P314: Early Prehistory of Africa Fall 2000
Final Take-Home Essay 4: Debating modernity
This essay will be worth 15% of your course grade. (Limit: ~5 typed pages, double-spaced)
It is due before noon on Tuesday, December 12. (This essay will be due at the time of the scheduled final exam).
One of the most controversial current debates in African Prehistory is: When can we recognize the first evidence of truly modern human behavior in the archaeological record in Africa? Write an essay that evaluates possible answers to this question.
Guidelines: in your essay be sure to:
- Frame the debate: describe what different authors in your assigned readings mean by the term "modern human behavior" and how useful you think their definitions are.
- Describe the nature, in general, of the different types of archaeological evidence that can be used to evaluate this question. To what extent do problems of differential preservation, dating, or other taphonomic processes influence our ability to interpret these different types of data?
- Apply your understanding of this debate to compare the set of MSA site reports prepared by our class, and identify important patterns you see in the key types of evidence found at these sites that could be used to identify "modernity." Summarize these site patterns in some type of table or chart that you attach to your essay, and refer to this table to support your points.
- How do authors with different positions in this debate use examples of the data to support different points of view?
- Evaluate their arguments based on their logic and the types of evidence they use, and compared to the patterns you have discovered in the sites reports (note that some of the sites were excavated after the articles were written). In other words, how do we know what we know about this topic?
Demonstrate, in your essay, your ability to compare and integrate information from these different sources, and include references to all of the assigned readings on the MSA, to show your mastery of the relevant information needed to address this question. (You can also refer to data in TimeWeb if that is useful to you.) However, to show your understanding of the material, it is best to paraphrase (and cite) the sources in your own words, not to quote them.
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Last updated: 1 December, 2000
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