On the trail of human evolution
Researchers from Germany and Israel are seeking to answer questions that remain open about the history of humanity. To this effect they are deploying new approaches and methods
The Max Planck Weizmann Center for Integrative Archaeology and Anthropology is located in Rehovot, Israel. Researchers from Germany and Israel work together there at the interface between archaeology and anthropology. Their aim is to gain a better understanding of human evolution. The Center is headed by Jean-Jacques Hublin, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, and Steve Weiner from the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science at the Weizmann Institute.
How do ideas spread? Why and how do lifestyles change? How can the different stages of development in different parts of the world be explained? Why do groups migrate from one geographical location to another? These are the key questions being explored within the framework of the Center’s first research area “The Timing of Cultural Change”. Archaeological finds relating to cultural change in a region are being investigated with the help of high-resolution radiocarbon dating. To obtain reliable results, laboratory analyses are carried out along with the work on excavation sites.
The second research area focuses on bone and tooth structures and its functional significance. Here, the scientists concentrate above all on the former coexistence of Neanderthals and early modern humans. To this end, they use fossil bone and tooth finds. In addition to descriptive morphology, increasing use is also being made of 3D computer reconstructions based on CT scans in the analyses. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology is a global leader in this method. A high-resolution µCT device at the Weizmann Institute provides additional and valuable details on tooth and bone structures.
The biomaterials department, which is headed by Professor Peter Fratzl, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam-Golm, also conducts research into the relationship between the structure and function of modern bones and teeth. Professor Steve Weiner from the Weizmann Institute is also working on this topic. The research findings on the correlation between structure, morphology and function in modern bones and teeth provide a basis for the classification of fossil finds.