MODULE DESCRIPTION 2017-2018


AUTUMN SEMESTER 20 CREDITS



AAP107 ORIGINS OF HUMANITY



CO-ORDINATOR: KEVIN KUYKENDALL

OTHER TUTORS: PETER DAY, BOB JOHNSTON, PIA NYSTROM, MICHAEL WALLACE


MODULE OUTLINE

What do we understand about the evolutionary history of our own species, Homo sapiens? What do the fossil and archaeological records tell us about our remote ape-like ancestors, or about the early modern human hunters and gatherers that lived in the last 200 thousand years, or those immediately after the last ice age? How and when did the earliest farming populations evolve? This module provides an introduction to these and other questions about the origins of humanity, and introduces the methods used by palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists who study fossil, archaeological, and environmental evidence to investigate the climatic and environmental conditions under which humans and our extinct ancestors lived prior to the development of farming.


BROAD ACADEMIC AIMS AND PRINCIPLES OF THE UNIT

This module aims to:
● introduce students to the fossil and archaeological evidence for the origins of humanity, including the earliest hominids, major evolutionary adaptations leading to the origin of modern humans, and the human hunter-gatherers
● introduce students to the basic principles of geology, taphonomy, and environmental reconstruction used in site analysis and interpretation
● provide students with the historical context and knowledge of the broad themes that are central to the understanding of research about the origins of humanity


MEASUREABLE LEARNING OUTCOMES

By the end of this module students should be able to demonstrate:
● a broad understanding of the study of human origins, and the biological and evolutionary conditions of our species’ existence
● a recognition of the importance of defining and recognising the historical and cultural context in which human origins and hunter-gatherer societies are studied
● an understanding of the key cultural, ecological and biological changes which were responsible for the evolutionary origins of modern human populations and our ancestral species
● the ability to conduct simple library-based literature searches for relevant material on the material covered in the module
● the opportunity to present their ideas coherently in writing on themes relating to the material covered in the module, and to discuss them with their tutor
● an awareness of the complexity, subtlety and fascination of studying human origins and cultural diversity


PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT SKILLS ACQUIRED

● Library and research skills
● Critical evaluation of disciplinary information
● Developing and writing essays
● Incorporation of feedback for revision and improvement
● Time management and prioritisation of diverse objectives


STUDENT ATTENDANCE AND INDEPENDENT STUDY

Type Hours
Lectures / seminars 20
Tutorials 4
Independent Study (including preparation for assessments) 176

ASSESSMENT

Method % of marks Length / words
Three essays 50% 1000 each
Multiple Choice Examination 50% 1.5 hours

EXAMPLES OF LECTURE/SEMINAR TITLES

  • Aristotle to Darwin - how do we classify apes, monkeys and ourselves?
  • The earliest ancestors: stem hominids to Australopithecus
  • You are what you eat - early hominid diets, modern apes, and hunter-gatherers
  • Walk this way - the evolution of bipedalism
  • Geology, dating, and taphonomy – site interpretation in palaeoanthropology
  • Man the toolmaker - cognitive and behavioural aspects of stone tool use
  • Early Homo in Africa and Asia: Homo habilis and erectus
  • Neanderthals, 'archaics' and early modern humans
  • Out of Africa - Climate change, glacial refugia, and hominid dispersal
  • So you say you want a revolution? The Upper Palaeolithic transition
  • Cave Art and modernity - what defines a 'modern human'
  • Ancient DNA, Neanderthals, and Modern Human Origins (MHO)
  • Death and burial in the Palaeolithic
  • Europe's last foragers: between rising seas and expanding forests
  • Late Glacial-Early Post Glacial foragers and collectos: Franchthi Cave, Ringkloster, and Star Carr
  • Complex hunter-gathers of Mesolithic N Europe: 'progress' or opportunism?
  • Acorns & cereals: from collection to cultivation of plants in the Near East
  • Herding & the emergence of mixed farming in the Near East
  • The domestication of society: village, household & the agricultural transition in the Near East
  • Pots before farming