Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 0
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 119
Human Evolution (Hublin)
Evolutionary Genetics (Pääbo)
Developmental and Comparative Psychology (Tomasello)
Plant Foods in Hominin Dietary Ecology (Henry)
Detailed Description of the Institute
The Institute unites scientists with various backgrounds (natural sciences and humanities) whose aim is to investigate the history of humankind from an interdisciplinary perspective with the help of comparative analyses of genes, cultures, cognitive abilities, languages and social systems of past and present human populations as well as those of primates closely related to human beings.
Led by Christophe Boesch, the Department of Primatology observes apes in their natural habitats, and investigates issues related to the evolution of social systems and social behavior, cultural differences and reproductive strategies in apes. The scientists are interested in fundamental cognitive processes like communication, cooperation, conflict solving strategies, social learning in apes and humans.
The Department of Developmental and Comparitive Psychology, led by Michael Tomasello, investigates the behaviors and cognitive abilities of four ape species in the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center. In addition to the research with apes, the Psychology Department is interested in the phenomenon of language acquisition in human children. One main issue is the question how children learn and use cultural acquisitions, social conventions, symbols and other cultural phenomena.
The Department of Linguistics, led by Bernard Comrie, investigates human language, its origin and diversity. The scientists are interested in finding out what properties are common to all human languages and the ways in which languages can differ from each other. To this end, various phenomena across a wide range of languages are studied. Among the questions currently studied is the "family tree" of the world's languages, i.e. the extent to which it can be shown that particular languages (a "language family") descend from a single ancestor, and the principles that underlie the establishment of language families.
Led by Svante Pääbo, the Department of Evolutionary Genetics studies the genetic history of humans, apes and other organisms. The scientists are interested both in the forces that affect the genome directly, such as mutation and recombination, and in the effects of selection and population history.
The Department of Human Evolution, led by Jean-Jacques Hublin, primarily studies fossil hominids and aims at reconstructing their biology, behavior and cultural evolution. The department is interdisciplinary with three areas represented: Palaeoanthropologists, who study fossil material with a special emphasize on the use of 3D imaging to assess phylogenetic reconstructions, brain development and analysis of the growth processes. Archaeological scientists, who undertake biochemical analyses of fossils to study dietary adaptations and migrations, as well as dating the ages of sites and fossils. And, Palaeolithic archaeologists who study the cultural adaptation of hominids to their environment. The three groups are involved in the development of international field projects.