Human Origins and Evolution: the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic (ARC2516)

15 credits

Our knowledge of the human evolutionary story has changed dramatically in the past 15 years as new discoveries and new technologies have impacted on the field, not least the discoveries of new hominin species such as Homo floresiensis, the Denisovans and Homo naledi. It is probably true to say that no other area of archaeology has changed more. As such it is an exciting time to study human evolution.

This module will introduce you to one of the most fundamental topics in archaeology – that of the origins and evolution of our species Homo sapiens. Beginning around 6 million years ago, this module will chart the evolution of our species from our great ape ancestors until the end of the Middle Palaeolithic period, exploring the origins of the behavioural and technological adaptations that subsequently enabled humans to conquer the globe. Key topics will include an introduction to human fossils (with practicals using the departmental collection of skull casts), the archaeology of Australopithecine base camp sites, the origins of hunting behaviours, the ability to control fire, the controversial evidence for early symbolic behaviours and the Neanderthal world. The module will finish with an in-depth analysis of possible reasons why Neanderthals went extinct at the hands of our own species Homo sapiens.

The module will be taught assuming no prior knowledge of Palaeolithic archaeology.