The Science of the Human Past

An Invitation to a Symposium on the Scientific Study of the Human Past

December 5, 2008

9 AM-5:30 PM

Broad Institute at MIT-Harvard

Ongoing research in the natural and physical sciences is reconfiguring our understanding of the human past. Advances in human genetics, work on ancient DNA, studies of migration, material cultural remains, and dietary history, computational linguistics and palaeoenvironments are creating new knowledge of both the human present and historical past.

For the first time ever at Harvard University and the Broad Institute, the Symposium brings together a group of leading researchers in the scientific investigation of the human past to present their recent work and to launch a dialogue that bridges the natural and social sciences and the humanities. The Symposium will be a unique opportunity for researchers and students of diverse backgrounds to learn what is being discovered today about the human past in laboratories around the world and to imagine how those discoveries might be pursued in the areas of investigation as diverse as genetics, archaeology, historical migrations, epidemiology, material culture, linguistics, and computer sciences.

Speakers and themes include:

Michael Hammer, University of Arizona Michael McCormick, Harvard University Svante Pääbo, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Leipzig Nick Patterson, Broad Institute Pardis Sabeti, Harvard University Beth Shapiro, Pennsylvania State University Stuart Shieber, Harvard University Mark Thomas, University College, London Noreen Tuross, Harvard University Tandy Warnow, University of Texas at Austin Steve Weiner, Weizmann Institute of Science

Genetic history from genome-wide data; dietary differences among past populations; the destruction of the megafauna; mathematical methods for detecting contact events between linguistic groups and human history; alleles and technological diffusion; atomic disorder and the archaeological record.

Date and location

The Symposium will be held on Friday, December 5, 2008, from 9 AM until 5:30 at the Broad Institute and is open to the public. Registration is required.

The Auditorium, Broad Institute NE30-1154, 7 Cambridge Center Cambridge MA

One block from the Kendall Square/MIT station on the Red Line.

To register go to and scroll down to this event.

A registration fee of $25 in cash or check ($10 for students) will be collected from registered participants at the entrance on December 5. Registration will cover a continental breakfast served from 8 AM, coffee breaks, a box lunch, and the concluding reception for all participants at 5:30 PM.

Sponsored by Harvard University, Office of the Provost, and the Broad Institute

Organized by the Initiative for the Scientific Study of the Human Past, Harvard University Michael McCormick, Nick Patterson, David Reich, Stuart Shieber, Noreen Tuross, Walter Willett