Anthropogeny Tracks - Volume 12, Issue 1

Anthropogeny Tracks Cover


"Inside" CARTA's 2024 Winter Newsletter:




Message from CARTA's Co-Directors

CARTA Leadership

We are pleased to share the latest iteration of CARTA’s newsletter, Anthropogeny Tracks.

In this issue, you will find student report excerpts from last year’s Anthropogeny Field Course in Spain (Atapuerca, Altamira, and Santander) and Tanzania (Ngorongoro, Olduvai, Yaeda Valley, Issa Valley, and Mahale National Park). We were fortunate to have a filmmaker, Rea Xenitopoulos, join the trip and produce an amazing visual summary of the field course.

We would also like to share our latest CARTA Summary Report. In it we highlight many achievements by our CARTA members, both honors received and CARTA-inspired publications produced. You will also see feedback from CARTA members on what they value about CARTA and what kind of collaborative work resulted from their engagement with the organization.

Our recent symposium on Body modification: Anatomy, Alteration, and Art in Anthropogeny in February 2024 was virtual and attracted close to 600 viewers from over 36 countries and regions. Humans are the only species to permanently modify their bodies and most societies use a variety of techniques to do so for many different reasons. Many of these forms of body modifications can be considered “heritage practices” but several raise important moral challenges, when they are carried out on young children without their consent.

In our November 2023 symposium, Comparative Anthropogeny and Other Approaches to Human Origins, each speaker addressed a particular feature of humans, and explored if and how this feature is specific to humans. It was our great pleasure that two of our speakers at this symposium, Corinna Most, Ph.D, from Iowa State University, and Andrew Schork, Ph.D., from Copenhagen University Hospital, are graduates from the UCSD Anthropogeny Graduate Specialization program that CARTA administers. This was the first time that we have had alumni from the program participate as speakers at a CARTA symposium and it means a lot to us.

The poster for the November event, created by CARTA’s Jesse Robie, combines the iconic human negative handprint created by spraying ochre over a hand that is held against a rock surface (one of the earliest forms of art made over 30,000 years ago in both Europe and Asia) with the contours of four different ape hands, redrawn from the classic anatomical drawings by Adolph Schultz. This image highlights the diagnostic symbolic dimension of our species. To date, we have no evidence that other primates create negative handprints or read tracks of any kind.

CARTA’s symposium in May 2023 on The Role of Myth in Anthropogeny drew a large audience to the Salk Institute’s Conrad Prebys Auditorium in La Jolla, California, and the live stream had over 400 online viewers from 27 countries. The symposium combined fascinating talks by experts on literature, folklore, anthropology, biology, archeology, journalism, and sociology in the exploration of the importance of storytelling for our species. The talks highlighted not only the central role of storytelling in creating shared understandings for our species, but also the dangers of alluring false stories and myths that many of us anthropogeny researchers fall prey to.

This Anthropogeny Tracks issue also features a collection of “Anthropogeny Raps” by a variety of CARTA-commissioned artists. Each artist produced a rap video on a different anthropogeny related topic: “I’m Human” by Baba Brinkman, includes 27 volunteers from all over the world who say “I’m Human” in different languages. The video was filmed inside Rising Star Cave in South Africa. Other Anthropogeny Raps include “CARTA” by Baba Brinkman, “Language Instinct” by Nathan Dufour, “Grandmother Hypothesis” by Dizzy Senze, “Healthy Hominids” by MC Zeps, and “Caveman to Spaceman” by Mega Ran. The creative process included iterative exchanges between the artists and CARTA. You can watch these videos on YouTube and on our website, where lyrics are linked in each video’s description.

Finally, we would like to call your attention to CARTA’s YouTube playlists, compiled by Anthropogeny Graduate Specialization students as part of their assignment in the Spring 2023 Advanced Anthropogeny seminar. Each list assembles different CARTA talks around a particular topic ranging from Immunity to Tools, Reproduction to Archeology, Genomics to the Human Mind, and from Life History to Human Health.

We hope that you will enjoy this newsletter and very much hope to see you at an upcoming symposium, in person or online.

Pascal Gagneux, CARTA Executive Co-Director
Katerina Semendeferi, CARTA Co-Director
Gerald F. Joyce, CARTA Co-Director


Upcoming Symposia

Join CARTA in 2024 as we continue to explore the origin of humans and the implications for the past, present, and future of our species.

Lucy 50th Anniversary Symposium

Lucy 50th Anniversary Symposium: The Impact of "Lucy" on Human Origins Science (Co-sponsored by CARTA)

Saturday, April 6, 2024
9:00am - 5:00pm, Mountain Time
(Arizona State University and online)


How Humans Came to Construct Their Worlds

How Humans Came to Construct Their Worlds

Friday, October 11, 2024
1:00pm - 5:30pm, Pacific Time
(Salk Institute and online)


Awards & Honors

Member Awards & Honors

The following external awards and honors were received by CARTA Members and shared with us since our last newsletter. You may learn more about each CARTA Member by clicking on their name to view their full CARTA profile.

Berhane Asfaw

Berhane Asfaw, National Museum of Ethiopia

voted one of the 100 Most Reputable Africans of 2024 by Reputation Poll


Sarah B. Hrdy

Sarah B. Hrdy, Professor Emerita, University of California, Davis

received the 2023 Bowlby-Ainsworth Award from the Center for Mental Health Promotion & New York Attachment Consortium


Daniel Geschwind

Daniel Geschwind, University of California, Los Angeles

awarded the 2022 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health by the National Academy of Medicine and the 2022 American Academy of Neurology Cotzias Lecture and Award
Alice Gorman

Alice Gorman, Flinders University

named as an "Innovator" in The Explorers Club 50 for 2024: Fifty people changing the world, that the world needs to know about


Mark Moffett

Mark Moffett, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

received a Templeton Grant for "The Life And Death Of Societies: Investigating The Societies Of Animals To Understand Our Own"


Terrance Sejnowski

Terrance Sejnowski, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

named 2024 Scientist of the Year by the ARCS Foundation of San Diego


Chris Stringer

Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum, London

awarded the 2023 Huxley Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI)


Caren Walker

Caren Walker, UC San Diego

received the 2024 Boyd McCandless Award for contributions to developmental psychology


Bernard Wood

Bernard Wood, George Washington University

received the Royal Anthropological Institute's President's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2023


Graduate Fellowships

Each year, it is CARTA's great pleasure to announce the awarding of the Annette Merle-Smith Fellowships and the CARTA Fellowships in Anthropogeny. A pall fell over last year’s celebration with the passing of CARTA Major Sponsor Mrs. Annette C. Merle-Smith. So we offer a belated congratulations to all our 2023-24 scholars and thanks to our generous sponsors, and especially Annette, who have made their studies possible! You may learn more about each student by clicking on their name to view their full CARTA profile.

Read more about the history of these Fellowship Programs and browse our past awardees. We invite you to learn more about UC San Diego's one-of-a-kind trans-disciplinary Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny.

2023-2024 Annette Merle-Smith Fellows

Nicholas Nelson

Nicholas Nelson

Biological Sciences

Hande Sever

Hande Sever

Visual Arts


2023-2024 CARTA Fellows

Julia Gorman

Julia Gorman


Sheila Steiner

Sheila Steiner




Katie Van Alstyne

Katie Van Alstyne


James Yu

James Yu

Biomedical Sciences




CARTA-Inspired Publications

A selection of 2023 CARTA-inspired publications submitted by CARTA Members, which acknowledge CARTA's role in contributing to the research described. CARTA members are listed in bold.

Kuderna, LFK, Gao, H, Janiak, MC, Kuhlwilm, M, Orkin, JD, Bataillon, T, Manu, S, Valenzuela, A, Bergman, J, Rousselle, M, Silva, FEnnes, Agueda, L, Blanc, J, Gut, M, de Vries, D, Goodhead, I, R Harris, A, Raveendran, M, Jensen, A, Chuma, IS, Horvath, JE, Hvilsom, C, Juan, D, Frandsen, P, Schraiber, JG, de Melo, FR, Bertuol, F, Byrne, H, Sampaio, I, Farias, I, et al. A global catalog of whole-genome diversity from 233 primate species. Science. 2023;380(6648):906-913.
Ragsdale, AP, Weaver, TD, Atkinson, EG, Hoal, EG, Möller, M, Henn, BM, Gravel, S. A weakly structured stem for human origins in Africa. Nature. 2023.
Barteri, F, Valenzuela, A, Farré, X, de Juan, D, Muntané, G, Esteve-Altava, B, Navarro, A. CAAStools: a toolbox to identify and test Convergent Amino Acid Substitutions. Bioinformatics. 2023;39(10).
Morimura, N, Hirata, S, Matsuzawa, T. Challenging Cognitive Enrichment: Examples from Caring for the Chimpanzees in the Kumamoto Sanctuary, Japan and Bossou, Guinea. In: Robinson, LM, Weiss, A, eds. Nonhuman Primate Welfare: From History, Science, and Ethics to Practice. Cham: Springer International Publishing. 2023, p.501–528.
Hrdy, SB. Entries on Time Travel, Driving Factors, Religion and Spirituality etc. In: Almécija, S, eds. Humans: Perspectives on Our Evolution from World Experts. Columbia University Press. 2023, p.317-326.
Moussaoui, B, Overcashier, SL, Kohn, GM, Araya-Salas, M, Wright, TF. Evidence for maintenance of key components of vocal learning in ageing budgerigars despite diminished affiliative social interaction. Proc Biol Sci. 2023;290(2000):20230365.
Christmas, MJ, Kaplow, IM, Genereux, DP, Dong, MX, Hughes, GM, Li, X, Sullivan, PF, Hindle, AG, Andrews, G, Armstrong, JC, Bianchi, M, Breit, AM, Diekhans, M, Fanter, C, Foley, NM, Goodman, DB, Goodman, L, Keough, KC, Kirilenko, B, Kowalczyk, A, Lawless, C, Lind, AL, Meadows, JRS, Moreira, LR, Redlich, RW, Ryan, L, Swofford, R, Valenzuela, A, Wagner, F, Wallerman, O, et al. Evolutionary constraint and innovation across hundreds of placental mammals. Science. 2023;380(6643):eabn3943.
Pagkrati, I, Duke, JL, Mbunwe, E, Mosbruger, TL, Ferriola, D, Wasserman, J, Dinou, A, Tairis, N, Damianos, G, Kotsopoulou, I, Papaioannou, J, Giannopoulos, D, Beggs, W, Nyambo, T, Mpoloka, SW, Mokone, GG, Njamnshi, AK, Fokunang, C, Woldemeskel, D, Belay, G, Maiers, M, Tishkoff, SA, Monos, DS. Genomic characterization of HLA class I and class II genes in ethnically diverse sub-Saharan African populations: A report on novel HLA alleles. HLA. 2023;102(2):192-205.
Davidson, I. Humans Making History through Continuities and Discontinuities in Art. Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 2023;33:637–654.
Rathmann, H, Perretti, S, Porcu, V, Hanihara, T, G Scott, R, Irish, JD, Reyes-Centeno, H, Ghirotto, S, Harvati, K. Inferring human neutral genetic variation from craniodental phenotypes. PNAS Nexus. 2023;2(7):pgad217.
Caglayan, E, Ayhan, F, Liu, Y, Vollmer, RM, Oh, E, Sherwood, CC, Preuss, TM, Yi, SV, Konopka, G. Molecular features driving cellular complexity of human brain evolution. Nature. 2023;620(7972):145-153.
Ruebens, K, Smith, GM, Fewlass, H, Sinet-Mathiot, V, Hublin, J, Welker, F. Neanderthal subsistence, taphonomy and chronology at Salzgitter-Lebenstedt (Germany): a multifaceted analysis of morphologically unidentifiable bone. Journal of Quaternary Science. 2023;38:471-487.
Achorn, A, Lindshield, S, Ndiaye, PIbnou, Winking, J, Pruetz, JD. Reciprocity and beyond: Explaining meat transfers in savanna-dwelling chimpanzees at Fongoli, Senegal. Am J Biol Anthropol. 2023;182(2):224-236.
Burke, H, Wallis, LA, Hadnutt, N, Davidson, I, Ellwood, G, Sullivan, L. The difficult, divisive and disruptive heritage of the Queensland Native Mounted Police. Memory Studies. 2023, p.17506980231170353.
Gao, H, Hamp, T, Ede, J, Schraiber, JG, McRae, J, Singer-Berk, M, Yang, Y, Dietrich, ASD, Fiziev, PP, Kuderna, LFK, Sundaram, L, Wu, Y, Adhikari, A, Field, Y, Chen, C, Batzoglou, S, Aguet, F, Lemire, G, Reimers, R, Balick, D, Janiak, MC, Kuhlwilm, M, Orkin, JD, Manu, S, Valenzuela, A, Bergman, J, Rousselle, M, Silva, FEnnes, Agueda, L, Blanc, J, et al. The landscape of tolerated genetic variation in humans and primates. Science. 2023;380(6648):eabn8153.
Wei, X, Robles, CR, Pazokitoroudi, A, Ganna, A, Gusev, A, Durvasula, A, Gazal, S, Loh, P, Reich, D, Sankararaman, S. The lingering effects of Neanderthal introgression on human complex traits. Elife. 2023;12.
Thompson, JC, Bertacchi, A, Keller, HM, Hallett, EY, Pobiner, B. The Zooarchaeology of Pleistocene Africa. In: Beyin, A, Wright, DK, Wilkins, J, Olszewski, DI, eds. Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa : Hominin behavior, geography, and chronology. Cham: Springer International Publishing. 2023, p.1955–2087.
Bogin, B. What makes people grow? Love and hope. J Physiol Anthropol. 2023;42(1):13.


Member Media

Below is a selection of media stories from our CARTA members:


Recent Symposia

If you missed any of CARTA’s recent symposia, or would like to enjoy them again, you will find them permanently archived on multiple online sites, including CARTA, UCSD-TV, iTunes, and YouTube. These recordings contain high-quality closed captions to enhance your viewing experience. Closed captions this year were made possible through the generosity of CARTA Patrons Ingrid Benirschke-Perkins and Gordon Perkins, who are viewers like you. If you are interested in sponsoring or otherwise contributing to a future CARTA symposium, please visit our support page.


CARTA’s Videos Get New Look

As you’ve enjoyed watching our most recent CARTA symposia over YouTube, you may have noticed some changes. Humans are constantly evolving and so is the UCTV audience and their habits. To adapt to this viewing landscape, you’ll see striking thumbnail images and a brief, complementary title (with the original title above the program description and right below the actual video).

UCSD-TV Producer Natalie Walsh explains, “we changed our strategy for the thumbnail images and titles last fall [2023] because…the thumbnail image/title is the most important chance to grab someone's attention (and click on the video...and stay to watch it)!"

This new format seems to be working, catapulting CARTA Executive Co-Director Pascal Gagneux’s Fall 2023 talk, “Did humans evolve covert ovulation?”, which became “Why did humans evolve concealed ovulation???” to 201,000 views and counting!

See how the new format grabs you from the November 2023 event "Comparative Anthropogeny and Other Approaches to Human Origins":

CARTA Member & UC San Diego Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny Alum Andrew Schork PhD ’16: "How special are our Neanderthal genes? A look at archaic introgression." became “How special are our Neanderthal genes?

CARTA Member & UC San Diego Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny Alum Corinna Most PhD ‘18: "The evolution of shorter inter-birth intervals in humans" became “Human Birth Spacing



Anthropogeny Raps

Below you will find a collection of six bespoke music videos created by 2016 CARTA symposium performer, award-winning rap artist, and playwright, Baba Brinkman, especially to celebrate the CARTA Leadership Transition on July 1, 2022.

CARTA Music Video

Baba Brinkman tells the story of the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (lyrics)
June 14, 2022

Grandmother Hypothesis

Dizzy Senze raps about The Grandmother Hypothesis, which links human grandparental care and the evolution of big brains (lyrics)
November 22, 2022

The Language Instinct

Is Language Innate? Nathan Dufour Oglesby raps about "The Language Instinct" - title drawn from a book by Steven Pinker (lyrics)
November 30, 2022

I'm Human

Baba Brinkman unpacks some of the findings and also some of the unanswered questions in the field of "Anthropogeny" (lyrics)
April 7, 2023

Healthy Hominids

Healthy Hominids is a music video collaboration with MC ZEPS (lyrics)
April 12, 2023

Cavemen to Spacemen

Cavemen to Spacemen is a music video collaboration with Mega Ran (lyrics)
June 28, 2023



Anthropogeny Specialization Track Highlights

The Graduate Specialization in Anthropogeny provides graduate students from within a variety of participating UC San Diego PhD programs the opportunity to obtain a parenthetical degree in research and education on explaining the human phenomenon. The goal is to provide a broad and explicitly transdisciplinary approach spanning the social and natural sciences by focusing on the origins of humans and humanity.

The Anthropogeny Field Course exposes Specialization students to the major approaches to studying the origins of our species: 1) Archeological practice and fossil evidence; 2) Comparative biology of living non-human primates; and 3) Ethnography of modern foraging societies. Participants derive a better understanding and appreciation for human origins by experiencing, firsthand, the ecology that shaped our evolution.

Immerse yourself in the following sampling of experiences from the 2023 Anthropogeny Field Course:

2023 Anthropogeny Field Course Video

During the most recent field season, Rea Xenitopoulos, an intrepid filmmaker trained at San Diego State University (BS in Film Production & BA in Sustainability, ‘23), joined CARTA specialization participants to capture and document this enriching experience, offering an opportunity for all to share the journey.


Rea Xenitopoulos

Rea Xenitopoulos in the field

Student 2023 Anthropogeny Field Course Reflection

Time Domains of Anthropogeny Seen Through the Field

written by James Yu, Anthropogeny Specialization Track Graduate Student (UC San Diego Department of Biomedical Sciences). Excerpted by CARTA staff.

James Yu

James Yu

Rea Xenitopoulos

2023 Anthropogeny Field Course Group at Ngorogoro Crater

Student YouTube Playlists

Have you ever wished that you could mix CARTA symposia up a bit to suit a particular interest across time and events? The Anthropogeny Graduate Specialization students have curated for you a myriad of YouTube playlists on topics as diverse as “Tools” to “The Social Human Brain” to “Human Evolution and Health.” Dive in!


In Memoriam

CARTA mourns the passing of our friends and colleagues, especially:

Christophe Boesch

Christophe Boesch
CARTA Member


Roger Guillemin

Roger Guillemin
CARTA Member


Sally McBrearty

Sally McBrearty
CARTA Member


Annette Merle-Smith

Annette C. Merle-Smith
CARTA Major Sponsor



New Calendar & Zoom Backgrounds

At the close of each year (while supplies last), generous donors who contribute over $100 to CARTA are eligible to receive our full-color, annual CARTA calendar. Although this year's promotion has concluded, you can continue to champion our mission by delving into CARTA's supporter information. While we anticipate the release of our next calendar, please enjoy a complimentary digital version of the 2024 calendar, available for free download. Your ongoing support fuels our exploration of the human story.


As CARTA's gift to you, Program Coordinator, Jesse Robie, has crafted virtual backgrounds from his beautiful photographs taken during the 2023 CARTA field course. You can download these images for FREE!

CARTA Zoom Backgrounds


Support CARTA

Join the CARTA community on an exhilarating journey to uncover the mysteries of humanity! At CARTA, our mission is to explore and explain the origins of the human phenomenon, and we're inviting you to be part of this incredible adventure.

Whether you're a curious thinker, a dedicated student, or a seasoned academic, CARTA brings us all together – bridging the gap between scientists, philosophers, educators, and seekers of knowledge worldwide. With access to our engaging UCSD-TV broadcasts and a treasure trove of archived videos across various platforms, you're invited to join the ever-growing CARTA family.

Your support is vital in keeping the spirit of discovery alive. By making a one-time or recurring donation of $20, $35, $50, or more, you're helping us ensure that CARTA's symposia remain freely accessible to everyone, both in-person and online. Together, we can uphold this invaluable free-flow of information that explores the essence of what it means to be human.

Ready to make a difference? Reach out to our Community Engagement and Advancement Director, Lindsay Hunter, at 858-246-0846 or via email at, to discover how you can play a part in advancing CARTA's mission.

Click the button below to begin your 100% tax-deductible donation:


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