Ella Al-Shamahi

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Ella Al-Shamahi
Born1983/1984 (age 36–37)[1][2]
Birmingham, United Kingdom[3][4]
Alma materUniversity College London, Imperial College London
Scientific career
FieldsPaleoanthropology, Evolutionary Biology

Ella Al-Shamahi (Arabic: آلاء الشماحي‎) is an explorer, paleoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist and stand-up comic. She specializes in the study of Neanderthals. She is also the presenter and producer of BBC2's Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors. She is a Trustee of the International Association for the Study of Arabia.[5]

Early life and career[edit]

Al-Shamahi grew up in Birmingham, United Kingdom,[1] and has Yemeni and Syrian ancestry.[1][4][6] She has previously received a degree from Imperial College London and is currently doing a PhD at University College London in the Department of Anthropology.[7] In 2015 she was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.[8]


Al-Shamahi specializes in finding fossils in Palaeolithic caves in unstable and hostile territories, such as Syria, Iraq, Nagorno-Karabakh and Yemen.[6][8] In her TED talk, Al-Shamahi describes her reconnaissance expedition to Socotra, a Yemeni island.[9] The expedition was funded by the MBI Al Jaber Foundation as part of their ongoing support for the heritage of Yemen.[10] She was prohibited from traveling to mainland Yemen, as it was a no-fly zone, but found that the island was relatively safe. However, she had to find a way to get to the island.[11] In early 2018 her team set off on a cement cargo ship through the Indian Ocean, where they were at risk of running into Somali pirates, and reached Socotra after three days.[6][12] Besides Al-Shamahi, the team included Rhys Thwaites-Jones, Martin Edstrom, and Leon McCarron.[13]


Al-Shamahi is producer and presenter on the BBC2 show Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors, on which she works with Andy Serkis.[14] She is also a stand-up comic and performed 3 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[15][16] She furthermore presented an episode for Horizon called Body Clock: What Makes Us Tick?, for which she locked a test subject in an underground bunker for 10 days.[17] Ella is a Trustee of the International Association for the Study of Arabia.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Al-Shamahi married at the age of 21 and lived in Surrey, her marriage lasted five years.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Maxted, Anna (2018-05-10). "Ella Al-Shamahi: Meet the new star of Sunday night TV". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  2. ^ "Yemen's Ella al-Shamahi: Unearthing the past, preserving the future". alaraby.co.uk. 20 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Why is there only one species of human?". National Geographic. 6 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b "The fossil finder who can't wait to return to war-torn Yemen". New Scientist. 24 January 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Structure | The IASA".
  6. ^ a b c "Did you hear the one about the anthropologist who walked into a comedy club?". BBC Science Focus Magazine. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  7. ^ UCL (2016-08-22). "Fossil Hunting in the Yemen: Archaeologists Without Borders". Human Evolution @ UCL. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  8. ^ a b Society, National Geographic. "Learn more about Ella Al-Shamahi". www.nationalgeographic.org. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  9. ^ Al-Shamahi, Ella. "Ella Al-Shamahi | Speaker | TED". www.ted.com. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  10. ^ "MBI Al Jaber Lecture Series: "Dragon's Blood Island: Socotra and Our Search for Dragons" by Ella Al-Shamahi". www.mbifoundation.com.
  11. ^ Uqba, Sana. "Yemen's Ella al-Shamahi: Unearthing the past, preserving the future". alaraby. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  12. ^ "Open Explorer | Dragon's Blood Island: Socotra". Open Explorer. 2018-02-01. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  13. ^ "MBI Al Jaber Foundation". www.mbifoundation.com. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  14. ^ Maxted, Anna. "Ella Al-Shamahi: Meet the new star of Sunday night TV" – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  15. ^ Street, 180 High; Edinburgh; Eh1 1qs; Kingdom +44131 226 0026, United. "Ella Al-Shamahi and Susie Steed: Gold Diggers". Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  16. ^ "Ella Al-Shamahi". Adventure Uncovered Live. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
  17. ^ "It's time to listen to our body clock". BBC Science Focus Magazine. Retrieved 2019-07-20.

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