At the origin of any research is wonder, a question, a project for a study that is backed by a team and a certain theoretical context. The study materials can come from the existing collections or from collecting in the field: archaeological digs or investigations on human groups and their environment.

Research missions, whether alone or with a team, are subject to budgetary authorizations and, for foreign missions, to national research authorizations and to the security regulations (political and health) established by the French ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Depending on the legislation in force, which differs country to country, it is forbidden, or temporarily authorized, to remove study materials collected from the country. On returning from a mission, the researcher devotes his or her time to decrypting the elements gathered, which vary depending on the discipline: notebooks, recordings, videos, objects, blood or saliva samples, bones or cast replicas of bones, bags of sediments or herbaria. The study materials only tell a story after a long maturation: analysis and characterization of samples in the lab, measurements, dating, comparisons, statistics and discussion with colleagues, for instance. The results obtained are then shared with the scientific community, students and public through publications and colloquia. In the case of investigations on human groups, particularly those involving DNA samples, no work can be published with the consent of the individuals concerned.

Scientific fields at a glance

  • Palaeoanthropology concerns fossil humans.
  • Archaeobotany (plants), archaeozoology (animals), paleoclimatology (climate), geology (Earth), Geochronology (time) focus on the environments in which the history of humans and their societies have evolve.
  • Biological or physical anthropology studies human morphology and population genetics.
  • Cultural anthropology concerns the material and symbolic productions of human beings (tools, adornment, utensils, music, language) and includes ethnomusicology and ethnolinguistics.
  • Ethnobiology and ethnoecology investigate the relationship between societies and their environment, their interaction with and knowledge of their surroundings.