Ella Al-Shamahi

Explorer, Palaeoanthropologist, Evolutionary Biologist And Stand-Up Comic
© Clare Jones

Ella is a National Geographic Explorer, palaeoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist, TV presenter and stand-up comic. She specialises in the study of Neanderthals and fossil hunting in Palaeolithic caves, often in unstable, disputed and hostile territories such as Iraq, Yemen and Nagorno-Karabakh as well as locations she can’t publicly admit to. Ella has presented some of the most brilliant science and history television of recent years and is perhaps best known for Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon (Channel 4), Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis (BBC2), the PBS and BBC science series, Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors and National Geographic’s Viking Warrior Women where during filming she discovered what might be the first evidence of a battle injury on a female Viking warrior. This discovery was widely reported on by the international press. 

Ella uses comedy both as a coping strategy and as an accessible way to communicate science. She has performed across the globe from the Bloomsbury Theatre to the National Geographic main stage in DC. She has also given a TED talk which has nearly 2.5 million views, is a regular keynote speaker for companies including Disney and Facebook and has taken four shows to the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Her first book, The Handshake: A Gripping History (Profile Books 2021) was a Times and Sunday Times Book of the Year. It is a quirky and engaging history revealing the secrets of one of our most ancient social gestures, described by the Sunday Times as 'a fabulously sparky, wide-ranging and horizon-broadening little study...joyously unboring'.

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