Ella Al-Shamahi

Archaeologist, Palaeoanthropologist And Evolutionary Biologist

Ella is a National Geographic Explorer specialising in fossil hunting in caves - in unstable, disputed and hostile territories… she is also a stand-up comic. She almost exclusively works in places it is hard to get insurance for such as Iraq, Yemen, Nagorno-Karabakh and also in places she can’t publicly admit to. Heading up exploratory expeditions or joining cave excavations, the conditions can be unusual, from avoiding land-mines and wearing a burqa for security reasons.

Ella believes that this is a risk worth taking because huge parts of the planet are being neglected because of instability, which is tragic because some of these places represent the frontline of science and exploration. She also believes that development is not just about aid, it is also about science and empowering locals. Ella is a stand-up comedian and uses comedy as a coping strategy and also to communicate science. She passionately believes that knowledge and science can empower locals and help with sustainable development.

Ella has been performing science stand-up for four years in the UK and the States, from the Bloomsbury Theatre to the National Geographic main-stage in DC. She has also done a TEDxNashville talk, is a Keynote speaker at various international and corporate events and has taken three shows to the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

In 2018 Ella presented BBC Two's science series, Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors,  as well as Horizon: Body Clock - What Makes Your Body Tick. Ella has also been featured in National Geographic Magazine and The Times  and has contributed to radio programmes such as BBC Radio 4’s Midweek and BBC World Service’s Outlook.

She holds a BSc in Genetics from University College London, an MSc in Taxonomy and Biodiversity from Imperial College London/Natural History Museum and is currently undertaking a PhD in Neanderthal rates of evolution at University College London.

Ella is English of Arab heritage, from Yemen and Syria, so she is a one woman Axis of Evil... an Axis of Evil with the voice of Mary Poppins.



Viking Warrior Women, 2019, (National Geographic)

Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors, 2018, (BBC Two) 

Horizon: Body Clock - What Makes Us Tic?, 2018, (BBC Two)


Ella Al-Shamahi & Susie Steed: Gold Diggers, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019

TED Talk: The Fascinating (and dangerous) Places that Scientist Aren't Exploring, TED 2019