Press Releases 2018

Stone handaxes, similar to those made by early humans as much as 1.5 million years ago, have been dated for the first time in the Arabian Peninsula, to less than 190,000 years old, where their production may have endured until the arrival of Homo sapiens. more

New study shows that the genetic makeup of northern Europe traces back to migrations from Siberia that began at least 3,500 years ago and that, as recently as the Iron Age, ancestors of the Saami lived in a larger area of Finland than today. more

When they don’t have enough information to make an accurate decision, dogs will search for more – similarly to chimpanzees and humans. more

Analysis of seven ancient whole genomes reveals adaptations to the high-altitude environment and agrarian lifestyle of the Andes. more

An international team of researchers has revealed unexpected details about the peopling of Central and South America in an ancient DNA study. more

On the Trail of Human History

November 07, 2018

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

Dairying of cattle, sheep, and goats was established in northern Mongolia by 1300 BC – despite limited genetic interactions with Western Steppe herders. more

Long before the formal creation of the Silk Road, pastoral herders living in the mountains of Central Asia helped form new cultural and biological links across the region. more

New study provides earliest evidence for hominins in ‘Green Arabia’ between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago alongside direct environmental data indicating productive, relatively humid grasslands more

The Cross-Linguistic Data Formats Initiative proposes new standards for linguistic data formats to facilitate sharing and data comparisons. more

Analysis of proteins preserved in bowls and jars from this prehistoric site in central Anatolia shows the foodstuffs inside its inhabitants’ pottery vessels in unprecedented spectrum and resolution. more

Previously it was thought that this bacterium mainly infected humans – this new research reveals the possibility of a disease reservoir in wild primates and offers insights into the evolution of the bacterium. more

Researchers find that individuals with more northern and central European genetic ancestry were buried with more elaborate grave goods than those with more southern, local ancestry. more

Researchers from Eurac Research and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History have analysed human remains dated between 590 and 630 CE more

Collaborative art project on the popular web platform Reddit reveals the structure of cultural change. more

Nomadic herders enriched savannah landscapes over three millennia, study finds. more

Researchers provide guidelines for differentiating between causation and mere correlation in cross-cultural studies. more

The 5,000-year-old cemetery is the earliest and largest monumental cemetery in eastern Africa and was built by an egalitarian society of mobile pastoralists. more

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

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 ‘general 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”. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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. more

The new projects start today and join the existing ‘Changing Arctic Ocean’ research programme, which aims to better understand – and predict – changes to ecosystems in this part of the world. Dr. Patrick Roberts of the MPI-SHH is a co-lead investigator of one of these 12 projects, LOMVIA. 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. more

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

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? more

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

The largest study to date on ancient leprosy DNA reveals previously unknown diversity of strains in Medieval Europe. more

Study recovers oldest viral genomes, and shows the hepatitis B virus has been circulating in Europe for at least 7000 years more

The first substantial cave record from coastal Kenya ranges from the Middle Stone Age to the Iron Age, showing gradual changes in cultural, technological and symbolic innovations beginning at 67,000 years ago. more

An international team of researchers led by Dr Thomas Ingicco from the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle, France, and M. Clyde Shago-on from the National Museum of the Philippines discovered the oldest evidence for the peopling of the Philippines by hominins. Their findings at the archaeological site of Kalinga (Rizal Municipality, Kalinga Province, Luzon Island) were dated to 709,000 years old, as published in Nature. more

A team of researchers have demonstrated that while some Indigenous hunter-gatherers in Sri Lanka made use of agricultural resources and trade connections with farmers and colonial powers, others continued to subsist primarily on tropical forest resources as late as the 19th century. more

The first Homo sapiens fossil discovery from Saudi Arabia dates to 90,000 years ago during a time when the region’s deserts were replaced by grasslands more

The new field of palaeoproteomics, harnessing cutting-edge techniques to analyze ancient proteins, is growing quickly. Researchers set out standards and precautions that aim to provide it with a firm foundation. more

The Dravidian language family, varieties of which are spoken by 220 million people across South Asia, is crucial in understanding the prehistory not only of the subcontinent but of Eurasia as a whole. more

Computational analyses of the evolution of 155 Island South East Asian and Pacific societies reveal the way social and material factors combine to drive major transitions in human social organization. more

Ancient nuclear DNA from 15,000-year-old modern humans from Morocco, the oldest ever recovered from Africa, shows dual genetic ancestry to ancient Near Eastern and to sub-Saharan African populations. more

Scientists have further evidence that an ancient family of languages spread over most of the Australian continent in the last 6000 years, rapidly replacing pre-existing languages. But the puzzle remains as to why. more

This month we will be highlighting female employees and their work, beginning with Director Nicole Boivin of the Department of Archaeology. more

Dogs create a mental representation of objects that they perceive through smell, a new study shows – and are surprised if what they find at the end of the trail differs from what they expected to find. more

New genetic research reveals the complex demographic history of Vanuatu, explaining how Austronesian languages were retained throughout its history despite near-total replacement of early Austronesian-Lapita with Papuan ancestry. more

Second largest ancient DNA study provides insight into the arrival of the first farmers to Europe and their interactions with hunter-gatherers. more

Largest ancient DNA study ever conducted answers the long-debated question of whether the spread of “Beaker” pottery was due to population migrations or the movement of cultural ideas. more

A research team from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tübingen examines the genetic material of 18th century German architect George Bähr to learn more about his appearance and health. more

Analysis of ancient DNA found that Scandinavia was settled by hunter-gatherers via a southern and a northern route, and reveals that agriculture was likely introduced by migrating agriculturalists. more

Salmonella enterica, the bacterium responsible for enteric fever, may be the long-debated cause of the 1545-1550 AD “cocoliztli” epidemic in Oaxaca, Mexico that heavily affected the native population. more

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