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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards


Silver Honor in Science & Technology Podcast


SAPIENS is a digital magazine about everything human, told through the stories of anthropologists.

In January 2016, we launched SAPIENS with the aim of bringing together the voices of scholars who are eager to share the findings, ideas, and perspectives of anthropology with a broad global readership. As people who study other people, anthropologists look to the past, present, and future to assemble vital observations on what it means to be human. This work matters. Yet all too often their research remains inaccessible to public audiences.

A cornerstone project of the magazine's work has been the creation of SAPIENS A Podcast for Everything Human, which speaks with anthropologists from around the globe to uncover what makes us human. Now in its sixth season, the SAPIENS podcast advance's our mission to amplify anthropological insights to make a difference in how people see themselves and those around them. We hope to make people more curious about—and empathetic toward—their fellow humans. We aim to provide critical understandings of how and why humans behave and believe as they do. We want to help address the inequalities, injustices, and harms humans perpetrate against one another and our planet.

Strategy and Execution

The production has been led by House of Pod (five seasons) and PRX (one season), composed of expert podcasters, in partnership with anthropologists at SAPIENS, who have worked closely together over the last six years to tell fresh, captivating, and often surprising stories.

What has made SAPIENS such a unique player in the current media landscape is its marriage of anthropology and journalism. While some podcasts are made by journalists and others are made by scholars, rarely do these two groups join forces. SAPIENS has blended the strengths of both to ensure that the stories being told reflect the values, insights, and techniques of both fields. It is precisely this partnership—empowering anthropologists to be great storytellers and journalists to ground their work in anthropology—that distinguishes SAPIENS as a magazine and podcast.

Every SAPIENS season tackles new themes, stories, and voices.

Among the biggest challenges for the production team has been the hard work of helping scientists and academics translate their ideas, arguments, and research into stories that are comprehensible and compelling for general audiences. Each season, the team experiments with different approaches. Several years ago, we realized that full and extended training in podcast storytelling and interviewing was needed for academic anthropologists, who almost never receive such training in universities.

In 2021, on the heels of the murder of George Floyd, SAPIENS began a partnership with the Society of Black Archaeologists and Indigenous Archaeology Collective, to amplify the stories of Black and Native researchers. This partnership resulted in special training workshops, public webinars, and a special podcast season, “Our Past Is Our Future.” In this season, hosts Ora Marek-Martinez and Yoli Ngandali share the stories of Black and Indigenous people who become archaeologists. From defying the status quo to diving through sunken ships, this special season brings listeners on a journey of reclaiming voices and reimagining history. (See Season 4)

In 2023, we received funding from the John Templeton Foundation to create the SAPIENS Public Scholars Training Program, which guides anthropologists on accessible writing and podcasting for broad nonacademic audiences. The purpose of this fellowship program is to provide in-depth training for anthropologists in the craft of science communication and public scholarship—to transform their research into stories that engage the public and spur readers and listeners to rethink themselves and their world. (See Season 5)

Additionally, we realized that the production team could model exceptional storytelling by producing a special season that told a vital story about anthropology. In 2022, we received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to tell the story of the famed anthropologist Margaret Mead’s epic life and controversial research as a means to inspire reflection on questions about nature versus nurture, human sexuality, and whether we can ever really understand a culture that is not our own. (See Season 6)


To date, the six seasons of the podcast have been downloaded 682,000 times.

Listener response has been outstanding. Some samples from Apple Podcast Customer Reviews (4.8 stars / 5 stars; 193 reviews):

Learn so much Every episode contains many gems of interesting information I wouldn’t hear anywhere else. These podcasts open my mind to different points of view in a very accessible and meaningful way.

Insightful, fascinating and entertaining. Truly exceptional content- a joy to listen to. Can’t wait for new episodes. Thank you, Sapiens, for this one of a kind pro-human podcast.

ADDICTING! Love love LOVE. I just want to hangout with these guys and talk all things human. I loved the DNA episode and the one about dreaming and colors. Keep them coming please!

Additionally, the support from the John Templeton Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities demonstrates how the podcast is building momentum across organizations to bring resources for scientists and scholars to share their stories with broad publics.

The trainings of the anthropologists-turned-podcasters is also have impact on the lives of these scholars. The exit survey from the first cohort of participants in the training program found that 90% rated the program 5 stars (of 5), and led to successes for individual early career scholars such as new coverage of their research internationally and in the pages of National Geographic.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

SAPIENS, Chip Colwell


Entry Credits