Cover art for podcast SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human

SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human

67 EpisodesProduced by SAPIENSWebsite

What makes you … you? And who tells what stories and why? In the fifth season of the SAPIENS podcast, listeners will hear a range of human stories: from the origins of the chili pepper to how prosecutors decide someone is a criminal to stolen skulls from Iceland. Join Season 5’s host, Eshe Lewis, on… read more

67 Episodes | 2018 - 2024


February 22nd, 2024


An important message from RadioPublic

Can We Understand One Another?

December 14th, 2023


Hosts Kate Ellis and Doris Tulifau explore the perils and possibilities of the kind of fieldwork that defined Margaret Mead as an anthropologist. …

Weaving Stories: Two Women Speak

December 5th, 2023


We turn from Margaret Mead’s and Derek Freeman’s conflicting accounts of adolescence and sexuality in Samoa to more stories from Samoans themselves. 

Sex, Lies, and Science Wars

November 28th, 2023


After Derek Freeman publishes Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth, the controversy heats up. Op-eds, …

Bonus: Flemmie Kittrell and the Preschool Experiment

November 21st, 2023


SAPIENS is happy to present this bonus episode from Lost Women of Science about another path-breaking thinker.

In the 1960s, a Black home economist …

Into the Light

November 14th, 2023


The first missionary arrived in Samoa in 1832, almost a century before Margaret Mead set out to study the culture of the islands. By the time she …

Trashing an American Icon

November 7th, 2023


In January 1983, the front page of The New York Times read: “New Samoa Book Challenges Margaret Mead’s Conclusions.” 

Anthropologist Derek Freeman …

We Need to Tell Our Own Stories

October 31st, 2023


Sparked by a provocative encounter in American Samoa, Doris Tulifau explores modern-day Samoan attitudes toward Margaret Mead. With a mix of voices …

Flapper of the South Seas

October 24th, 2023


In 1925, Margaret Mead set sail for American Samoa. What she claimed she found there—teenagers free to explore and express their sexuality—instantly captivated her audience in the U.S. Her book became a bestseller, and …

Coming of Age … Today

October 17th, 2023


Being a teenager can be hard. Very hard. Our hosts Kate Ellis and Doris Tulifau recount the tough parts from their adolescence to ask whether being a …

The Problems With Coming of Age: Season 6 Trailer

October 10th, 2023


This special SAPIENS podcast season tells the story of famed anthropologist Margaret Mead’s epic life and controversial research to explore key …

Introducing: Going Wild

September 5th, 2023


The chart-topping and Signal Award-winning podcast “Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant” has returned for a brand new season. Produced by Nature on PBS, “Going Wild” is a sound-rich podcast about the human drama behind …

Introducing: The Disappearing Spoon

August 15th, 2023


Archaeologists around the world have long unearthed skulls with holes in them. But they were usually dismissed as natural accidents—the result of …

Introducing: The Bioneers – Revolution from the Heart of Nature

May 30th, 2023


The Bioneers: Revolution From the Heart of Nature is an award-winning, international radio and podcast series. Free to everyone, this series offers …

Introducing: Outside/In

May 23rd, 2023


Outside/In from New Hampshire Public Radio is a show about the natural world and how we use it. The show combines solid reporting and long-form …

Introducing: Blind Plea

May 17th, 2023


Deven Grey, a young, isolated mother in Alabama, reached a point of no return on December 12, 2017. She shot and killed her boyfriend, John Vance. …

Finding Mrs. Jackson

May 9th, 2023


When archaeologists excavate, they have some idea of what they will find in the ground. But in 2016, a team of archaeologists from the University of …

Aneho’s Disappearing Coast

May 2nd, 2023


Aneho is a little historic West African town that is disappearing due to coastal erosion. But locals defy the sea and continue to live on the water’s edge. In this episode, we hear how their decision to stay in the face …

The Conversion of Julio Tiwiram

April 25th, 2023


Julio Tiwiram is a famous shaman in southeast Amazonian Ecuador. He is also a leading political figure among the Shuar people of Bomboiza. Growing up …

People of the Peppers

April 18th, 2023


The world over people live with plants. Whether it’s in apartment bedrooms or backyards, it’s hard to find a human who doesn’t have some relationship …

The Power of Criminal Prosecutors

April 11th, 2023


Anyone who is in prison has been charged for a crime by a prosecutor. The charges are important because they determine someone’s punishment. How do prosecutors make their charging decisions? And what are the long-term …

I Do This for You, Mom

April 4th, 2023


Jeri Hutton Green is a mother, daughter, and advocate for survivors of domestic violence and homicide in Baltimore, Maryland. Her journey as an …

A Story of Icelandic Skulls

March 28th, 2023


“Prime harvest”—that’s how one early 20th-century explorer described his collection of Icelandic human skulls. But why did he “harvest” those skulls …

SAPIENS Podcast Season 5 Trailer

March 21st, 2023


Being human is complicated. We require food and shelter. We have histories to contend with. We create rituals to control fate. We steal. We fight. We …

Introducing: Whetstone Radio Collective

May 10th, 2022


Today, we're sharing a teaser from our friends at Whetstone Magazine. They've started something called the Whetstone Radio Collective (WRC). The WRC …

Repatriation Is Our Future

April 13th, 2022


The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, or NAGPRA, is supposed to curb the illegal possession of ancestral Native …

Slavery, Sustenance, and Resistance

March 30th, 2022


Archaeology helps reimagine a fuller range of experiences, including how people ate, innovated, and rebelled. In this episode, “slave cuisine” opens …

More than a Mountain

March 16th, 2022


The sky island of Dzil Nchaa Si'an is more than a mountain. It is a significant landmark in Arizona for Apache tribal members to collect medicinal …

Curating as Caretaking

March 2nd, 2022


In this episode, museum curators challenge the status quo and connect their ancestry to advance how history is told in cultural institutions. Mary …

At the Heart of It All

February 16th, 2022


For its practitioners, archaeology can feel like it is unearthing events deep in the past … until it doesn’t. What is the experience of researchers …

Redrawing Boundaries

February 2nd, 2022


For many, archaeology means digging up historical artifacts from beneath the ground. But to some, that framework is also violent and colonial. What …

Guided by the Past

January 19th, 2022


Hosts Dr. Ora Marek-Martinez and Yoli Ngandali share how they found their way to archaeology and what it means to be Black and Indigenous …

Our Past is the Future

January 12th, 2022


We're launching a new season, asking what makes you … you? And who tells which stories and why? SAPIENS hosts Ora Marek-Martinez and Yoli Ngandali …

A Startling Link Between Neanderthals and COVID-19

December 8th, 2020


SAPIENS host Chip Colwell speaks with evolutionary geneticist Hugo Zeberg about his surprising discovery of a connection between Neanderthal DNA and …

Moments of Resilience Amid a Pandemic

November 24th, 2020


SAPIENS host Chip Colwell speaks with Melanie Adams, the director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum (ACM), about #Moments of Resilience

Is the Pandemic Slowing Down Love?

November 12th, 2020


SAPIENS host Jen Shannon speaks with biological anthropologist Helen Fisher about her research on love, sex, and everything in between. Fisher is the …

When at Home, Bake as the Romans Baked

October 27th, 2020


SAPIENS host Chip Colwell talks with experimental archaeologist Farrell Monaco about her work re-creating ancient Roman bread and what it means to …

A Vaccine Will Not Be Enough

October 14th, 2020


SAPIENS host Jen Shannon speaks with Agustín Fuentes, a professor of anthropology at Princeton University, to unpack his insight that the COVID-19 …

We're (Still) Going Viral

August 28th, 2020


The SAPIENS podcast will return in several months, and we want you to help us understand what it means to be human amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you have a question, thought, or idea about what it means to be human …

The Problem With Abstract Threats

July 2nd, 2020


Everyone seems to have a story about the moment when the novel coronavirus pandemic stopped being an abstract problem “somewhere out there” and started being a very real and personal threat. In this episode of the …

What Pandemics Leave Behind

June 18th, 2020


At some time in the future, the novel coronavirus pandemic will fade. What will this globally traumatic contagion leave in its wake? In this episode …

Police Violence and the Pandemic

June 12th, 2020


SAPIENS host Jen Shannon interviews Laurence Ralph, a professor of anthropology at Princeton University. Ralph is also a co-director of Princeton’s

Could the Coronavirus Pandemic Be Good for the Environment?

May 29th, 2020


SAPIENS host Chip Colwell interviews Elic Weitzel, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Connecticut, about his recent article …

Preppers and the Pandemic

May 19th, 2020


With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, the SAPIENS podcast is going viral. In this first episode of season 3, SAPIENS hosts Chip Colwell and …

What Does it Mean to be Human? Your Questions, Answered

December 3rd, 2019


In this season 2 finale of the SAPIENS podcast, hosts Jen Shannon, Chip Colwell, and Esteban Gómez field questions from listeners on Twitter and at …

Does Generosity Come Naturally?

November 19th, 2019


Until very recently, Colin Turnbull was the only anthropologist who had lived and studied with both the Mbuti people of the Congo region and the Ik …

How Belonging Shapes the Vaccination Crisis

November 5th, 2019


Anthropologist Elisa Sobo never wanted to study the issue of vaccination. The topic was too fraught, she says, and she didn't want to touch it. But …

The Deep Roots of Navajo Country Music

October 22nd, 2019


What is it about certain musical traditions that cause them to take root in communities far away from where they originated? Anthropologist Kristina …

Are Colors Universal?

October 8th, 2019


How do language, biology, and culture shape an individual’s experience of color? A journalist investigates the anthropological debate about whether …

Stringing Together an Ancient Empire’s Stories

September 24th, 2019


Anthropologist Sabine Hyland attempts to uncover the secrets held in twisted and colored Andean cords called khipus. Thanks to the collaborative …

Do You Dream What I Dream?

September 10th, 2019


Anthropologist Roger Lohmann sees a ghost in a dream while working in Papua New Guinea. Even though he knows it's just a dream, he's scared long …

What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting Down Syndrome

August 27th, 2019


When Thomas Pearson’s newborn daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, it changed the course of his life forever. Pearson joins SAPIENS hosts Jen …

Where Have All the Denisovans Gone?

August 13th, 2019


The Denisovans have long been one of the most elusive ancient human cousins, until now. In May 2019, scientists revealed the first fossil evidence of Denisovans outside of the Denisova Cave in Siberia. As the historical …

Eating Insects and the Yuck Factor

July 30th, 2019


How come some people think eating insects is disgusting? Join SAPIENS hosts Jen Shannon and Chip Colwell as they dine on many-legged delicacies and …

Season 2 is Coming Soon and We Want to Hear From You

July 16th, 2019


Hello fellow sapiens!

We’re coming back with new episodes starting on July 30. This season is just a little different, though. SAPIENS hosts Jen …

Being Afghan in America: In the Field with Morwari Zafar

December 18th, 2018


How does an immigrant become an American? How does anyone join any group? SAPIENS host Esteban Gomez shares the story of Dr. Morwari Zafar, a researcher who has studied the changes in her own community of …

What’s the Cost of Quinoa?

December 4th, 2018


SAPIENS host Jen Shannon goes on a mission to find out how quinoa travels from farmers’ fields in Huanoquite, Peru, to markets in Lima and the U.S. She discovers quinoa’s complicated past and present: a bloody civil war …

How to Care for the Dead

November 20th, 2018


Scientists have thought about burial—the act of interring a dead body—as a distinctly human behavior. So what happened when a group of …

BONUS: A Conversation with Carl Zimmer about DNA, Identity, and Heredity

November 13th, 2018



As a special holiday treat, the SAPIENS team is presenting this unedited conversation between SAPIENS host Chip Colwell and acclaimed …

Is Space a Human Place?

November 6th, 2018


From space junk and the International Space Station to Elon Musk and SpaceX, space is becoming a more human place. What will it mean for us to live among the stars? SAPIENS host Jen Shannon probes the nascent field of …

Power Players: US Football and French Rugby

October 23rd, 2018


Some athletes seem larger than life. They are revered and imitated—and they seemingly hold a lot of power. But whether they feel empowered in their …

Close to Home: In the Field With Amy Starecheski

October 9th, 2018


What is home? Is it a physical space, a set of relationships, or a state of mind? SAPIENS host Esteban Gómez follows Amy Starecheski, a researcher …

The Mastodon in the Room

September 25th, 2018


Humans may have been in North America much earlier than previously thought. Here’s the evidence: chipped rocks, crushed mastodon bones, and reliable …

Prepping for TEOTWAWKI

September 12th, 2018


It’s the end of the world as we know it. How do you feel? SAPIENS co-host Jen Shannon follows the trail of some contemporary preppers with the help …

Is Robot Empathy a Trap?

August 28th, 2018


Can robots care? And why should we care if they do? SAPIENS host Jen Shannon meets Pepper the robot, and host Chip Colwell goes on a quest to find …

Is Your DNA You?

August 14th, 2018


What does your DNA have to do with who you are? On a journey for answers, SAPIENS hosts Chip Colwell, Jen Shannon, and Esteban Gómez take consumer …

A Trailer for Everything Human

August 4th, 2018


What makes you … you? Is it your DNA, culture, environment? SAPIENS hosts Jen Shannon, Esteban Gómez, and Editor-in-Chief Chip Colwell …

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