Workshop: The reconstruction of human history through an interdisciplinary approach

The methods used for the reconstruction of human history have dramatically changed in the last decades. New and affordable technologies for data collection and collaborative, open-access databases improve the availability of genetic, linguistic and geographic information. This has led to an increasing demand for analytical methodology to process and interpret these diverse datasets. Various research fields, such as linguistics, human biology, geography, archaeology, have not traditionally interacted much in the past, leading to a fractured science, with limited knowledge within each discipline.

Aim of the workshop and target group

This three-day workshop aims to promote the close collaboration between different research fields by showcasing the results such collaboration can generate, by creating a workframe that enhances the integration of students and researchers, and by bringing together young researchers from these various disciplines and facilitate networking and exchange of knowledge. As part of this aim, we want to promote the multidisciplinary aspects of human history in a way also accessible to undergraduate students, and give scope for established and young researchers in the interdisciplinary field of human history to present and discuss their research.

The University of Zürich is engaged in interdisciplinary research on human history in multiple projects, e.g.
Out of Asia Sinergia Project
NCCR Evolving Language
Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Language Evolution 

In this context there are a broad range of opportunities to present research and hear about research in other disciplines in meetings and workshops. However, the interdisciplinary work has also shown that the different backgrounds can make it hard to understand the foundations and to comprehend the relevance and possibly limitations of the research others are presenting. In this workshop we want to draw from the existing expertise here in Zürich and additional inputs from invited experts to establish this common foundation and to spark further interest in the different areas and projects. As such, the workshop is aimed at young researchers and undergraduates of UZH, but young researchers from other institutes are invited to register with the organizers, subject to available spaces.

Time frame: Monday, August 30 to Wednesday, September 1, 2021

The workshop will take place from Monday 30th of August to Wednesday 1st of September 2021 at the Irchel campus of the University of Zurich. As a networking opportunity, the option to meet face-to-face is an important aspect of the workshop. As such, we are following the current developments closely. We will provide COVID antigen tests for each participant to ensure a safe workshop for everyone.

Location: University of Zurich, Irchel Campus Y03-G-95

Invited talks

Every talk will include a discussion that highlights the importance of the interdisciplinary approach to their research questions. Talks will be followed by a moderated discussion session, where we try to promote feedback and questions from the different fields.

Workshop program


Monday 30th August 2021
09:00-09:30 Opening Remarks


Nico Neureiter, UZH, "Bayesian phylolinguistics and a model for horizontal transfer"

Dr. Gereon A. Kaiping, UZH, "Models all the way down: In which I try to simulate the population of the Americas"

10:45-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:00 Epifanía Arango Isaza, UZH, “Revealing the ancient genetic history of Central Chile and Mapuche People”.
12:00-13:30 Lunch break

Nicola Rambaldi Migliore, University of Pavia, “Unveiling the genetic history of Indigenous Americans: Archaegenomic distinctiveness of the Isthmo-Colombian area”.

Rodrigo Barquera, MPI-EVA Leipzig, “Crossroads: A conversation among disciplines”.


Coffee break


Discussion session


Tuesday 31th August 2021


Alexandros Sotiropoulos, UZH, "Global genomic analyses of wheat powdery
mildew reveal historical co-migration with humans".

Dr. Sergio Latorre, University College London, “Genetic history of the rice blast fungus”.

10:45-11:15 Coffee break
11:15-12:00 Cecilia Padilla, UZH, “Connectivity and isolation among African huntergatherers”.
12:00-13:30 Lunch break
13:30-14:45 Leonardo Iasi, MPI-EVA Leipzig, “Reconstructing modern and archaic human prehistory and interaction through time by combining paleoanthropology, molecular biology and population genetics”.
Laura Viñas Caron, GLOBE Institute, University of Copenhagen, “Recovering
DNA and proteins from ancient books to explore livestock management and craft in the past”


Coffee break
15:15-16:00 Dr. Chiara Barbieri, UZH, "Mobility vs continuity: confronting stories and
perspectives from the genetic record".


Discussion session


Wednesday 1st September 2021


Dr. Hedvig Skirgård, MPI-EVA Leipzig, “Modelling the spread and splitting of
communities over water”.
Dr. Limor Raviv, University of Brussels, "Studying Language Evolution in the
10:45-11:00 Coffee break
11:00-12:00 Felipe Castelblanco, FHNW Academy of Art and Design Basel and University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz, "Caminando Con Los Conocimientos (Walking with the Knowledges) Participatory Media as a tool for bio-cultural peacebuilding in the Colombian Pan-Amazon Region".
12:00-13:30 Lunch break
13:30-15:00 Discussion and concluding remarks
15:00-19:00 Apero + Social Activity


The workshop is open for registration and we especially welcome early career researchers. To register please e-mail us at Please include a short description of your research or degree and briefly explain why you would like to participate in the workshop.