Research Report 2018
New finds of fossils and stone tools from Jebel Irhoud (Morocco) document the origin of our species by about 300,000 years ago in Africa. These fossils are more than 100,000 years older than the previous oldest finds and document important biological and behavioural changes in an early evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens.
Research Report 2017
Like no other medium, language transports meaning in interactions. Recent studies highlight (1) how meaning is constituted through shared social experience in interactions with preverbal infants, (2) that different social contexts can modify the meaning of gestures in the second year of life, and (3) that young children can establish meaning in original ways when encountering cooperative contexts that limit the use of linguistic communication.
Reseach Report 2016
The micronutrient selenium is an essential part of the human diet. As humans migrated out of Africa about 60,000 years ago they came to settle in environments with vastly differing selenium levels. Researchers of the Department of Evolutionary Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have found evidence that human populations who live in regions that provide insufficient dietary selenium show signals of adaptation in the genes that use or regulate selenium.
Research Report 2015
The evolution of the human lineage is tightly linked to the evolution of the brain. To better understand the evolutionary changes in brain development, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology compare the cranial bones of recent modern humans to those of our closest living and fossil relatives.
Research Report 2014
A new comprehensive database on grammatical structures of 76 contact languages provides insight into the origin of these languages, which arose in colonial times, as well as into general laws of the creation of mixed languages. The original languages of the indigenous populations in the colonial areas can be recognized by the clear grammatical traces that they left.
Research Report 2013
The study of similarities and differences in behavior and physiology between humans and great apes allow for a better understanding of human evolution. Researchers of the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig investigate with the help of behavioral observations and the measurement of physiological parameters in the urine of free living apes how competition and cooperation influence the excretion of a number of hormones.
Research Report 2012
One of the most remarkable capacities of human beings is their ability to work together, to solve problems or to create things that no individual could have solved or created on its own. In current studies, researchers look at the early ontogeny of children’s abilities for collaboration and provide evidence that young children have species-unique skills and motivations of shared intentionality, including skills such as forming joint goals and joint attention with others, along with cooperative motives for helping others and sharing with others.
Research Report 2011
More than 90 percent of the human body is made of bacterial cells. Studying genetic variation in bacteria has provided confirmation of insights into human population history from studies of human genetic diversity, and novel insights that go beyond those studies. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have begun characterizing variation in the human saliva microbiome. They aim to understand the factors that influence an individual’s saliva microbiome and to identify particular bacterial species that might be informative for studies of human population history.
Research Report 2010
Due to their mineralized content, teeth are by far the most commonly preserved remains in the human fossil record. The structure of the basic modules of teeth provides clues about the development and diet of humans and their fossil ancestors as well as their relation to the environment. Scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology make use of this biological source of information to find out in which ways modern humans differ from other primates and when and how the fossil ancestors of modern humans passed the threshold to anatomical and cultural modernity.
Research Report 2009
Whenever languages come into contact with each other, lexical borrowing also takes place. Such loanwords can provide interesting information about historical relations. In working out the genealogical relationship of languages across long time periods, however, it is often difficult to decide whether words that sound similar are to be attributed to common ancestry or to the influence of contact. A comparative project of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology for the first time identifies general trends in lexical borrowing across the languages of the world.
Research Report 2008
With the exception of humans, chimpanzees show the most diverse and complex tool using behaviors of all existant species. Primatologists at the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology are using new research methods to study chimpanzee tool use in the dense forests of the Congo Basin. They are discovering complex technological skills among these apes that expand current perceptions of chimpanzee cognition and material culture.
Research Report 2007
A variety of recent studies suggest that apes know what other individuals do and do not see. The results of each study may be explained by postulating some behavioural rule that individuals have learned that does not involve an understanding of seeing. The patchiness of coverage gives this kind of explanation a very ad hoc feeling, especially since there is rarely any concrete evidence that animals actually have had the requisite experiences to learn the behavioural rule – there is just a theoretical possibility. It is thus more plausible to hypothesize that apes really do know what others do and do not see in many circumstances.