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Origin Stories

63 EpisodesProduced by The Leakey FoundationWebsite

This award-winning show combines science and narrative to explore our human story and explain why we are the way we are. Listen and explore human evolution one story at a time.

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Episode 58: Biruté Mary Galdikas - 50 Years with Orangutans

November 9th, 2021

33:48

As a young girl, Biruté Mary Galdikas dreamed of going to the forests of Southeast Asia to study the least-known of all the great apes, the elusive …

Entre Chien et Loup: How Dogs Began

October 5th, 2021

54:02

Scientists agree that dogs evolved from wolves, but exactly how and when that happened is hotly contested. In this episode, Origin Stories …

Bonus Episode: Short and Sweat

September 29th, 2021

17:30

Learn about the evolution of our extraordinary ability to cool ourselves down. Biological anthropologist Andrew Best discusses the past, present, and …

Episode 55: Monkeys Get Creative

July 7th, 2021

22:40

Producer and scientist Kevin McLean travels to an island off the coast of Panama where researchers have found an isolated group of monkeys with a …

Episode 54: The Obstetrical Dilemma

June 4th, 2021

34:42

The widely-held idea known as the “obstetrical dilemma” is a hypothesis that explains why babies are so helpless, and why childbirth is so difficult …

Episode 53: Sleep and the Moon

May 7th, 2021

28:27

Sleep is one of the defining traits of human life. It's also one of the most mysterious. Dr. Horacio de la Iglesia is a neurobiologist who's on a …

Episode 52: How to Study an Endangered Species

March 27th, 2021

28:02

What is it like to study an endangered species like chimpanzees, knowing they may go extinct within your lifetime?

Leakey Foundation grantee Dr. Zarin Machanda is a co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, a …

Episode 51: The Teeth Remember

March 2nd, 2021

20:35

Your life story is hidden in your teeth. The days, weeks, years, and stressful events of your life are recorded in tiny timelines that can be read by …

Episode 50: Understanding Neanderthals

February 1st, 2021

43:19

Early prehistorians had little more than stones and bones to work with as they tried to piece together the story of the Neanderthals, but today’s …

Episode 49: Exercise

December 31st, 2020

36:23

If exercise is healthy, why do so many people avoid doing it? If we're born to be active, why is it so hard to keep your New Year's resolutions about …

Episode 48: Ancestor (rerelease)

November 27th, 2020

25:26

In 2017, Dr. Isaiah Nengo announced the discovery of a 13 million-year-old fossil ape found in Kenya. This remarkable fossil, nicknamed Alesi, was …

Episode 47: Skin

November 3rd, 2020

1:07:50

Variation in human skin color has fascinated and perplexed people for centuries. As the most visible aspect of human variation, skin color has been …

Episode 46: Interview with María Martinón-Torres

September 30th, 2020

9:38

September 30 is International Podcast Day and on this episode, we’re handing things over to producer Lucía Benavides, who sat down with Leakey Foundation grantee María Martinón-Torres for an interview about her life and …

Episode 45: Detective of the Dead

August 28th, 2020

40:39

Atapuerca is a place that holds the mystery of human evolution in Europe from 1.2 million years ago through recent times. You can find, in one place, …

Episode 44: Custodian of the Ancestors

July 30th, 2020

33:40

What is it like to be responsible for the safekeeping of the ancestors of everyone in the world? In this episode, we travel to the National Museum of Ethiopia to see our most famous fossil relative – Lucy, and meet …

Episode 43: We Eat Bugs

May 29th, 2020

28:35

Have you ever considered how profoundly food has shaped who we are as a species? Julie Lesnik is a paleoanthropolgist who studies the evolution of …

Episode 42: The Cave Punan

April 8th, 2020

34:40

Deep in the forests of Borneo, lives a society of hunter-gatherers who speak a language never before shared with outsiders. Until now.

The Cave Punan are the last surviving hunter-gatherers in Indonesia and they have …

Episode 41: Tribes Old and New

February 29th, 2020

22:58

What happens when bows and arrows and face-to-face conversations are replaced by high powered weapons and cell phones practically overnight? Dr. …

Episode 40: The Denisovans

November 28th, 2019

31:48

A mysterious new human relative was discovered ten years ago from a pinky bone found in a Siberian cave. They're called the Denisovans, and people around the world carry their DNA today. Until just a few months ago, the …

Episode 39: Piltdown Man

October 31st, 2019

37:00

In this episode, we explore the story of Piltdown Man – one of the most notorious hoaxes in history. 

When Piltdown Man was discovered in a gravel pit outside a small English village in 1912, it was celebrated as a …

Episode 38: From the Archive - Louis Leakey

August 7th, 2019

31:56

In the final installment of our "From the Archive" series, Kenyan paleoanthropologist Louis S.B. Leakey shares the story of his life and work in a …

Episode 37: From the Archive - Mary Leakey

June 14th, 2019

46:24

Mary Leakey was called the "grand dame" of archaeology. She was a methodical and exacting scientist who made some of the world's most significant …

Episode 36: From the Archive - Tepilit Ole Saitoti

March 14th, 2019

56:13

Tepilit Ole Saitoti was a Maasai warrior, author, and natural resources expert. In this lecture from The Leakey Foundation archive, Saitoti tells his …

Episode 35: From the Archive - Raymond Dart

February 14th, 2019

31:44

Raymond Dart was getting dressed for a wedding when he was given two boxes of rocks and fossils. Inside the boxes, he found the first evidence of humanity’s African origins. This episode tells the story of the 1924 …

Episode 34: From the Archive - Margaret Mead

January 10th, 2019

51:41

In this never-before-released archival lecture from 1974, anthropologist Margaret Mead discusses the lives of women from prehistoric through modern …

Episode 33: From the Archive - Dian Fossey

December 13th, 2018

54:01

In this never-before-released archival lecture from 1973, the legendary primatologist Dian Fossey tells the story of the early years of her …

Episode 32: From the Archive - Carl Sagan

November 29th, 2018

48:06

Carl Sagan explores the evolution of human intelligence from the big bang, fifteen billion years ago, through today in this never-before-released …

Episode 31: The Four Year War

November 15th, 2018

26:55

A scientist solves the mystery of the only known chimpanzee civil war...thus far.

In 1960, Louis Leakey sent Jane Goodall to start her study of …

Origin Stories Season Three Preview

November 1st, 2018

2:20

Origin Stories returns November 15th with more stories about how we became human.

Episode 28: What They Left Behind [Rebroadcast]

June 6th, 2018

38:49

The stories and songs of prehistoric people are lost. Their art and artifacts are all that remain of their culture.

The painted caves of Ice Age …

Episode 30: Tales From the Field [LIVE]

December 31st, 2017

29:49

Three true tales about what it's like to do field research.

Kelly Stewart, Dorothy Cheney, and Robert Seyfarth share stories of gun smuggling, pet leeches, close encounters with hippos, and fan mail from one of the …

Episode 29: Rewriting Our Story

November 7th, 2017

23:48

For a long time, scientists have been searching for the first Homo sapiens in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. The story we've been telling about the origin of our species has gone something like this: Around 200,000 …

Episode 28: What They Left Behind

September 28th, 2017

38:17

The stories and songs of prehistoric people are lost. Their art and artifacts are all that remain of their culture.

The painted caves of Ice Age …

Episode 27: Out of Eden the Long Way

September 21st, 2017

31:47

One of the big questions in the study of human evolution is the question of how our ancestors spread across the world.

Our species evolved in Africa …

Episode 26: Rising Star

September 14th, 2017

39:21

It's not every day you see a Facebook post that changes your life, but that's exactly what happened to Leakey Foundation grantee Alia Gurtov. Gurtov was checking her Facebook feed one morning and saw a post from …

Episode 25: Stones and How to Use Them

September 7th, 2017

23:24
The paleoanthropologist Louis Leakey described stone tools as “fossilized human behavior.” These rocks, shaped by our human ancestors and found in …

Episode 24: Ancestor

August 31st, 2017

25:40

Just recently, the news media announced the discovery of a 13 million-year-old fossil ape called Alesi. This remarkable fossil was found in Kenya, …

Season 2 Preview

August 11th, 2017

2:44

Our new season of Origin Stories is coming soon! This is a sneak preview of the first episode.

Episode 22: Altruism

April 7th, 2017

21:30

Why do people risk their own lives to save a stranger? Why do we share food or give money to charity? The human capacity for altruism has been a puzzle for scientists since Darwin. In this episode of Origin Stories,

Episode 21: Follow the Leader?

March 7th, 2017

20:36

Every animal that lives in groups has to make decisions as a group. Even a seemingly simple decision like "where should we go for dinner?" can be …

Episode 09: Did Cooking Make Us Human? (Re-release)

December 31st, 2016

25:23

Humans have evolved very differently from other primates. Is there one thing responsible for humans becoming human? Some evolutionary biologists …

Episode 20: The Power Paradox - LIVE

November 8th, 2016

41:13

The Power Paradox

What is power? Where does social power come from? What happens in our bodies and with our behavior when we have power and when we don't? What can we learn about lasting social power from small-scale …

Episode 19: Being Human - Born and Evolved to Run

October 28th, 2016

35:21

Humans and our recent ancestors have been accomplished endurance runners for more than a million years. Our evolutionary history as runners partly …

Episode 18: Empathy

August 25th, 2016

25:40

Empathy has long been considered a uniquely human trait, but it's an ability that has also been observed in apes and other animals. Primatologist …

Episode 04: How to Document a Society (Re-release)

August 13th, 2016

17:08

Every day for 55 years a dedicated group of researchers, students, and field assistants have spent their days crawling through thorns and vines as …

Episode 17: Being Human - Speaking of Sex

July 15th, 2016

29:27
Humans are very verbal compared to other animals. We talk constantly, and our voices can signal many things beyond the meaning of our words. The human voice is also highly differentiated between the sexes.    In this …

Episode 16: Neanderthals

July 1st, 2016

23:21

People have been fascinated with Neanderthals since they were first discovered in the mid-1800s. For a long time, they have been seen as dumb, brutish cavemen. As more discoveries have been made in the past few decades, …

Episode 15: The Grandmother Hypothesis

May 28th, 2016

13:28

When Kristen Hawkes first started to research the foraging habits of the Hadza hunter-gatherers, she noticed that the older women in the society were …

Episode 14: Being Human - Why Do We Laugh?

May 18th, 2016

39:30

Laughter is a universal human behavior. Have you ever wondered why we laugh or what it really means when we do? Greg Bryant of UCLA studies the …

Episode 13: Evolutionary Arms Race

April 29th, 2016

21:29

In this episode we take a closer look at the evolutionary arms race between humans and the microbes that make us sick. What does each side bring to …

Episode 12: The Origins of Tuberculosis

March 25th, 2016

18:07

Tuberculosis is the world's leading cause of death by infectious disease, and it has been plaguing humanity for a very long time. In the first …

Episode 11: Face Mites

February 25th, 2016

19:31

The bad news is that everybody has face mites. The good news is that these tiny cousins of spiders and ticks seem to be harmless for the vast …

Episode 10: Being Human with Alison Gopnik

January 19th, 2016

38:12

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research focuses on …

Episode 09: Did Cooking Make Us Human?

December 29th, 2015

18:13

We humans have evolved very differently from other primates. Is there one thing responsible for humans becoming human? Some evolutionary biologists …

Episode 08: Being Human with Robert Sapolsky

December 5th, 2015

38:34

This episode of Origin Stories was recorded live in San Francisco as part of the Bay Area Science Festival. It was the first of The Leakey Foundation and the Baumann Foundation’s new “Being Human” event series. Our …

Episode 07: The Currant Bush of Life with Bernard Wood

November 24th, 2015

17:39

In On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin used a sketch of a tree of life to help describe his theory of evolution. In this metaphor, the branches …

Episode 06: Being a Nice Animal

October 27th, 2015

18:17

For over 35 years Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth have been studying wild African primates in order to better understand the evolution of the …

Episode 05: Discovery at Ledi-Geraru

August 26th, 2015

15:12

Have you ever wondered what it's like to make a major fossil discovery? Arizona State University graduate student Chalachew Seyoum and professor Kaye Reed tell us their exciting story.

Seyoum was working as part of a …

Episode 04: How to Document a Society

August 5th, 2015

16:05

Every day for 55 years a dedicated group of researchers, students, and Tanzanian field assistants have spent their days crawling through thorns and …

Episode 03: Jane Goodall

June 30th, 2015

24:25

Dr. Jane Goodall is a legend. She is a science hero, a trailblazing researcher who inspires people around the world. In this episode, Jane Goodall shares part of the story of how she went from working as a secretary to …

Episode 02: Why Do We Get Hiccups?

May 26th, 2015

18:18

Hiccups are an annoyance that we all deal with, but don't usually give much thought to. In this episode of Origin Stories, independent producer Ben Nimkin brings us the remarkable story of Charles Osborne, a man who …

Episode 01: On Two Feet

April 28th, 2015

13:04

One of the things that makes us different from other animals is the way we move around on two feet. Figuring out how and why our ancestors first …

Intro to Origin Stories

April 1st, 2015

1:20

Origin Stories is The Leakey Foundation's new podcast about what it means to be human, and the science behind what we know about ourselves. Our show …

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