artifacts previously buried in ice more
New study published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology further encourages a focus on diverse African environments, rather than simply marine or savannah settings, when studying the evolution and dispersal of Homo sapiens. more
The Paleo-Science & History Group received major DFG funding (€395k for three years, together with the Byzantinistik at the FU Berlin) from the “Beethoven” Program, which provides funding for integrated Polish-German research projects. On the German side, the project leaders are Prof. Johannes Niehoff-Panagiotidis from the Freie Universität Berlin and Dr. Adam Izdebski from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. more
New study indicates Middle Palaeolithic people lived near the Indian Ocean coastline over 100,000 years ago, but shared common behaviours with inland populations. more
The Mississippi: An Anthropocene River initiative seeks to explore the ecological, historical, and social interactions between humans and the environment across the Mississippi River Basin. Scholars from both sides of the Atlantic are working directly with local and international scientists, social theorists, artists, and activists with interests and backgrounds spanning the biological and social sciences as well as the humanities and visual arts. more
The Institute will be hosting a variety of events from October 7-10 to bring awareness to these issues, organized by the Mental Health Awareness Week Committee. more
New study reveals the earliest microliths (small stone tools smaller than 40 millimeters) in South Asia and in any rainforest environment worldwide, alongside tree-dwelling monkeys, other small mammals, and tropical plants in a Sri Lankan Cave. more
Understanding the causes and consequences of Late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions is increasingly important in a world of growing human populations and climate change. A new review, led by scholars at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, highlights the role that cutting-edge scientific methods can play in broadening the discussions about megafaunal extinction. more
With the tremendous success of the 2018 and 2019 events, the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History is now calling for applications for our 2020 International Application of Archaeological Science Workshop. The workshop will be conducted in the Department’s research and laboratory facilities in Jena, Germany. Note that spaces are highly limited and only select applications will be funded. more
Modern humans evolved in Africa, and we now know that human groups from all over the continent contributed to that process. An international group of scientists says that means it is time to stop arguing about where in Africa humans “really” came from. more
Patrick Roberts and Robert Spengler of the Department of Archaeology discuss the role Jena played on the career and ideas of Alexander von Humboldt and the development of the disciplines of Ecology, Climate Science, and Evolutionary Biology. They highlight how this legacy can still be seen in new research in Jena focused on human interactions with the natural world and our planet's changing environments and species. Read the full article here: more
The highly competitive grants will allow the recipients to fund research groups on their projects "PANTROPOCENE: Finding a Pre-industrial, Pan-tropical 'Anthropocene'", "MICROSCOPE: Zooming into the Population History of Iron Age Europe with Rare Genetic Variants", and "FEDD: Fruits of Eurasia: Domestication and Dispersal". more
Oshan Wedage, a PhD researcher at the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, has received one of the most prestigious scientific awards in his home country, Sri Lanka. more
Humans caused significant environmental change around the globe by about 3,000-4,000 years ago, much earlier than prior estimates, as revealed by a new international study. more
The lake was thought to be the site of an ancient catastrophic event that left several hundred people dead, but the first ancient whole genome data from India shows that diverse groups of people died at the lake in multiple events approximately 1000 years apart. more
When and how did Homo sapiens succeed in inhabiting Mongolia and adapting to the sometimes extreme environmental conditions? The video shows the work of the archaeologists on site and gives an insight into how the laboratory succeeds in drawing an ever more differentiated and complete picture of the human past from the samples obtained. more
Stable isotope analysis of mollusc reveals that humans seasonally foraged taxa on basis of meat yields in Mesolithic northern Iberia more
All of the plants on our kitchen tables have a long and mysterious history. Many of them can trace part of their ancestry back to the ancient Silk Road trade routes. New archaeobotanical data is illustrating how the domestication and dispersal process for the plants unfolded, as presented in Dr. Spengler’s new book. more
The Department of Archaeology is proud to extend our congratulations to Dr. Jillian Swift who has recently started a position as Archaeologist at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai’i in the United States. more
Professor Michael Petraglia is a new affiliate of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.  As one of his first teaching assignments he gave a week-long course to one hundred Ph.D. and Master’s level students entitled: "Human Evolution and Climate Change". more
The Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities (AGYA) was established in 2013 by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the Arabian Gulf University in Bahrain. more
The ancestral relatives of millets and other small-seeded crops originally evolved to be dispersed by megafaunal grazers of the Pleistocene and earlier epochs, and in some cases later came to rely on pastoral herds to disperse their seeds. more
The Department of Archaeology is proud to announce that three of its current postdoctoral researchers have been awarded tenure track professorships in the United States. more
A chemical residue study of incense burners from ancient burials at high elevations in the Pamir Mountains of western China has revealed psychoactive cannabinoids. This study provides some of the earliest clear evidence for the use of cannabis for its psychoactive compounds, and the awareness of higher THC-producing varieties of the plant. more
In examining prehistoric coastal sites on the Arabian Peninsula, researchers found that even large sites have been affected by coastal erosion due to sea-level rise.  Past studies of the diet of coastal populations may now need to be reevaluated given the potential underestimation of shellfish use. more
Strengthening of political networks coincided with the intensification of agricultural production, resulting in the widespread adoption of millet by populations across Eurasia. more
Article and radio interview (in German) on Deutschlandfunk on sustainability and the balance between humans and their environment, including Patrick Roberts of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. more
New article suggests wetter climates may have allowed Homo sapiens to expand across the deserts of Central Asia by 50-30,000 years ago. more
Apples originally evolved in the wild to entice ancient megafauna to disperse their seeds. More recently, humans began spreading the trees along the Silk Road with other familiar crops. Dispersing the apple trees led to their domestication. more
Date & Time: Jun. 6, 2019, 14:00
Speaker: Huw Groucutt
Max Planck Research Group Extreme Events
Please note the location: MPI for Biogeochemistry, Jena more
Date: May 9-10, 2019
Room: Villa V14
Host: Department of Archaeology more
Date & Time: May 3, 2019, 13:30
Speaker: Prof. Fiona Marshall, Washington University in St. Louis
Room: Villa V14
Host: Department of Archaeology more
The award, given annually to recognize the highest level of academic excellence among doctoral students, honors the late Tom L. Popejoy, former President of the University of New Mexico. more
Date: May 2-3, 2019
Room: Villa V14
Host: Department of Archaeology more
New study shows that tropical trees act as a living record of past human activity in the Amazon. more
Many thanks to all of the participants of the 2019 International Application of Archaeological Science Workshop for making this such a successful event! Watch the video at the link for a review of this year's training program. We look forward to next year! more
Dr. Patrick Roberts and Prof. Michael Petraglia of the Department of Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History feature in this month’s issue of GEO for their work on Homo sapiens’ adaptations and migration routes out of Africa. more
PS&H (formerly ByzRes), the Department of Archaeology and Princeton University co-host annual Climate Change and History Research Initiative (CCHRI) 2019 Colloquium, which aims to bring together for the first time interdisciplinary projects on climate and environmental change that work on two different “human pasts”: history and prehistory. more
Researchers from four world-renowned institutions meet at the ancient city of Cahokia to discuss the factors that led to the Anthropocene. more
Refined techniques for laser imaging of shell growth rings are tapping into previously hidden data of marine climate change. By examining human and ecological responses to those changes, researchers can learn more about what to expect from climate change in the future. more
New study provides direct evidence for the hunting of tree-dwelling monkeys and other small mammals by Homo sapiens 45,000 years ago in the rainforest of Sri Lanka. more
Date & Time: 27 February 2019, 3pm
Speaker: Sabine Reinhold
Room: Villa V14
Host: Department of Archeology more
Participants from around the world will attend to learn about the latest cutting-edge techniques in archaeological science.
Date: 20-31 March 2019
Host: Department of Archaeology more
The joint project, which includes MPI-SHH researchers William Taylor and Nils Vanwezer, explores Mongolia’s earliest prehistory, from the Paleolithic through the first pastoral peoples of the Bronze Age. more
In a new video from Latest Thinking, Michael Petraglia describes his research, which includes the use of satellite imagery to identify ancient rivers and lakes in present-day desert regions, and demonstrates that modern humans emerged from Africa much earlier than previously thought. more
Date: 18-20 February 2019
Location: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Organized by the Department of Archaeology more
For a long time the tropical forest has been assumed to represent an environment inhospitable to humans. In a new video by Latest Thinking Patrick Roberts explains why he challenges this view. more
More than 150 new dates provide the first robust chronology for Denisova Cave, the only site in the world known to have been occupied by both Neanderthals, Denisovans, and later by modern humans. more
Date & Time: February 6, 2019, 16:00
Speaker: Prof. Dr. Katerina Harvati-Papatheodorou
Room: Villa V14
Host: Department of Archaeology more
New review compares the regional adaptations of humans and those of other hominin species to add support to the argument that our species is ecologically unique. more
The Honorary Professorships were awarded in the School of Social Science, The University of Queensland, Australia, with which the Department of Archaeology already enjoys close collaborative relationships. more
This new text is the first to bring together evidence for the nature of human interactions with tropical forests on a global scale, from the emergence of hominins in the tropical forests of Africa to modern conservation issues. more
Go to Editor View