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The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology was founded in 1997. The institute's aim is to investigate the history of humankind with the help of comparative analyses of different 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.

The collaboration of the various departments at one institute is designed to lead to new insights into history, variety and abilities of the human species. The institute unites scientists with various research interests who are concerned with human evolution seen also from an interdisciplinary perspective.

At present, the institute comprises seven departments and six department-independent research groups. (see Research Focus)