Anthropology | Human Origins and Prehistory
A105 | 0451 | Sept


	This course will introduce you to the study of human evolution -
paleoanthropology--a branch of anthropology which seeks to understand
human uniqueness by studying the human past using scientific methods. The
story of our past can be found in clues from a wide range of sources --
everything from details of DNA to evocative murals in Ice Age caves. This
is why the scientific quest for human origins requires the curiosity of a
philosopher coupled with the skills of a skeptical detective.
We will begin with an introduction to evolutionary principles.
While people often think of themselves as very different from other
animals, you will discover that we can learn a lot about ourselves by
studying the genes, bodies and behavior of our closest living relatives,
other primates, and apply this knowledge to help interpret ancient
evidence.
During the second half of the class we will dig into the past,
to look at fossils and archaeological sites for the evidence revealing
when and where humans first began to behave like "odd animals." When did
our ancestors begin to walk upright? Where were tools and art invented?
What do we know about the origins of language and the development of the
wide range of social and cultural practices that we consider so "human"
today?
Throughout the semester we will examine examples of how
researchers think about "evidence" and how scientific theories about human
evolution have been built, piece by piece, from a variety of sources. We
will look at examples of contrasting interpretations of scientific
evidence for the human past, and study why some arguments have stood the
tests of time, and are more convincing than others.

Course Work and Grades:
Lectures will introduce students to the major questions we ask
about human evolution, and the various methods scientists can use to
search for answers. Lectures will complement the textbook readings, but
not duplicate them. We will also spend time during class periods
discussing how to think critically about interesting questions that relate
to our evolutionary heritage. From time to time you will have an
opportunity to earn extra-credit points during a lecture.
Weekly Discussion Sections will give you the opportunity to get
to know other students in the class, discuss class concepts in a small
group, and also to get "hands on" experience studying important fossils,
artifacts, and other types of evidence. Sections are a required part of
the course, and students will receive course credit for participation in
sections.
Writing assignments will give you the opportunity to apply
concepts you are learning in A105 to a variety of situations outside our
classroom. You will have the chance to write essays on four different
topics (~4 typed pages each; each worth 10% of course grade). Your final
grade will be based on your best three assignments (e.g. you only have to
do three, but if you do all four, we'll drop the lowest grade). Each
assignment will focus on a major theme covered in the textbook and
lectures, but will require some outside work as well.
	Exams - We will have three in-class exams (worth 5%, 15% and 15% of
your grade) and one final, cumulative exam (worth 20% of your grade). The
in-class exams will have mixed formats, including some multiple choice and
some written answers. The final exam will probably be mostly multiple
choice, due to time constraints on grading. Note that the first mini-exam,
worth 5% of your grade, is scheduled very early in the semester, to help
you callibrate your expectations and study strategies with our
expectations and approach to grading.