Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

How are historical events, cultural change and major migratory movements interrelated? Where do the origins of historical pathogens lie? Which factors led to the spread and diversification of the major language families? How have the development of crops and transformation of human societies affected each other? Which factors promote the spread and adoption of new technologies?

Biologists, historians, linguists and social scientists at the 2014 newly established institute work together on the development of innovative language documentation procedures, global linguistic and cultural databases, and analytical processes that link evolutionary theories and modern computational methods. They use state-of-the-art methods from the field of biomolecular science, such as, for example genome-wide DNA sequencing, to obtain detailed information from minute samples about genetic relationships, geographical origins, selection processes, and the genetic structures of extinct human, plant, animal and even pathogenic organisms. This thoroughly integrated, interdisciplinary approach will allow long-standing questions about human history that were previously deemed difficult, or even completely intractable, to be resolved.

Contact

Kahlaische Str. 10
07745 Jena
Phone: +49 3641 686-5
Fax: +49 3641 686-990

Department Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

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Cultural evolution: one million artists can’t be wrong!

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

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Our fractured African roots

Diverse in form and culture, our African ancestors lived scattered across the entire continent

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Oldest evidence of horse veterinary care discovered in Mongolia

More than 3,000 years, ago Mongolian herders removed problematic teeth from young horses

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Oldest bubonic plague genome decoded

Highly virulent pathogen is 1,000 years older than previously thought

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Images with meaning

Olivier Morin investigates how communication functions across time and space

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Neanderthals and modern humans must have coexisted in Europe for several thousand years. What happened when they encountered each other and how they influenced one another are riveting questions. Jean-Jacques Hublin and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig are searching for the answers. In the process, they have found clues as to what the Neanderthals learned from Homo sapiens – and what they didn’t.

The transition to agriculture changed human society more drastically than almost any other innovation. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena are investigating this revolution from very different perspectives.

Human beings are currently changing the Earth on an unprecedented scale. But when did the transformation of our planet begin – and with it the human age, the Anthropocene? For archaeologists, the answer is clear: humans have been shaping the world’s ecosystems for tens of thousands of years. Nicole Boivin and her team at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena are using new methods to search for the earliest traces of human activity – and getting involved in current debates surrounding the Anthropocene.

Migration isn’t a new phenomenon, but new insights suggest that modern-day Europeans actually have at least three ancestral populations. This finding was published by Johannes Krause and his colleagues in September and was prominently featured on the cover of Nature. As it happens, the paleogeneticist himself is currently thinking about migrating, and will henceforth travel through time as a Founding Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena. For him, looking back millennia into the past seems to be no problem.

Grant Coordinator

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena September 17, 2018

PhD position in Archaeological Science

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena July 27, 2018

PhD positions in Archaeology

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena April 04, 2018

Humans have been altering tropical forests for at least 45,000 years

2018 Roberts, Patrick

Evolutionary Biology Genetics Infection Biology Linguistics Social and Behavioural Sciences

For at least 45,000 years, humans have been altering tropical forests using techniques ranging from controlled burning of sections of forest to plant and animal management to clear-cutting and the establishment of urban centers. This is the finding of a recent review, which for the first time brings together data from studies all over the world. These findings counter the common view that tropical forests were pristine natural environments prior to modern agriculture and industrialization. They also have implications for today’s conservation efforts.

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On the trail of historical pestilences: Reconstruction of ancient pathogen genomes of infectious disease

2017 Keller, Marcel; Krause, Johannes

Evolutionary Biology Genetics Infection Biology Social and Behavioural Sciences

A project at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History is devoted to the genetic reconstruction of various pathogens of past epochs. Using innovative molecular biological methods, it has been possible to reconstruct numerous genomes of the causative agent of plague from the mortal remains of plague victims. The results help to better understand the evolution of the pathogen and open up new insights into (pre-)history. Further studies examine, for example, the origin of tuberculosis in the New World and the evolution of leprosy pathogens.

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Millet and beans, language and genes: The origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian family

2016 Robbeets, Martine

Evolutionary Biology Genetics Infection Biology Linguistics Social and Behavioural Sciences

The question about the origin and dispersal of the Transeurasian languages is among the most disputed issues in linguistic history. The Eurasia3angle group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History intends to address these questions by testing the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis for the Transeurasian languages from an interdisciplinary perspective. The group’s key objective is to integrate linguistic, archaeological and genetic evidence in a single approach. A method for which the group uses the term Triangulation.

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