Essay / Letters

Best of SAPIENS 2019

From more than 100 outstanding articles that we published this year, SAPIENS’ editorial team selected our top picks that gave us insights into everything human seen through the lens of anthropology.

Sara López Gilabert / SAPIENS

This year SAPIENS published 109 amazing articles, thanks to anthropologists and journalists around the globe. Although the decision gets harder every year, we have endeavored to select our favorites from 2019, listed in the order they were published.

The SAPIENS Editorial Team


A Daughter’s Disability and a Father’s Awakening

Thomas W. Pearson

When an anthropologist’s baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome, he was overwhelmed by emotional upheaval. Then, everything changed.


Is a More Generous Society Possible?

Leah Shaffer

Generosity helps communities manage risk and cope with disasters. New research untangles the factors that lead people to help neighbors in need.


The Truth About “Sustainable” Palm Oil

Sophie Chao

In West Papua, Indonesia, both conventional and “green” palm oil projects dispossess and exclude Indigenous people from their lands.


Why Navajos Love Their Country Music

Kristina Jacobsen

An anthropologist who is also a singer-songwriter explores how Southwestern Native bands shake up the notion of “cowboys and Indians.”


Does Your Microbiome Shape Your Friendships?

Lydia Denworth

Research confirms that who you spend time with is a powerful predictor of the microbes you carry. But these tiny organisms may also influence your social life.


How Hearts Align in a Muslim Ritual

Christopher Manoharan and Dimitris Xygalatas

An important Sufi ritual brings participants together in a shared experience of trance and movement that actually synchronizes their heartbeats.


Why Are People Who Use Illegal Drugs Demonized?

Gideon Lasco

In many parts of the world, people who take illegal substances are punished with harsh prison sentences or executions that are unjustified. Behind this treatment lie prejudices that have a surprising history.


The Knotty Question of When Humans Made the Americas Home

Megan Gannon

A deluge of new findings are challenging long-held scientific narratives of how humans came to North and South America.


Are Mixed-Income Neighborhoods the Best Answer for Public Housing?

Elizabeth Svoboda

An anthropologist documents the social tolls of new mixed-income developments while also acknowledging the gains.


A Head-to-Toe Tour of the Neanderthal

Anna Goldfield

The Neanderthal body has stories to tell about the life and times of our ancient hominin cousins.


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