The Department of Human Evolution investigates human evolution from an integrative point of view, aiming at taking into account the various facets of palaeoanthropology. This approach addresses a variety of biological, behavioural and environmental issues, as different groups of specialists work together to address key questions in the field of hominin evolutionary studies. From their collaborations around the study of a site, a time period or an adaptive issue, often emerge original ideas and new ways to test current hypotheses. Our research groups are composed of human paleontologists, paleolithic archaeologists and specialists in archaeological sciences, who constantly interact in their daily work and confront their results to reach a synthesised view of the broader questions that are of interest to our team.
The department’s involvement in a large number of projects covering wide chronological and geographical ranges has only been possible through the establishment of strong international collaborative links. This is particularly true for our field work. Over the years, we have built up solid relationships with colleagues across Africa, North America, Europe and Asia. Our network of collaborators also includes a number of outstanding scientists who worked in the department at some stage of their career and remain associated researchers after obtaining permanent positions in other institutions across the world. Successful collaborative works also result from interactions with other departments of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and from our very active guest program, which allows us to create new ties with other research groups.
The wealth of methodological tools that became available to us within the department, or via our collaborative networks has allowed us to develop an original way of dealing with the study of paleoanthropological questions. Researchers in the department constantly push methodological boundaries. This includes the development of experimental approaches to deal with issues, such as stone tool technologies or the detection of controlled fire in paleolithic archaeological layers. This has led us to spectacular advances, sometimes resulting in the development of original Ph.D. projects that involve candidates and senior members of the team.