Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

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Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
View of the MPI from the north
Category: research Institute
Carrier: Max Planck Society
Legal form of the carrier: Registered association
Seat of the wearer: Munich
Facility location: Leipzig
Type of research: Basic research
Subjects: Human science
Areas of expertise: Social sciences , anthropology
Basic funding: Federal government (50%), states (50%)
Management: Richard McElreath (Managing Director)
Employee: 452 (as of end of 2013)

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology ( MPI EVA for short ) is a non-university research institution founded in 1997 under the sponsorship of the Max Planck Society (MPG) and is based in Leipzig . The institute conducts basic research on the history of human evolution.

The institute is located in the immediate vicinity of the German Library , Bio City Leipzig and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology .


The institute aims to investigate the biological and cultural evolution of mankind by means of comparative analyzes of the diversity of genes, cultures, cognitive abilities, languages ​​and social systems of past and present human populations and groups of primates closely related to humans . The combination of these lines of research at an institute to the history, diversity, adaptations and capabilities to new insights kind of man ( Homo sapiens result).


Institute building in Leipzig

The institute is divided into five departments:

Evolutionary genetics

The Evolutionary Genetics department is headed by Svante Pääbo and deals with the question of how the DNA of humans, Neanderthals and great apes has evolved and diversified. For this purpose, the DNA of living people and monkeys is examined, and methods are developed how DNA can be obtained from archaeological finds and analyzed. This includes, among other things, DNA sequencing of the Neanderthal genome .

Human evolution

In the human evolution department headed by Jean-Jacques Hublin , fossil finds are examined in order to gain knowledge about the life of prehistoric people. For this purpose, among other things, 3D animations are used. Of particular interest are the development of brain size and eating habits.


The Primatology department headed by Christophe Boesch deals with the observation of wild apes. Above all, the development and maintenance of social systems, the ability to learn and the reproductive strategies of great apes in comparison to humans are examined. A research group has even identified approaches to “culture” in chimpanzees, that is, behavior patterns that are not genetically determined and not influenced by the environment, but are passed on through imitation.

Human behavior, ecology and culture

This derivative is led by Richard McElreath and deals with cultural aspects of human evolution.

Former departments


The former linguistics department was headed by Bernard Comrie until his retirement at the end of May 2015 and then closed. Here one looked for similarities and differences in human languages, for example through the world atlas of language structures . Among other things, a family tree of languages ​​was developed and compared with trees of descent based on genetic research, for example.

Comparative and Developmental Psychology

The Comparative and Developmental Psychology Department , headed by Michael Tomasello, observed great apes at the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center and examined the cognitive and social abilities of great apes. Two other research focuses were on the emergence of social cognition and language acquisition in children .

International Max Planck Research Schools

The MPI EVA is involved in two International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS): Neuroscience of Communication: Function, Structure, and Plasticity (NeuroCom) (together with the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences , the University of Leipzig and the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London ) and Leipzig School of Human Origins (together with Leipzig University). The spokesman for IMPRS Human Origins is the primatologist Christophe Boesch.


The managing director is Richard McElreath (as of September 2018). At the end of 2017, a total of 444 employees were working at the institute, including 89 scientists and 202 junior and visiting scientists; In addition, there were 78 third-party employees in the reporting year.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b institute management. Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, accessed on September 10, 2018 .

Coordinates: 51 ° 19 ′ 15.8 ″  N , 12 ° 23 ′ 41.5 ″  E