ANTH 1603 Human Origins

Course Description:
The evolution of our own group and our closest relatives--fossil and living apes--is a fascinating as well as perplexing subject of study. In part, we can learn much about evolution by studying our own evolutionary group. But, because the subject is so close to us, various emotional components tend to be introduced into the supposed science of paleontology and evolutionary biology. To better understand our own evolutionary past, and to establish the necessary background for undertaking this task, the first weeks of the course will consist of: 1) an introduction to methods of reconstructing evolutionary relationships; 2) learning necessary anatomical and dental terminologies through study of casts of actual fossils; 3) understanding geological and ecological changes that occurred during the evolution of apes and humans (at least the past 35 million years); 4) and, in order to set the stage for later discussion, an overview of primate evolution. The bulk of the course will consist of a survey of the fossil evidence for the evolution of apes and of ourselves. Where were the fossils found? How much material is known? How were these finds interpreted in the past and how might we view matters today? What biases have and/or do influence these interpretations? How might we--as the ones who also devise evolutionary schemes--look at ourselves from an evolutionary perspective. Lectures will be supplemented with casts of fossils and skeletons and skulls of modern-day primates as well as slides of all specimens discussed. Prerequisites: Undergraduates must have taken Anthropology 0680 or received permission to enter the course from the instructor.

Copy of Syllabus

Helpful Links

These sites are intended to supplement the primary material from lectures, labs, and assigned readings. Their content does not replace or supercede that material.

Osteo Interactive
Skull Module
The Human Dentition
Dental Microwear Website
The eSkeletons Project