Anthropology | Human Paleontology
B464 | 0468 | Hunt
Humans are unique animals, but 20 million years ago our ape ancestors were
hardly distinguishable from any of the tens of apes that flourished then.
The story of how we survived the ape die-off around 10 million years ago,
and how humans came to be the world's dominant primate is the subject of
Human Paleontology. B464, Human Paleontology, aims to survey the human
fossil record, seeking to understand the causes of human evolution along
the way. We will begin historically, by examining how scientists came to
recognize fossils as extinct animals, and how they learned interpret them.
Students will learn basic biomechanics, and will learn how biomechanics
helps us to understand extinct animals. We will try to understand how the
human body functions by treating it as a mechanical solution to
life-problems. The class will examine the evolutionary theory that
explains why humans evolved and why we're still evolving. In the course
of learning the anatomy and chronology of critical fossils, students will
learn why humans became bipedal, why we shifted from a principally
vegetarian diet to one that includes animal matter, why we came to have
large brains, and what the impact of tools and other technology has had on
our bodies. Reading in B464 will consist of most of a 280 page text and
about 15-20 outside readings. There will be three exams, the last a
cumulative final. A term paper is required. Two required labs will teach
students basic bone anatomy, and allow them to examine casts of important
fossils on their own.