Origin Stories

Origin Stories is The Leakey Foundation’s podcast about how we became human.


Current Episode

Episode 38: From the Archive – Louis Leakey

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 never-before-released interview recorded in 1969.

All Episodes

Episode 37: From the Archive – Mary Leakey

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 archaeological discoveries. In this lecture from The Leakey Foundation archive, Mary Leakey tells the story of Olduvai Gorge, the place where she found fossils that completely changed our understanding of human origins.


Episode 36: Tepilit Ole Saitoti

Tepilit Ole Saitoti was a Maasai warrior, author, and natural resources expert. In this lecture, Saitoti tells his life story and discusses Maasai culture and the challenges faced by the Maasai.

Episode 34: Margaret Mead

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

Episode 32: Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan explores the evolution of human intelligence in this never-before-released archival lecture.

Season Three Trailer

Origin Stories returns November 15.

Episode 29: Rewriting Our Story

A new discovery rewrites the story of the origins of our species.

Episode 27: Out of Eden the Long Way

Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist on an epic journey, tracing the path of ancient human migration on foot.

Episode 25: Stones and How to Use Them

Ancient stone tools aren’t such a mystery once you learn how to use them.

Episode 23: Violence (LIVE)

A live episode with Steven Pinker on the past, present, and future of violence.

Episode 21: Follow the Leader?

How do animals make group decisions about where to go and what to do?

Episode 19: Born and Evolved to Run

Daniel Lieberman explores how and why the human body evolved the ability to run long distances.

Episode 17: Speaking of Sex

What does the human voice tell us about sexual selection? A live episode featuring David Puts.

Episode 15: The Grandmother Hypothesis

Grandmothers are amazing in lots of ways. It turns out they also might be the reason behind many of the things that make humans different from the other apes.

Episode 13: Evolutionary Arms Race

A closer look at the evolutionary arms race between us and the pathogens that make us sick. What does each side bring to the fight?

Episode 11: Face Mites

What the bugs that live on your face can tell you about human migration.

Episode 9: Did Cooking Make Us Human?

Is there one thing responsible for humans becoming human? Some think that cooked food could explain why our species developed so differently from others.

Episode 7: The Currant Bush of Life

How do scientists figure out which fossil creatures were relatives and which were ancestors?

Episode 5: Discovery at Ledi-Geraru

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to make a major fossil discovery? Chalachew Seyoum tells the story of the discovery of the oldest known fossil in the genus Homo.

Episode 3: Jane Goodall

When Louis Leakey sent Jane Goodall to start the first study of wild chimpanzees, she was 26 years old and had no experience and no college degree. Hear the story of how she got there.

Episode 1: On Two Feet

How and why did we evolve the ability to walk on two feet? It’s one of the big questions about human evolution and Carol Ward has an idea that will surprise you.

Episode 35: Raymond Dart

This episode tells the story of the 1924 discovery of the Taung Child through a never-before-released lecture by Prof. Raymond Dart from The Leakey Foundation Archive.

Episode 33: Dian Fossey

In this never-before-released archival lecture from 1973, the legendary primatologist Dian Fossey tells the story of the early years of her groundbreaking mountain gorilla research.

Episode 31: The Four Year War

Leakey Foundation grantee Joseph Feldblum solves the mystery of the only known chimpanzee civil war… thus far.

Episode 30: Tales From the Field (LIVE)

Three scientists tell true tales from the field.

Episode 28: What They Left Behind

An award-winning story about ancient art and the quest to understand the people who made it.

Episode 26: Rising Star

A Facebook message, a dangerous cave full of mysterious ancient bones, and a discovery that added a new member to our family tree.

Episode 24: Ancestor

A Kenyan paleontologist has a hunch that leads to the find of a lifetime.

Episode 22: Altruism

Why do people risk their own lives to save a stranger?

Episode 20: The Power Paradox (LIVE)

What happens in our bodies and brains when we have social power – and when we don’t?

Episode 18: Empathy

Are we the only animals that feel empathy and console others? Primatologist Frans de Waal says no.

Episode 16: Neanderthals

New research shows there’s more to Neanderthals than people once thought.

Episode 14: Why Do We Laugh? (LIVE)

Laughter is a universal human behavior. Have you ever wondered why we laugh, or what it means when we do? This live episode explores the origins of laughter.

Episode 12: The Origins of Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is the world’s leading cause of death by infectious disease. Have you ever wondered where it came from?

Episode 10: Being Human

How babies and young children learn about the world. A live episode featuring Alison Gopnik.

Episode 8: Being Human – Robert Sapolsky 

Robert Sapolsky takes a fascinating and funny look at human behavior and the ways we are the same as and different from other animals.

Episode 6: Being a Nice Animal

Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth explore the roles that social bonds and personality play in an animal’s ability to survive and thrive.

Episode 4: How to Document a Society

This episode tells the story of what it’s like to collect data at Jane Goodall’s research site, and what has happened to the 55 years of daily field notes from Gombe.

Episode 2: Why Do We Get Hiccups?

Hiccups are annoying and troublesome, but have you ever considered why we get them? In this episode, we explore the surprisingly deep evolutionary history of the human hiccup.

Intro to Origin Stories

Introducing The Leakey Foundation’s new podcast about human evolution and the stories behind the search for our origins.


Editor: Julia Barton
Series Producer: Meredith Johnson
Senior Producer: Catherine Girardeau
Producer: Shuka Kalantari


Sound Design: Katie McMurran
Theme Music: Henry Nagle
Closing Credits Music: Lee Rosevere