BSc Zoology

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Primate Evolution and Human Origins

Course unit fact file
Unit code EART36202
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 6
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by
Available as a free choice unit? No

Overview

Through a combination of lectures and practical classes, the unit will explore the evolution of humans and study particular morphological and behavioural adaptations through comparative anatomy of the skeleton. Considerations into the environmental background of human evolution and the dispersals of ancestral human species will be included, along with studies of cognitive evolution and the formation of primate and human societies. Although largely focussed on primate skeletal morphology, this unit will also include components relating to material culture as well as the latest developments in genetics and proteomics that inform our understanding of human evolution and the origins of modern human populations.

Aims

To detail our latest understanding of human evolution, adaptation and the impacts that our species has had on others.

 

Learning outcomes

On the successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

Developed

Assessed

ILO 1

Identify key differences between human skeletons and those of our primative relatives

X

X

ILO 2

Explain what information is used to identify and describe distinct hominin species

X

X

ILO 3

Identify the principles of evolutionary adaptation and explain their role in human evolution

X

X

ILO 4

Be able to discuss how modern technologies have revolutionised our understanding of human evolution

X

X

ILO 5

Describe the key lines of evidence for the evolution of human cognitive capacity

X

X

ILO 6

Discuss the impact that human evolution has had on other animal species

X

X

 

Syllabus

Topics:

Lecture material includes the fossil record and dating methods, primate fossils, primate evolution and locomotion, hominin evolution, encephalisation, skeletal variation between the sexes, genetics, skeletal variation with ageing, primate behaviour, tools, culture and human impacts on the environment, palaeoclimates, dispersals and language.

 

Laboratory practical classes will largely focus on skeletal anatomy, ranging from studying primate crania, stature and locomotion, australopithecine crania and encephalisation, sexing and ageing, as well as learning about lithic cultures.

 

Teaching and learning methods

Predominantly based on lecture-informed laboratory practical sessions (6 x 3-hour sessions, composed of 2 x 1/2-hour lectures and 2 x 1-hour laboratory practical classes, see course content below for titles, supplemented with two additional introductory and summary lectures prior and subsequent to the 6-week block of combined classes).

 

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 50%
Practical skills assessment 50%

Feedback methods

Assessment type

% Weighting within unit

Hand out and hand in dates

Length

 

How, when and what feedback is provided

ILO tested

 

Exam

50

 

2

 

3, 4, 5 & 6

Lab practicals (report) 50 One week after each lab 2
 
 Optional self-tests via blackboard, along with written feedback given during special session at end of semester 2
 
1, 2, 5

 

Recommended reading

Gibson, K.R., Gibson, K.R. and Ingold, T. eds., 1993. Tools, language and cognition in human evolution. Cambridge University Press.

 

King, G.E., 2015. Primate Behavior and Human Origins. Routledge.

 

McKee, J.K., Poirier, F.E. and Mcgraw, W.S., 2015. Understanding human evolution. Routledge.

 

Sahle, Y., Reyes-Centeno, H. and Bentz, C. eds., 2019. Modern Human Origins and Dispersal. Kerns Verlag.

 

Scarre, C., 2005. The human past: world prehistory and the development of human societies. Thames & Hudson.

 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 14
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Buckley Unit coordinator

Return to course details