Anthropology | Prehistoric Diet & Nutrition
P380 | 0424 | Sept
"YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT..." we are often told... yet human diets today
are vastly different from those of our ancestors of just a few
thousand years ago. Are people adapted to their modern diets? Is there
a "natural" diet for humans?
This course will explore how the long-term history of human diet has
influenced our genetic, physiological, cultural and social
development. It will focus on how we must integrate data from both
human evolutionary biology (e.g. fossil anatomy, bone chemistry) and
prehistoric culture (e.g, .technology, food remains) to arrive at an
understanding of our dietary heritage. There are no prerequisites,
other than curiosity about your evolutionary heritage and human diet.
COURSE OBJECTIVES & ORGANIZATION
I. We will begin with a brief review of modern "human primate"
nutrition and examine some of the biological and cultural factors that
can influence human food choice. You will compare your own diet to the
diets of non-human primates and human hunter-gatherers, and this
should help you put some of the current "diet fads" in an evolutionary
II. We will then review the prehistoric record for proto-human diet,
focusing on case studies of the different methods used to reconstruct
diets (including studies of fossil anatomy & tooth wear, bone
chemistry, and artifact and faunal analysis of the earliest
archaeological sites). Our aim will be to understand both the long-
term history of human diet, and the limits of our knowledge of the
III. Finally, we will look at the prehistoric record for the
transition from hunting and gathering to food production, again
focusing on the different methods used to reconstruct the diet and
health of prehistoric peoples. Agriculture has not only changed the
types of foods we eat, it has profoundly influenced many aspects of
our health and lifestyle.
The required readings will come mostly from books and journals (50-100
pp per week), in addition to a CD-ROM and the book The Paleo Diet.
Your first project will be to review a popular diet book of your
choosing from an evolutionary perspective, so you will probably want
to purchase your own copy.
" Three practical projects will each ask you to apply your
knowledge of the course material to a particular issue or exercise (
each project = 20% of grade).
" Two essay assignments will require you to discuss and
integrate material covered in the lectures and readings. (each paper =
15% of course grade).
" There will be ten "open book" quizzes, available through
Oncourse. They will be designed to encourage you keep up with the
readings. (10% of course grade)
Attention Graduate Students!! You can get graduate credit for this
course if you do extra readings and an extra paper, in addition to
completing all the undergraduate course requirements. Please talk to
Professor Sept about your interests.