Human Roots Award 2019 

The Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar is the third winner of the HUMAN ROOTS AWARD. The award is presented annually for outstanding research achievements that contribute to the understanding of human behavioural evolution.(photo: Andre Camara).


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MONREPOS honours evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar with international research award

On November 8th, this year's HUMAN ROOTS AWARD will be awarded for the third time by the Archaeological Research Centre and Museum for Human Behavioural Evolution MONREPOS, a department of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz (RGZM), Leibniz Research Institute of Archaeology. This year's winner is Prof. Dr. Robin Dunbar, evolutionary psychologist at Oxford University. The MONREPOS jury justified the choice of Dunbar with his outstanding achievements into understanding human sociality. Dunbar is the author of numerous articles and popular science books.

Along with many other fundamental scientific works, Dunbar's outstanding recognition is that cognitive boundaries for maintaining stable social contacts are set within the human brain. Thus, on average, each person maintains about 150 stable relationships with their fellow human beings – this number is known as the "Dunbar Number". This number exceeds those in the social environment of other vertebrates, yet many problems inherent to large, complex-structured societies may result from this limitation of our social capacities.

The HUMAN ROOTS AWARD honours scientists from various disciplines for their contributions to the understanding of human behavioural evolution. The prize has been awarded by MONREPOS since 2017 and is now regarded as the "small Nobel Prize" in archaeology and the evolution of human behaviour, as Professor Sabine Gaudzinski-Windheuser, head of the MONREPOS research centre, points out. The international research prize is endowed with 10,000 Euros and stands for the promotion of interdisciplinary scientific dialogue. It seeks to build a bridge between the "archaeology of becoming human" and other scientific disciplines in order to link the archaeological view of "becoming human" with the humanistic agenda of "being human". Only in this way is it possible to make "staying human" a sustainable option for our future, as the prize jury of seven scientists emphasizes.

After the death of Irenaeus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, one of the founding fathers of human ethology and patron of the first HUMAN ROOTS AWARD, patronage was taken over in 2018 by the Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins was the first prize winner in 2017; in 2018, Steven Pinker from Harvard University (USA), experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist and linguist, was honoured with the HUMAN ROOTS AWARD.