Faculty of Arts


Human Evolution


This course explores issues fundamental to understanding humans’ place in nature from a biocultural perspective. What do we share with non-human primates, particularly apes, and how are we different? What led to the evolution of bipedalism, large brains and language? How do we define species in the fossil record? How can we reconstruct ancient diets and ecologies? What is the basis for the modern human life history pattern of long childhoods and grandparenthoods? The course will examine how new discoveries and advancements in biology are reshaping understandings of our evolutionary history.

Combining approaches from paleontology and archaeology, genetics, primatology and ecology, we will explore hypotheses, theory, methods and evidence through lectures, films, readings, discussions and hands-on work with fossil casts and other materials in the lab. In labs you will have the opportunity to interact with and learn from our collection of fossil casts and other materials, adding to and reinforcing information and concepts presented in lecture. We will focus on building skills in evaluating not only primary evidence (e.g., fossil morphology) and its scientific interpretations (as presented through scholarly writing), but also the presentation of this work in popular media.

This course is intended to build on the skills and knowledge gained in ANTHRO 102. Please consult with the Course Convenor if you have not taken 102.

Course goals

To develop, enhance and improve your:

  • Understanding of human evolutionary history and processes
  • Understanding of the theories, methods and techniques used by biological anthropologists
  • Skills involved with reading and understanding scholarly literature
  • Critical thinking abilities
  • Ability to incorporate new evidence with existing knowledge
  • Ability to synthesise and present scientific information

Course questions and themes

This course focuses on five main questions/themes:

  1. How to we define a species?
  2. Why bipedalism?
  3. Why the large brain?
  4. The role of climate change
  5. Biocultural evolution

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills: thoroughly and systematically assessing both primary data and secondary sources, identifying issues, strengths and weaknesses, and future needs
  • Research skills: conducting independent research on a topic, finding and assessing appropriate sources
  • Writing skills: synthesising and presenting complex technical information in coherent and concise prose, with correct attribution, developing a logical argument


Coursework + exam

Availability 2021

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Associate Professor Judith Littleton

Recommended Reading

Fuentes, Augustin (2011). Biological Anthropology: Concepts & Connections, 2nd ed. (for those who haven’t done ANTHRO 102)


Coursework + exam


ANTHRO 201: 15.0 points


30 points in Anthropology or 60 points passed

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