Himba Paläoanthropologie
Himba mother with her baby, Northwestern Namibia. Himba communities are involved in the cross-cultural long-term project of the Human Ethology Film Archive since 1971.

Human Ethology Film Archive


In the 1960s Irenaeus Eibl-Eibesfeldt developed a cross-cultural research program on universals in Human behaviour and hence founded the Human Ethology Film Archive.

Aiming at recording unstaged social interaction, together with his team at the Research Unit for Human Ethology based at the Max Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology at Seewiesen, Germany, he documented every day life of people in a variety of societies worldwide, in film, photography and audio recordings.

In five societies in Southern Africa (San, Himba), South America (Yanomami) and Southeast Asia/Oceania (Eipo, Trobriander) the researchers regularly visited the same families over and over for several decades. The result of this work is a unique record of the course of life of individuals from infancy to adulthood and to the next generation, as well as of the history of their societies, of the changes in their conditions of life and cultural change. Beyond these long-term projects shorter studies were conducted in Bali, the Philippines (Tboli, Tasaday, Agta), and in Central Australia (Walbiri, Pintubi), and spot checks were carried out in several other societies including Europe. Cross-species comparative recordings document chimpanzees in the wild, mainly from the research of Jane Goodall documented by Hugo van Lawick.

In 2014 the archive, which comprises approx. 800 hours of film today, was entrusted to Senckenberg, where it is welcomed as the, now, world’s largest archive on human bio-cultural diversity and an ideal complement to our research on human evolution. It is the basis and starting point of our interdisciplinary research focus on the interplay of universality and diversity in human culture and behaviour, which will be entrenched in a scheduled cooperation professorship.

The scientific work is attributed to the Senckenberg research field Research Field 4 Biodiversity and Earth System Dynamics.

Archive use

Archive search and media use are possible for scientific and designated educational purposes. Archive research is only possible at the institute and requires assistance on the part of the archive’s team. As to identifiable or sensitive materials, restrictions to data access and data use due to eventual legal or ethical constraints are to be considered. Applications for archive use are therefore subject to a case-by-case review including the consultation of the archive’s Ethics Committee.

Applications for archive use should be comprehensive and particularized, providing all relevant information and documents such as personal details and academic and institutional background of the investigator, an underlying research proposal, detailed descriptions of the scientific background and context of the research and of the intended archive research as well as a specification of the requested archive materials. Please do not hesitate to contact us for further details.