Guest Lectures and Family Programs


Thursday, December 8
6:30 – 8:30 PM
BorgWarner Community Room
From Human Origins to Human Opportunities: Science, Religion and Culture as Essential Decision-making Tools for Turbulent Times
Presented by Eric Clay of Shared Journeys
This interactive seminar explores how to reconcile the strengths of science, culture, and religion. We’ll work on developing the personal communication skills that would reduce rancor in order to benefit both informal public conversations and formal public decision-making. We are sometimes reluctant to face squarely the tension between the human capacity for objectivity and the human reality of subjectivity when striving to exercise good judgment. Unfortunately, this prevents us from successfully addressing serious questions, locally as well as globally, about justice, security, health, food and the environment for the benefit of all humanity.

This program will also be offered on Thursday January 12, 2017

Saturday, December 10
11:00 AM
Borg Warner Community Room
How does Neanderthal DNA impact our human biology today?
aaronAaron Sams, a biological anthropologist and computational biologist and currently a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell, whose research involves understanding patterns of neanderthal ancestry in humans talks about archaic ancestry in humans.  He will cover the various insights that have been gained into human evolution and ancestry from the sequencing of archaic human DNA. This is a non-specialist narrative of the development of this field, ending by discussing the insights into human biology that come from Neanderthal DNA.

Saturday, December 10
2:00 PM
Tools and Human Development: Thinking about People through the Things They Makecornellprof

Frederic Gleach, Curator of the Anthropology Collections at Cornell, will talk about prehistoric stone tools and how archaeologists use them in the effort to better understand the people who made and used them.

Discovery Trail Weekend
December 17 and 18, 2016
Join members of the Discovery Trail as they present programs related to Human Origins and What It Means To Be Human taking place at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, the Sciencenter, The History Center, and the Johnson Museum of Art. For more information about the Discovery Trail visit specifically to help you facilitate your field trip.

Friday January 6yah
5:00 – 8:00 PM
YOU ARE HERE: Exploring Human Evolution opens on First Friday Gallery Opening Night.
Cooperation is a distinguishing feature of our species and is deeply rooted in our evolutionary past. How did humans develop such exceptional forms of cooperation? Why do humans cooperate, and how is it that we do it so well? Learn the answers to these questions through exhibit “You Are Here: Exploring Human Evolution.”

“You Are Here” will present the clues scientists have uncovered about the evolutionary past of modern humans, and will highlight six key trends that have made humans the most cooperative species on the planet. The exhibition will discuss how biology, culture, and environment interact to make us who we are.  Visitors will explore the lives of our hominid ancestors through skulls, stone tools, and other artifacts and specimens, while discovering where humans fit on the evolutionary tree of life.

Thursday January 12
6:30 – 8:30 PM
From Human Origins to Human Opportunities: Science, Religion and Culture as Essential Decision-making Tools for Turbulent Times.
Second session of interactive seminar, led by Eric Clay of Shared Journeys.

Thursday, January 19, 2017
6:00 – 7:30 PM BorgWarner Room
Creating Language: From Milliseconds to Millenia
Morton H. Christiansen, Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Cognitive Science Program at Cornell University, Senior Scientist at the Haskins Labs, and Professor in Child Language at Aarhus University in Denmark, will talk about how we create language through cultural evolution (as originally suggested by Darwin) and how we also create language in the moment, when we talk, as well as over decades when we acquire and update our language skills.

Christiansen is the author of more than 175 scientific papers and has edited four books. His research focuses on the interaction of biological and environmental constraints in the processing, acquisition and evolution of language, using a combination of computational, behavioral, and cognitive neuroscience methods. This research is summarized in his newest book Creating Language: Integrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing from MIT Press. He is a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and delivered the 2009 Nijmegen Lectures.


Saturday, January 28
2:00 PM
Cave men, women, and children: creating a more holistic picture of Stone Age life
A presentation by Professor Kathleen Sterling
The image of the caveman is the well-known representation of our early ancestors. He is strong, primitive, and always a man. The common idea in prehistoric archaeology is that it is easy to see the activities of men, but women and children are harder to find. This notion is even stronger for the Stone Age, where the most abundant and durable artifacts are stone and animal bone, materials typically assumed to have been left behind by adult male hunters. How did we get from these limited remains to this idea? What if we required the same strength of evidence for men’s activities as we do for women’s and children’s? What if we had to clearly link material culture to gendered divisions of labor? In this alternative approach, Sterling will start from the assumption that women were present at archaeological sites and visible through a broad range of material culture, and attempt to argue for the presence of men.  This approach brings to light the cultural biases that we continue to project onto the past despite thirty years of feminist archaeology. Making stronger arguments linking the archaeological record to practices shaped by identity not only leads us to a better understanding of gender in the Paleolithic, it allows for a better understanding of Paleolithic life overall.

Kathleen Sterling is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Binghamton University. She is currently co-director of the Peyre Blanque Archaeological Project in the French Pyrénées, a late Ice-Age site dating to about 18,000 years ago.  Her research interests explore learning and identity in the past through material culture, and the sociopolitics of archaeological practice.

Tuesday February 7 michael
6:00 – 7:30 PM
“Language as a Key to (Pre)history”
Michael Weiss, Professor of Classics and Linguistics at Cornell, will explain how and why languages change and how we can use linguistics to study prehistory and the dispersion of modern humans around the globe.

Weiss is the author of “Outline of the Historical and Comparative Grammar of Latin” and “Language and Ritual in Sabellic Italy” plus articles on the prehistory of Greek, Latin, Old Irish, Sanskrit, Hittite, Germanic, Slavic, and Tocharian.

Darwin Days 2017 February 12—18
Program details to follow

Paleolithic Family Day
Saturday, February 18 
Cayuga Nature Center 
Discover Paleolithic culture through arts and crafts, educational displays, and special presentations suitable for all ages.

10—12:00 PM sebastian
Flintknapping with Professor Sebastien Lacombe (Binghamton University)

12:00—2:00 PM costura
Stone Age butchery and cooking with Associate Professor Maureen Costura (Culinary Institute of America).

2:00 PM Question and Refreshments

Thursday, February 23, 6—7:30 PM
aquadro-chipheadnov2007-200x279A talk on Human Diversity and Evolution
A presentation by Charles Aquadro, Charles A. Alexander Professor of Biological Sciences & Professor of Population Genetics  in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics.


Saturday, February 25, 1 – 2:00 PM
Families Learning Science Together : Traits & Genetics
Children ages 5 and up and their families are invited to a free science program co-hosted by Cornell Center for Materials Research.  Families will learn how traits are inherited from parents and why this leads to genetic variation in offspring.  They will demonstrate how this works by creating their own alien(s) from a set of genetically distinct alien parents and comparing their appearances.

Registration is required. Please email to register. Please give name and age of your child(ren) in the email.