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Darwin Day Lecture with the North East Humanists: The handshake: a gripping history... and a biological one by Ella Al-Shamahi

Ella Al-Shamahi, palaeoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist and stand-up comic

Date/Time: Thursday 10 February 2022, 5.30pm

Venue: This is an online event

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Darwin Day Lecture with the North East Humanists

Hosted by Dr Martin Farr, Co-Chair of the Public Lectures Committee with introduction from Susan Walker, Chair of the North East Humanists

Many declared that Covid had killed the handshake. But the handshake is not just cultural, it’s biological, probably embedded in our DNA and at least seven million years old. This is a paradigm shift from the oft-repeated ‘origin’ of the handshake as being a way of showing that you are unarmed. This lecture argues that the handshake has an actual biological purpose and considers what other pandemics through history, tell us about its ‘demise’.


Ella is an archaeologist, paleoanthropologist and Neanderthal specialist. She is a National Geographic Explorer and scientific stand-up performer. Last year alone she has presented on programmes, Jungle Mystery: Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon (Channel 4, 2020) and Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis (BBC2, 2020). In 2019 Ella presented a TED Talk about fascinating places in the world that scientists aren’t exploring, which has had over 2 million views. Her book The Handshake: A Gripping History was published by Profile Books in March 2021.

Live Q&A:

The lecture will be followed by a live Q&A with the speaker. You can submit a question in advance by sending an email to or during the event using YouTube Live Chat or via Twitter @InsightsNCL.

This event will be hosted on YouTube, registration is not required.