Anthropology | Human Origins and Prehistory
A105 | 5990 | Sept


This course will introduce you to the study of human evolution – 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 Ice Age art.  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, and a discussion of the
nature of scientific reasoning. 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, chimpanzees and 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?
Who were the “cave men”? What do we know about the origins of
language, or the roots of human bio-cultural diversity 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. 

Sitting at
the beginning of a new millennium, our goal is to help you appreciate
how a knowledge of the human past is relevant to your own life,
whether as a student at IU today, or as a future parent, medical
patient, consumer…. or I-life professional!