A person with short gray hair wearing a blue shirt holds a black camera up to their face and points it at a figure that looks like a hairy unclothed person with one hand on their lap and the other on its chin.

What’s Behind the Evolution of Neanderthal Portraits

Since the 1800s, Neanderthal depictions have evolved not only with changing science but also due to social views. An archaeologist explains why visualizations of our evolutionary cousins matter.
In a wooden structure without walls, three people wearing loincloths and no shirts, and two individuals wearing T-shirts surround and point to spots on a large tan and green map.

Finding Footprints Laid at the Dawn of Time

In the Brazilian Amazon, a university-trained archaeologist and Wajãpi Indigenous people understand traces from the past differently—but their partnership bears fruit for both.
Shot from above, a close-up photograph features a cluster of flowers with white petals and yellow centers with green blades of grass growing out of a rough, rocky plot of brown soil.

Expert Witness Reviews Exhibits for Asylum Proceedings, Franco-González Class Member

A poet-anthropologist who has been an expert witness in asylum proceedings for Mexican nationals resists dehumanizing legal and political language to make space for the humanity of asylum-seekers.
Taken from an upward angle, a photograph features a shirtless person wearing a red, blue, yellow, and black feathered headdress, colorful bracelet, and several beaded necklaces. They are holding a yellow and green flag.

Reading the Future of an Amazonian Mine

In Ecuador, Shuar people, an Indigenous group in the region, face increasing threats to their ways of life from industrial mining. But some find strength and courage to resist through knowledge gained by using hallucinogenic plants.
On a wood-paneled floor, four barefoot people wearing different outfits in shades of red, yellow, and blue dance in front of a gray wall. Captured in motion, and therefore blurry, each has several of their dance moves overlapping and visible at once.

Making Anthropological Poetry Reel

In featuring three SAPIENS poems, students in a digital anthropology seminar infused video reels for Instagram with vivid history and powerful emotions.
On the left, smoke billows out from the top of several large smokestacks on a long sandy shore that a few people are walking along. On the right, over dark blue water, an orange sunset illuminates a pier in the distance.

Between the Lines

A poet-anthropologist in Israel looks to his students and their surroundings, calling for “seekers of peace” to create lifelines across social and geopolitical divides.
Perched on dirt ground beside fallen leaves and a log, a tan and black monkey raises a beige stone in its right hand while looking down at a small black object placed on a rock in front of it.

Tools of the Wild: Unveiling the Crafty Side of Nature

Once considered a uniquely human activity, tool use has been spotted across diverse species. It’s time to rethink what tools reveal about their users’ intelligence and evolution.
A computer-rendered graphic shows a rocky hill with sparse greenery at its base against a dark blue, starry sky.

Taking Cultural Preservation to a New Dimension

A multidisciplinary team of researchers explains historical, cultural, and ethical issues they considered while developing a 3D scan of a South African site to be shared with the world online.
Between tall wooden walls, a child peers over a short wooden door. A pitch-black background is behind her.

A Mausoleum of Our Everydays/Nai nsang negu herouki

A humanities and social science doctoral student from Manipur, India, takes readers on a journey through ordinary moments interwoven with violence.
In a dark and rainy forest, a large Tyrannosaurus rex stares into a green car with its headlights on. The car has a yellow and black graphic on its hood with text that reads, “Jurassic Park.”

Celebrity Status Almost Ruined Ancient DNA Research

An evolutionary anthropologist draws lessons from paleogenetic’s journey from Jurassic Park fiction to Nobel Prize reality.
A crowd of adults and children wearing T-shirts, flip-flops, and denim shorts or sarongs looks at a water tap with the word “Italy” stamped on its side and a giant silver lock on it.

Strange Future

A Nigerian eco-activist and poet wonders what future lies ahead in the face of climate change impacts and resistance to large-scale emission reductions.
A large, brown sculpture depicts a cluster of people looking outward, one cradling a child in their arms. A village and blue sky are visible in a distant horizon.

Poems of Witness and Possibility: Inside Zones of Conflict

Anthropological poems from around the globe speak to people’s creative will, resistance, and resilience—and the significance of our shared humanity.
Surrounded by an otherwise occupied crowd, a person wearing a white cap and shirt uses gloved hands to work with the finger of a person seated beside them. The second person wears a red-orange dress and holds a baby while a slightly older child stands beside them, looking at the viewer.

Gene Therapy’s Promise Meets Nigeria’s Sickle Cell Reality

Breakthrough treatments can now cure sickle cell anemia in the U.S. But the pricey therapies will hardly help in Nigeria, where social changes could do more for millions impacted by the disease.
A person with short gray hair wearing a pink, long-sleeved shirt and black pants hits a small swinging punching bag.

Taking on Parkinson’s Disease—With Boxing Gloves and Punching Bags

In a California gym, people living with Parkinson’s practice noncontact boxing to redefine their experience of the disease and maintain a sense of self.
arias personas se agolpan en la amplia sala de la exposición de un museo. Unas estatuas de color beige que representan partes de cuerpos humanos en pose se alinean en las paredes laterales de la sala.

Cómo desaparecen objetos de los museos

Tras los presuntos robos en el Museo Británico, una conservadora de museos explica los desafíos de llevar el registro de las colecciones —y las limitaciones legales para devolver material cultural a las comunidades de origen—.
In sepia tones, a slightly blurry image features two people wearing head coverings and tunics seated against a blank wall. The one on the left holds up a piece of paper with a person’s face printed on it.

Earlier I Had Nightmares, Now I Have Insomnia

A Kashmiri poet-anthropologist records the restless despair many feel under Indian occupation.
A zoomed-out photograph shows a large green, grassy field with several football pitches in front of a line of trees. The trees separate the field from a large cityscape in the background.

Tackling the Wreckage of War

An archaeologist traces how rubble from World War II bombings helped turn London marshlands into a footballing utopia.
Three people stand on a grassy field holding signs with pictures of young people’s faces pasted on them. Also on the signs, in colorful text, are two phrases: “Invest in Us” and “End the War on Drugs” with the word “Drugs” crossed out and the word “Blacks” added before it.

How Racism Shapes the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

Public health officials say opioid use and related deaths have reached a crisis point in the U.S. An interview with anthropologist and psychiatrist Helena Hansen unpacks the racial disparities in how drug addiction is interpreted, portrayed, and treated.
Photographed from behind, two children wearing flip-flops hold hands and walk on a dirt trail between rows of tall trees. The taller child wears a skirt, and the other wears capris and a polo shirt.

A Long Road Ahead

SAPIENS’ 2023 poet-in-residence questions where peace of mind can come from for Indian-occupied Kashmir.
On a paved city street fenced off and lined with people, three people wearing colorful clothing stand and hold signs. These read: “Monogamy is not for everyone,” “I love my girlfriend’s boyfriend,” and “Sharing is Caring.”

What Is “Natural” for Human Sexual Relationships?

A biological and anthropological researcher explains how humans' diverse ways of mating might have evolved.
A computer-rendered graphic depicts a group of people in torn clothes and furs with black smudges on their faces and bodies. They gather in front of a rock overhang, with one sitting in front and poking at a pile of wood near which are dangling pieces of meat.

Dismantling the “Man the Hunter” Myth

Two biological anthropologists analyze archaeological and physiological evidence to debunk enduring assumptions about the gendered division of labor in ancient times.
With human figures painted as dark silhouettes, a large mural depicts a soldier wearing a helmet and large backpack reaching toward two children holding flags with orange, white, and green horizontal stripes. They stand against a bright yellow, orange, and red background with three black helicopters—one displaying the same flag—flying overhead.

This Militarization

A poet-anthropologist conveys her life when she was coming of age under the increasing mobilization of military forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
Taken through a wire fence, a photo shows a few people passing by a yellow building with several works of graffiti written on its wall and piles of square stone blocks in front of it.

Documenting the Kashmir Conflict Through Poetry

SAPIENS’ 2023 poet-in-residence sketches the history she speaks to in three poems from Indian-occupied Kashmir.
A person wearing a sleeveless shirt with a white paper attached that reads “Assefa” holds up a white sneaker with three black stripes in front of a blue structure with a digital time clock on it.

Why Shoes Do Not Make the Runner

East African runners wearing “super shoes” have outpaced global marathon records. But the shoe fervor—alongside older stereotypes about African runners’ “natural” abilities—means athletes’ hard work often gets sidelined.
A crowd watches a parade float shaped like a building with rainbow-colored windows and a heart made of rainbow handprints. Text reads, “justice community equality” and words on a blue roof read, “United Church of Christ, UCC.org/lgbt.” A small sign propped up against the float reads, “Amen. Advocate for Marriage Equality.”

Being LGBTQ+ in U.S. Protestant Churches

As homophobic and transphobic rhetoric sweeps the U.S., some churches are increasingly welcoming LGBTQ+ parishioners who participate in religious life and help reconcile Christianity with a spectrum of sexual and gender identities.
In a building’s large, carpeted atrium, several people in button-down shirts, khakis, and slacks lie on the floor. People on the perimeter hold up two signs, one that reads, “No Business as Usual While Canada Funds Genocide” and another that says, “Ceasefire Now!”

Anthropologists on Palestine

Amid the war on Gaza and long before, anthropologists have been speaking out against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Here’s a curated list of their perspectives as scholars and activists.
A photograph looks down a gray gravel road with two yellow lines down its center. The road cuts through a dark forest of tall, green, leafy trees with a single ray of sunshine getting through the forest’s canopy.

Best of SAPIENS 2023

In another year of exceptional challenges and hardships, anthropologists tackled a range of issues and questions about what it means to be human. Here are some of SAPIENS’ best from this year.
Several people crowd into the wide room of a museum exhibit. Beige statues depicting parts of posed human bodies line the side walls of the room.

How Museum Items Go Missing

After alleged thefts from the British Museum, a curator explains the challenges of keeping track of collections—and the legal limitations on returning cultural material to source communities.
A blue underwater scene features a scuba diver in a black wetsuit with a silver oxygen tank on their back. They point a light at a shipwreck of broken, moss-covered wooden beams.

Treasure Hunters Pose Problems for Archaeologists

Two scholars discuss the challenges of accurately studying underwater archaeological heritage—among them, unauthorized acquisitions.
Under an arched ceiling, a person wearing a white headwrap and T-shirt nestles a pencil in the palm of their hand while drawing with charcoal on a large white canvas. The scene they are sketching depicts a building and public square flanked by flowering trees.

The Vibrant Worlds of Batuan Paintings in Bali

A new multimedia project connects the development of a Balinese regional painting style with anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, who began commissioning art in the region in the 1930s.
A small mammal with brown fur sits on a grassy field with few blades of grass sticking out of its mouth.

Ancient Pollen Is Hiding in a Surprising Place

A paleoecologist explains what pollen in fossilized mammal urine can reveal about past ecosystems and environmental change.
In a brick-covered public square surrounded by buildings, a metal statue features two people with flattened fronts and their hands extended sideways facing each other. They stand on opposite sides of a gap in the rounded brick hill they are built on.

Dismantling the Walls in Our Heads

The Berlin Wall fell more than three decades ago—but political, social, and economic divides between East and West Germany continue to reverberate, even among those born after Reunification.