About the Project

Humans are potent niche constructors. This potency derives not, as in other animals, from our biology alone, but from the extraordinary, rich and dynamic cultural scaffolding that is our species’ unique adaptation to life on Earth.

This scaffolding has seen us go from being just another African ape, to being a globally distributed, technologically entangled species, richly networked and socially organized at a planetary scale, with vast cumulative cultural knowledge at our disposal. This evolutionary and historical trajectory has also seen us develop increasing capacities for altering ecosystems, other species and ourselves. Today, in the Anthropocene epoch, we hold the planet’s future in our hands.

Our Online Project

This project aims to reach a broad online audience of researchers, students and the informed public. It will bring together not only scholars across disciplines ranging from archaeology, anthropology and genomics to evolutionary biology, palaeoecology and medicine, but also those at the forefront of engaging with policy makers, media and the public. The series seeks to explore diverse topics surrounding the human niche, including gene-culture coevolution, domestication, ecosystem engineering, disease ecology, urban evolution and the human-technology interface.

Reconceptualising our institute

The project also offers an opportunity to explore a new strategic vision for the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 2021 ushers in a period of significant change for the Institute, which will reorient its research and reframe its fundamental aims over the course of the coming year. The institute will seek Directors to lead new, independent research departments in the coming years.


11feb4:00 pm5:00 pmJens-Christian SvenningJoin in Thursday, Feb 11 at 4pm CET for an online lecture/Q&A with Prof Jens-Christian Svenning titled “Late-Quaternary megafauna extinctions – the onset of human transformation of the biosphere”Register

18feb2:00 pm3:00 pmAndrea ManicaThursday, Feb 18 at 4pm CET for an online lecture/Q&A with Prof Andrea Manica - REGISTRATIONS OPENING SOON

25feb2:00 pm3:00 pmKate JonesJoin in Thursday, Feb 25 at 2pm CET for an online lecture/Q&A with Prof Kate Jones titled “Our Planet, Our Health – Ecosystem approaches to forecasting zoonotic diseases”Register

11mar5:00 pm6:00 pmProf Melinda ZederJoin in Thursday, March 11 at 5pm CET for an online lecture/Q&A with Prof Melinda Zeder titled “Why Evolutionary Biology needs Anthropology: Domestication as a Model System for Evaluating Core Assumptions of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis”Register


Prof Nicole Boivin

Nicole Boivin’s archaeological research is interdisciplinary, and cross-cuts the traditional divide between the natural sciences and humanities.


Download poster