News 2021

Ostrich Eggshell Beads Reveal 50,000-Year-old Social Network Across Africa
New archeological study shows ancient connection between populations 3,000 km apart, and provides first direct link between climate change and ancient human social behavior more
Molecular Analysis Reveals the Oldest Denisovan Fossils Yet
Denisova Cave has yielded new Denisovan remains associated with archaeological artifacts in its lowermost layers dating to 200,000 years ago more
Cold Comfort: Arctic Seabirds Find Refugia from a Warming Climate in Sea Ice Margins and Cold Fjords
Two new studies in Ambio and Scientific Reports find that Arctic seabirds adapt to warmer climate by exploiting alternative cold habitats more
A New Approach for Accurately Dating Archaeological Sites Using Marine Mollusc Shells 
New study provides marine radiocarbon reservoir effect reference values for the study of chronologies in northern Iberia during the Early- to Mid-Holocene, between 9,000 and 7,500 years ago.
Deep Roots of the ‘Anthropocene’ Can Be Found in Tropical Forests
New special edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showcases multidisciplinary approaches to exploring human impacts on tropical forests and their associated earth systems.
The Impacts of Early Rice Agriculture on Tropical Forests in Southeastern Asia
A new study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences compiles ancient pollen records from a variety of settings in tropical southeastern Asia spanning the past 6,000 years more
Beyond ‘Wilderness’ - Biodiversity Conservation Approaches Need Indigenous and Local Peoples
A new perspective article published in a special edition of PNAS titled ‘Tropical Forests as Key Sites of the Anthropocene’ pairs Indigenous scholarship with palaeoecological, archaeological, geographical, and anthropological research from the global tropics to explore some of the key barriers posed by pervasive “wilderness thinking” for the conservation of some of the most biodiverse places on earth. more
Bone Tools from Morocco Indicate the Production of Clothing by 120,000 to 90,000 Years Ago
Dating from 120,000 – 90,000 years ago, the bone tools were found in association with carnivore remains that showed signs of skinning for furs and pelts. more
Milk Enabled Massive Steppe Migration
The long-distance migrations of early Bronze Age pastoralists in the Eurasian steppe have captured widespread interest. But the factors behind their remarkable spread have been heavily debated by archaeologists. Now a new study in Nature provides clues regarding a critical component of the herders’ lifestyle that was likely instrumental to their success: dairying. more
Life-sized Camel Carvings in Northern Arabia Date to the Neolithic Period
A new study lead by an international team of scientists uses a wide range of methods to date the heavily eroded reliefs, and connecting them to a period in which a green Arabia was home to monument-building pastoralists more
67,000 Years of Coastal Resource Engagement at Panga ya Saidi, Kenya
A new study, published in PLOS ONE, reports the first long-term evidence for coastal engagement in eastern Africa more
Prehistoric Climate Change Repeatedly Channelled Human Migrations Across Arabia 
New research shows that over the last 400,000 years, multiple pulses of increased rainfall transformed the generally arid Arabian Peninsula into a hospitable route for human population movements across Southwest Asia more
Plant Wax Biomarkers in Human Evolutionary Studies
Plant wax biomarkers are an innovative proxy for reconstructing vegetation composition and structure, rainfall intensity, temperature, and other climatic and environmental dynamics and are now incorporated in archeology and paleoanthropology to answer questions relating to past human-environment interactions and human evolution. more
Long-Term Resilient Foraging in Tropical Southern Mexico
New research shows that persistent tropical forest-grassland ecotones in southern Mexico provided critical ecologies for some of the first Pleistocene human arrivals through to the emergence of food production in this part of the world. more
Coring and Exploring the Amazon’s Giant Trees
New study presents a novel device for sampling giant trees in remote tropical forest regions. more
World’s Earliest Shark Attack Victim Identified in Japan
With nearly 800 unique wounds, the victim’s cause of death had eluded researchers for decades more
Indigenous Mortality Following Spanish Colonization Did Not Always Lead to Forest Regrowth
New research led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, shows that disruptions to Indigenous land management following Iberian colonization did not always result in widespread forest regrowth in the Americas and Asia-Pacific, as has been recently argued. more
Newly Discovered African ‘Climate Seesaw’ Drove Human Evolution
A scientific consortium led by Dr Stefanie Kaboth-Bahr of the University of Potsdam has found that ancient El Niño-like weather patterns were the primary drivers of environmental change in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 620 thousand years – the critical timeframe for the evolution of our species. The group found that these ancient weather patterns had more profound impacts in sub-Saharan Africa than glacial-interglacial cycles more commonly linked to human evolution. more
Dr. von Baeyer receives Gerda Henkel Fellowship
Dr. von Baeyer has been awarded a fellowship to continue her ongoing research into human impacts on the environment along the ancient Silk Road. She is also studying the origins of arboriculture and the maintenance of forests in ancient Central Asia. more
Half of Guadeloupe’s Snakes and Lizards Went Extinct after European Colonization
Researchers use fossil data to reveal the primary drivers and extent of colonial era extinctions more
A New Method for Illustrating Stone Tools
A new article in PLOS ONE offers a novel method for illustrating stone tools, developed to allow researchers, students and educators to produce high quality, publishable illustrations more
Oldest Human Burial in Africa
Dating to 78,000 years ago, the burial was found by archaeologists in Panga ya Saidi, a cave site on the Kenyan coast more
Past Humans Not the Cause of Island Extinctions
New research led by scientists from Griffith University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History reveals that the arrival of Pleistocene humans and their hominin ancestors to uninhabited islands didn’t always lead to widespread extinctions, as is often thought. more
Exploring Grain Size Variation in Prehistoric Central Asian Barley
Researchers compare changes in the size and shape of ancient barley grains from Europe and Central Asia to understand and highlight the plausible drivers for population-scale change through time more
Archaeological Data Demand New Approaches to Biodiversity Conservation
In a world in which biodiversity is increasingly under threat, and nature itself under siege, the role of human activities in driving ecosystem change has never more been apparent. But is all human activity bad for ecosystems?  An international team of researchers suggests not. more
Mak Itambu receives MPG Africa Mobility Grant
The Department of Archaeology (DA) welcomes Dr. Makarius Itambu to Jena. more
A New Method for Reconstructing Palaeotemperatures from Marine Mollusc Shells
A new study reveals that ratios of magnesium and calcium derived from the limpet Patella depressa using LIBS, a cutting-edge methodological approach, serve as a high-resolution seawater thermometer, with significant implications for palaeoclimate and archaeological studies.  more
Cultural Impacts of Climate Change: Increased Precipitation and the Watery Miracles of Italian Saints
A new study published in the journal Climatic Change examines the cultural impacts of climate change in Italy during the first millennium AD more
Ancient Megafaunal Mutualisms and Extinctions as Factors in Plant Domestication
Of the vast diversity of plants on Earth, only a few evolved to become prominent agricultural crops. Scholars now suggest they originally evolved to secure mutualistic relationships with now-extinct megafauna. more
Towards a Better Understanding of Societal Responses to Climate Change
Scholars of archaeology, geography, history and paleoclimatology lay out a new framework for uncovering climate-society interactions more
Ancient Group Once Considered Nomadic Stayed Local and Ate Millet
New study reveals that the Scythians, previously considered one group, were likely a set of diverse cultures and periods more
Dr. Patrick Roberts Receives Prestigious Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prize
Dr. Patrick Roberts of the Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for Human History is one of 10 researchers to receive Germany's most important prize for young researchers in 2021. The DFG and BMBF will award Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Prizes of 2021 at a virtual award ceremony on May 4th. more
Rainforests in Australia Were Shaped by Millennia of Aboriginal Land Management
Conservation approaches to rainforests in the Wet Tropics of Queensland must celebrate and protect both natural ‘Gondwanan’ heritage and the stewardship and cultural heritage of Aboriginal peoples. more
Mongolian Archaeological Project Receives 2 Million Euro Arcadia Grant
A new grant to the Department of Archaeology will support the documentation of thousands of threatened sites and construct an open access database in English, Mongolian and Russian. more
Neanderthals and Homo sapiens used Identical Nubian Technology
New analysis of a fossil tooth and stone tools from Shukbah Cave reveals Neanderthals used stone tool technologies thought to have been unique to modern humans more
On the Origin of Our Species

On the Origin of Our Species

February 10, 2021
New research suggests that genetic and fossil records will not reveal a single point where modern humans originated more
Researchers Recreate a 9500-year-old Beadmaking Tradition from Malawi
In a new study, a researcher from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History led a team that re-discovered how ancient people made beads from giant land snails, and found that the origin of this practice is thousands of years older than previously believed. more
Ancient Proteins Help Track Early Milk Drinking in Africa
New research shows milk consumption in eastern Africa began before the evolution of lactase persistence more
A New Archaeology for the Anthropocene Era
Scantily clad tomb raiders and cloistered scholars piecing together old pots - these are the kinds of stereotypes of archaeology that dominate public perception. Yet archaeology in the new millennium is a world away from these images. In a major new report, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History probe a thoroughly modern and scientific discipline to understand how it is helping to address the considerable challenges of the Anthropocene. more
Retracing 45,000 Years of 'Emptying Forests'
How records of past human-primate interactions can inform conservation efforts more
Ancient Footprints Leave a Mark on 2020
The discovery of 120,000-year-old human, elephant and horse footprints near an ancient lakebed on the Arabian Peninsula changed what we know about what the world was like, and where our ancestors were, deep in prehistory more
First Human Culture Lasted 20,000 Years Longer Than Thought
Some 11 thousand years ago, Africa’s furthest west harboured the last populations to preserve tool-making traditions first established by the earliest members of our species more
Oldest Hominins of Olduvai Gorge Persisted Across Changing Environments
~2.0 to 1.8 million year-old archaeological site demonstrates that early humans had the skills and tools to cope with ecological change more
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