Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology focuses on matters regarding the origins of humankind. The Institute’s researchers study widely-differing aspects of human evolution. They analyse the genes, cultures and cognitive abilities of people living today and compare them with those of apes and extinct peoples. Scientists from various disciplines work closely together at the Institute: Geneticists trace the genetic make-up of extinct species, such as Neanderthals. Behaviourists and ecologists, for their part, study the behaviour of apes and other mammals.


Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 3550-0
Fax: +49 341 3550-119

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS: The Leipzig School of Human Origins

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Linguistic and Cultural Evolution


Department Comparative Cultural Psychology


Department Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture


Department Evolutionary Genetics


Department Primate Behavior and Evolution


Burials show that children with Down Syndrome and Edwards Syndrome were recognized as members of their communities


The evolution of sustainable institutions critically depends on clearly defined and enforced access rights


Ancient DNA helps researchers elucidate the structure of a prehistoric community from Southeast Asia


The arrival of Homo sapiens in cold northern latitudes took place several thousand years before Neanderthals disappeared in southwest Europe


Women’s foraging groups provide important opportunities for children and adolescents to learn crucial subsistence skills

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Elspeth Ready from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig regularly travels to the Canadian Arctic for research. She tells of magnificent expanses, special culinary delights, and an icy dog sled ride.

In many ways, our thoughts and actions are influenced by our social background, which is why people’s behavior varies so widely between different countries throughout the world. The psychologist Daniel Haun, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, has made cultural diversity a focal topic of his research. His theory is that we cannot ultimately determine what it is that makes us human until we are aware of what we have in common and what our differences are.

Roman Wittig, who heads up the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, knows what happens when a virus changes its host, and has experienced it several times in the Taï National Park in the République de Côte d’Ivoire, the last time having been four years ago, when a coronavirus that is harmless to humans jumped from humans to chimpanzees. In collaboration with Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, he is looking into pathogens that cause disease in chimpanzees and which of them could also pose a threat to humans.

To a very large degree, academic freedom as we know it today is based on the way it was conceived in Germany during the 19th century. At that time, it was not only professors who were in a position to make independent decisions about their research topics; students, too, enjoyed freedoms that seem incredible from today’s perspective. Lorraine Daston from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin has studied the development of academic freedom and its limitations.

Family Constellations

On Location

What makes humans human? How and when did we become what we are today? How did our ancestors live? These questions are of great interest to a lot of people. The scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology use different methods to investigate them systematically. One of these methods involves extracting DNA from human fossils. Using a new procedure, Svante Pääbo and his team can isolate and sequence ancient genetic material from just a few grams of bone powder, allowing them to compare the genomes of different prehistoric humans with one another and with people living today.

Postdoc position (m/f/d) | ERC synergy grant project QUANTA

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig September 14, 2023

Human history from cave sediments

2022 Vernot, Benjamin 

Behavioural Biology Cognitive Science Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

Humans and other species are constantly shedding DNA into their environments. Researchers at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig developed new methods to extract this human DNA directly from archaeological sediments. We used these methods to fill in the gaps of human history, and discover unknown Neandertal populations.


The surprising evolutionary history of our oral bacteria

2021 Warinner, Christina; Fellows Yates, James; Velsko, Irina

Behavioural Biology Cognitive Science Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

An international team led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, reconstructed the oral microbiomes of Neanderthals, primates, and humans – including the oldest oral microbiome ever sequenced from a 100,000-year-old Neanderthal – and discovered unexpected clues about human evolution, health, and diet.


Viral Times

2020 Zeberg, Hugo; Maricic, Tomislav; Pääbo, Svante

Evolutionary Biology Genetics Infection Biology

In 2020, a new virus appeared and changed almost everything in our lives. One of the uplifting experiences of the pandemic has been to see how many scientists have risen to the occasion and applied whatever competences they have to understand and mitigate the situation – as we did at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.


First hominins on the Tibetan Plateau were Denisovans

2019 Hublin, Jean-Jacques

Evolutionary Biology Genetics

So far Denisovans were only known from a small collection of fossil fragments from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Together with researchers from China Jean-Jacques Hublin from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology describes a 160,000-year-old hominin mandible from Xiahe in China. Using ancient protein analysis the researchers found that the mandible’s owner belonged to a population that occupied the Tibetan Plateau in the Middle Pleistocene and that was closely related to the Denisovans from Siberia.


A Neanderthal-Denisovan “Intermarriage”

2018 Slon, Viviane; Pääbo, Svante

Behavioural Biology Cognitive Science Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics

In prehistoric times, two distinct groups of hominins inhabited Eurasia: Neanderthals in the west and Denisovans in the east. We sequenced the genome of an approximately 90,000-year-old female individual from Russia and discovered that she had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. This shows that individuals from these two groups occasionally mixed. Together with previous evidence that Neanderthals and Denisovans mixed with early modern humans, this shows that throughout history, humans from different groups have always mixed.

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