P314 Earlier Prehistory of Africa Syllabus

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This class will require you to do a lot of reading, writing, and thinking, using both traditional scholarly resources (such as the library), and newer computer tools (such as CD-ROM and WWW). My goal is to engage you in active investigation and interpretation of the early archaeological record of Africa. To do so you will need to learn basic terminology and key concepts, but, more importantly, you will be learning how to build effective written arguments using your own interpretations of different types of archaeological evidence and scientific reasoning.


In order to take the course online quizzes, and work on course WWW assignments, you will need to obtain a UCS NETWORK I.D., (the class will occassionally meet in both the NT clusters and the MacIntosh clusters), and learn to use the WWW.

Students will also be required to use a CD-ROM called "Investigating Olduvai" for several course assignments. If you do not own a personal computer with a CD-ROM drive (either windows or Mac), then you will have to use one of the IU campus MacIntosh clusters to use this CD-ROM, because, sadly, the IU NT clusters do not work well with the program.

NOTE: If you have not previously taken a course in human evolution or archaeology, you may initially have difficulty following some of the material in this course. Consult the instructor if you are worried about the level of your background preparation.


READINGS for this course are extensive, and are an important part of the course material. Readings will come from a range of scientific articles and book chapters which have been placed ON RESERVE in the Geography Library.

If you intend to make photocopies of all the readings, you may consider ordering copies from Print Mart, which will have a complete set of the readings available for custom copying, available on Thursday, Sept 3.

In addition, the first third of the course will require you to work with a new CD-ROM Investigating Olduvai. Archaeology of Human Origins published by Professor Sept. You can purchase your own copy of the CD-ROM from one of the bookstores, or check out one of the two copies placed on reserve in the Media Collection of the Main Library: GN 281 .S47 1997 (catalogued separately from other books)


GRADES will be based on:

30% weekly, on-line "open book" WWW quizzes (grade based on cumulative total points)

70% in class and take-home projects and essay assignments (including library, CD-ROM and WWW research)

Weekly "open book" quizzes will test your understanding of the basic information covered in lectures and readings. Quizzes will be available through the WWW, and must be taken by the weekly deadline (Sunday midnight) to qualify for credit. There will be about 10 quiz questions each week, and your cumulative quiz score will make up 30% of your final grade.

Go To Quiz Site

NOTE: Quiz 1 is now ready (and will be available to take through week 2). The MAP for quiz1 is experiencing "loading difficulty" on the quiz. Therefore, I recommend clicking on this link now: QUIZ1 MAP and printing out a paper copy to use as a study guide when you take the quiz!


Projects and essay assignments will be focused on important questions in African archaeology, and will ask you to synthesize materials from the lectures, readings and computer investigations. You will be doing a lot of writing in this class!

The first several assignments will be based on the CD-ROM, and will ask you to work with, and interpret the actual data from Olduvai Gorge.

Projects and essays later in the semester will involve the use of a new WWW learning environment called "Prehistoric Puzzles" developed by Professor Sept and IU colleagues, and also require independent library research. The last essay assignment will be due by the time scheduled for our final exam: e.g. 12:30 pm Tuesday December 15.

Weekly Schedule of Topics

  • 1 Introduction to Africa's place in prehistory: history & geography (QUIZ 1)
  • 2 Introduction to the Early Stone Age: the South African story
  • 3 Introduction to the Early Stone Age: the East African story
  • 4 Who made the first stone tools, and why?
  • 5 The Hunting/Scavenging Debate & the Home Base hypothesis
  • 6 Early Hominid society and land-use
  • 7 Homo erectus & the Acheulian: changing adaptations?
  • 8 The Muddle in the Middle
  • 9 Late Acheulian sites and archaic Homo sapiens
  • 10 Did modern humans originate in Africa?
  • 11 Middle Stone Age
  • 12 MSA case studies
  • 13 Regional transitions from MSA to LSA (Tuesday class only)
  • Thanksgiving Break Wednesday - Sunday !
  • 14 Later Stone Age
  • 15 LSA case studies

     Professor Jeanne Sept

     (812) 855-5395 ; email: SEPT  

     Office Hours Student Bldg 038

    TH 1:00-3:00, or by appt.

       Lectures: Student Bldg 150

    TuTh 11:15-12:30

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    Human Origins in Africa | African Resources | Archaeology Links |
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    Last updated: 3 September, 1998
    URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~origins/teach/p314/xxx.html
    Comments: sept@indiana.edu
    Copyright Jeanne Sept 1998 : do not cite without permission

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