Meet our Speakers
We are excited to announce some of the confirmed speakers. The “Peopling History of Africa” Conference brings together a number of outstanding international researchers active in different fields. Click through the list of speakers to see their profiles and session topics.
Sarah Tishkoff — keynote speaker
Sarah Tishkoff is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor in Genetics and Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, holding appointments in the School of Medicine and the School of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Tishkoff studies genomic and phenotypic variation in ethnically diverse Africans. Her research combines field work, laboratory research, and computational methods to examine African population history and how genetic variation can affect a wide range of practical issues – for example, why humans have different susceptibility to disease, how they metabolize drugs, and how they adapt through evolution. Dr. Tishkoff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of an NIH Pioneer Award, a David and Lucile Packard Career Award, a Burroughs/Wellcome Fund Career Award, and a Penn Integrates Knowledge (PIK) endowed chair. She is a member of the scientific advisory panel at the David and Lucile Packard foundation and is on the editorial boards at PLOS Genetics, Genome Research; Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health; G3 (Genes, Genomes, and Genetics). Her research is supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
Professor Jean-Jacques Hublin is the Director of the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig. He is an honorary Professor at the University of Leipzig and a part-time Professor at Leiden University. He holds the International Chair in Paleoanthropology at the College de France, Paris. He has been a pioneer in the field of virtual paleoanthropology. The origins of Neandertals and Homo sapiens, and most notably, the interactions between the two groups have occupied a central place in his career. He is the founder and President of the European Society for the Study of Human Evolution.
Pontus Skoglund is the group leader of the Francis Crick Institute's Ancient Genomics laboratory. Originally from Sweden, he obtained his PhD in evolutionary genetics from Uppsala University in 2013, and thereafter did his postdoctoral research in David Reich's laboratory at Harvard Medical School's Department of Genetics.
Carina Schlebusch is Associate Professor in Human Evolution at the Department of Organismal Biology - Uppsala University (Sweden). She is the head of a research group that investigates human evolutionary history with a focus on Africa. She received Swedish Research Council and European Research Council starting grants for projects investigating African history from a genetic perspective. Carina was born in South Africa and completed her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Himla Soodyall at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her thesis dealt with the history of southern African population groups and specifically with the population genetics of San and Khoekhoe groups. In 2009, she moved to Uppsala University, where she completed a Wenner Gren fellowship postdoc. After her postdoc, she continued her research at Uppsala University and started her own research group. The Schlebusch group uses genetic research as a tool to investigate African population history and migrations of people within the African continent.
Cristian Capelli’s research focuses on human evolution, with a particular attention to the processes (cultural and historical] that have shaped the distribution of genetic variation across human populations. Current projects address the historical events that led to the peopling of the Mediterranean region and the European continent, and the pattern of migration and admixture in Sub-Sahara Africa.
Head of the Human Genome Diversity Group at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona and Director of the Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (CEXS) at the UPF since 2016. He obtained his PhD in Biology at the University of Barcelona. After predoctoral and postdoctoral stays at the Zoologisches Institut (LMU, Munich), the Anthony Nolan Trust-Royal Free Hospital (London), and the Department of Forensic Medicine (University of Helsinki), studying human population genetics, he established his group at the CEXS-UPF. He is now full professor at the UPF, member of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (CSIC-UPF), from which he was the vice-Director (2014-2016). His research is focused on the analysis of the genome diversity in human populations in order to define and quantify the processes that have modeled the present genomic variation in humans. His research has also been focused on the phenotypic consequences, including disease, of the present variation in humans.
Audrey Sabbagh holds a faculty position as Associate Professor at Paris Descartes University and leads the "Host genetic adaptation" team in the UMR 216 IRD MERIT research unit. She has devoted much of her research interests to the analysis of human genetic variation both from an epidemiological and evolutionary perspective and in terms of disease susceptibility and drug response. She authored 63 research articles in peer-reviewed journals. In 2018 she was nominated as Junior Member of the IUF (Institut Universitaire de France). She is the principal investigator of the multidisciplinary research project BAObAB (Biocultural AdaptatiOn to malaria in Atakora, north Benin) which aims to identify the biological and cultural factors underlying the relative resistance to malaria of the Fulani people.
Professor Alicia Sanchez-Mazas conducts research projects on human populations’ genetic diversity in relation to the peopling history of modern humans worldwide, with a main focus on the genes of the major histocompatibility complex, HLA. During the last years, she extended her research interests to the molecular evolution of these genes in relation to environmental factors and human diseases. She published key papers on African populations' genetic history and co-edited two books (Routledge) on the peopling of East Asia and one special volume (Human Heredity) on the genetic diversity of European populations.
Viktor Černý is senior researcher at the Institute of Archaeology in Prague, Academy of Science of the Czech Republic. His interests lie mainly in the genetic structure of sub-Saharan African populations, the first human settlements of Eurasia, the impacts of subsistence strategies on the genetic profile of human populations as evidenced through the contemporary genetic diversity. He is the author or co-author of some seventy papers in specialised journals in anthropology and archaeology, including international journals in the field of human population genetics. His works show that interdisciplinary collaboration between humanities (archaeology, ethnography, linguistic) and biomedical sciences (genetics, physical anthropology) can bring new insights into our past and present.
The evolution of genetic and genomic diversity in human populations, and its relation to the history of migrations and cultural differentiations – such as the history of languages or the adoption of new subsistence strategies – are Dr Estella Poloni’s central research interests. She investigates such evolutionary imprints in genes involved in interactions between the organism and its chemical and dietary environment, which are potential targets of selective pressures. Such studies involve analyses of diversity patterns in samples of human populations and other primate species, of which the chimpanzees, and include GWAS of pharmacogenetic traits.
Philip van Peer
Philip Van Peer is head of the Prehistoric Archaeology research group at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Throughout his career he has taken an interest in Palaeolithic hunting and gathering populations in both northern Africa and western Europe. His PhD (1988) was on variation in technological systems of the Middle Palaeolithic. Later on, as a postdoctoral research fellow of the Fund for Scientific Research-Flanders and since 2003 as full Professor of Prehistory at University of Leuven, his focus shifted to the economies in which such systems were deployed. This line of research was fed by fieldwork in the Lower Nile Valley and in the Red Sea Mountains of Egypt, in the context of the Belgian Middle Egypt Prehistoric Project. In northern Sudan he has led the excavation of early Middle Stone Age site 8-B-11, as a partner in an international project promoted by Université de Lille III.
Eric Huysecom is Professor of African Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Geneva (UniGE) and Special Advisor to the Rectorate for Africa. His scientific research has focused in particular on the Prehistory of sub-Saharan Africa with a special insight on the emergence of the Neolithic in Africa and the processes of neolithisation, as well as on different fields of historical archaeology like the archaeology of the pre-colonial European settlements in the heart of the continent. Since 1997, he has been coordinating the International and Interdisciplinary Research Programme « Human Population and Paleoenvironment in Africa », that includes a major component devoted to Palaeolithic industries.
Dr Katja Douze’s research aims unveiling past behaviors, and their changes over time, based on lithic industries from the African Palaeolithic. She work more specifically on the Middle Stone Age period (ca. 300ka-20ka] which is known for the emergence of Homo sapiens, their first behavioral developments and their first diffusions within and out of Africa
Savino di Lernia
Prof. Savino di Lernia is an Africanist archaeologist based at Sapienza University of Rome, where he teaches “Prehistoric Ethnography of Africa” and “Ethnoarchaeology”. His main research interests focus on social differentiations within hunter-gatherers’ societies and on the analysis of pathways to complexity among Pastoral Neolithic groups in Northern Africa, with a particular attention to rock art and ritual aspects. His fieldwork activity is mostly concentrated in the Sahara (Libya and Tunisia) where he held more than 35 expeditions. More recently expanded his fieldwork in East Africa, in the region of Lake Turkana (Kenya).
Koen Bostoen is Professor of African Linguistics and Swahili at Ghent University and member of the UGent Centre for Bantu Studies. His research focuses on Bantu languages and interdisciplinary approaches to the African past. He obtained an ERC Starting Grant for the KongoKing project (2012–2016) and an ERC Consolidator’s Grant for the BantuFirst project (2018–2022). Apart from several research articles, he is the author of Des mots et des pots en bantou: une approche linguistique de l’histoire de la céramique en Afrique (2005, Peter Lang) and co-editor of Studies in African Comparative Linguistics, with Special Focus on Bantu and Mande (2005, RMCA), The Kongo Kingdom: The Origins, Dynamics and Cosmopolitan Culture of an African Polity (2018, Cambridge University Press), Une archéologie des provinces septentrionales du royaume Kongo (2018, Archaeopress) and The Bantu Languages, Second Edition (2019, Routledge).
Prof. Dr. Krause focuses on the analysis of ancient DNA to investigate such topics as pathogens from historic and prehistoric epidemics, human genetic history and human evolution. He has also contributed to deciphering Neanderthal genetics and the shared genetic heritage of Neanderthals and modern humans. In 2010, while working at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, he discovered the first genetic evidence of the Denisovans, an extinct hominin first discovered in Siberia. His recent work includes revealing the genetic heritage of ancient Egyptians, reconstructing the first Pleistocene African genomes, uncovering the source of the epidemic plague bacteria that periodically caused historic and prehistoric epidemics in Europe, and clarifying the complex history of Europe’s prehistoric mass migrations. Prof. Dr. Krause has more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including Nature, Science, Cell, Nature Reviews Genetics, PNAS, Nature Microbiology, Nature Communications, etc.
Hiba Babiker is a post-doctoral researcher, and her work focuses on human genetic diversity and patterns of migration inside Africa. Her research couples fieldwork with the collection of genealogical data and biological samples. Her research is currently dedicated to revealing the genetic structure and history of populations across the Bandiagara Escarpment in Central Eastern Mali and populations across South-West Burkina Faso using genome-wide data and uni-parental markers. She is also interested in using recent advancement in aDNA technology to explore past populations' settlements in the region before the Dogon expansion. She is working closely with linguists to generate paired linguistic-genetic data to understand modern-day linguistic and genetic diversity shaped by the demographic histories of the populations.
Anne Mayor is interested in understanding the evolution of techniques, changes in foodways and the peopling history of complex societies in West Africa during the last three millennia. She explores the links between material cultures and identities in the present and the past, through ethno-archaeological and archaeological fieldwork. She is involved in various collaborations for laboratory analysis in the fields of archaeo-material studies (ceramics, iron, glass) and bio-archaeology (archaeo-zoology, archaeo-botany, biological anthropology. She is currently responsible for a research project which aims at understanding population relatedness, mobility patterns, diet variability, diseases and funerary practices in the Dogon Country (Mali), combining data from bio-anthropology, stable isotopes genetics, archaeology and ethnography.
Dr. Nonhlanhla DLAMINI is a biological anthropologist, who obtained her PhD in 2014 from the University of Cape Town. Her interest in developing a more nuanced understanding of African history hopes to foster well-informed connections and comparisons about the many biologically and culturally diverse populations of sub-Saharan Africa. She uses biological tools, mainly stable isotopes and dental anthropology, to investigate and reconstruct past life ways of sub-Saharan Africans before contact. Currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Geneva, her present research focuses on diet variability and economy, diseases, population relatedness, and geographic origins and mobility of past societies in central Mali before and after the arrival of the Dogon.
Scott MacEachern is Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Duke Kunshan University. He has undertaken archaeological research in different parts of Africa since the early 1980s, especially around the Mandara Mountains of northern Cameroon and Nigeria. His primary research interests include state formation processes in Africa, the archaeological study of ethnicity and social boundaries, African cultural heritage management, and archaeogenetics. He is the author of Searching for Boko Haram: a history of violence in Central Africa and co-author of Komé – Kribi: rescue archaeology along the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline, 1999-2004, has acted as co-editor on four edited volumes, and has written approximately 60 papers on different aspects of African prehistory.
Francesco d’Errico is Director of Research (Exceptional Class) at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, attached to the University of Bordeaux, and Professor at the Centre for Early Sapiens Behaviour, University of Bergen. Most of d’Errico research has revolved around the questions of how and when we became humans, what mechanisms and factors have most contributed to this process and, in particular, when did cognitive abilities and cultures comparable to ours have emerged in our lineage. He has explored these topics by discovering and analysing the earliest examples of symbolic material culture in Africa, Europe, the Near East and China. the process of Neandertal extinction, and the impact of climate change on Palaeolithic populations.
Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Saint Louis University in Madrid, Spain, Mary Prendergast’s research addresses human diets and relationships among diet, land use and social organization. This broad topic has enabled her to study eras ranging from the emergence of our genus to historic times, and environments as diverse as eastern African grasslands, subtropical Asian woodlands, and the river valleys of glacial Europe.
University of Geneva / Sciences II
Quai Ernest-Ansermet 30, 1205 Genève