The Department of Archaeology is focused on developing and applying the latest multidisciplinary methodologies in archaeology in order to transform our understanding of the human past. Combining traditional field research with cutting-edge laboratory analyses, it will investigate the ways in which culture, biology and ecology have intersected in the past, across the entire spatial and temporal spectrum of human history. By combining insights from both the humanities and natural sciences, the Department of Archaeology will seek to tell a more holistic story of the emergence, expansion, and diversification of our species and its social forms.

The discipline of archaeology is currently entering a new age of research exploration, spurred by the development of transformative scientific methods and the associated emergence of new research questions. Archaeology today addresses a broad array of research questions that transcend traditional disciplinary divisions and demand more integrated approaches. The Department of Archaeology will work closely with other departments of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, as well as other institutions globally, to explore major questions in human history.

We seek to understand how humans have transformed themselves and their environments over millennia through a broad range of technological, social and cultural processes. At the heart of our work is a desire to understand the interplay between biological, ecological and cultural forces, and to move beyond the traditional disciplinary boundaries that separate their study into different spheres. Given that archaeology offers a unique chronological and spatial vantage point from which to understand an array of processes that continue to shape humans and human societies today, we also seek to understand how information from the past can inform the present. This includes a focus on human responses to climate change, migration, globalisation, and ever-increasing human engagement with the Earth’s ecosystems.

Our Approach

The Department of Archaeology will undertake ambitious field projects in key regions internationally, conducting field survey and excavation through application of the latest methods in remote sensing, terrain and hydrology modelling, GIS, digital recording, chronometric dating, and geoarchaeology. Our research takes us from deserts to rainforests, with a particular focus on parts of the world where multidisciplinary archaeological research has, to date, been less systematically applied, including vast swathes of Africa and Asia.

The Department will also undertake state-of-the-art laboratory studies in a range of areas, including archaeobotany, zooarchaeology, geoarchaeology, and human osteoarchaeology. We will apply a diverse suite of established and evolving methods, including stable isotope analysis, artefact and dental use wear studies, 3-D morphometric analysis, phytolith and starch studies, and dental calculus analysis

Our network of collaborations extends globally, and includes partnerships with institutions around the world. Field training, local capacity building, and scholarly exchanges are also fundamental to our activities.

For more information about our research themes please click here.

For more information about our research projects please click here.

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