Biology and Human Identity - SE561

Sorry, this module is not currently running in 2019-20.


SE301 Introduction to Social Anthropology, SE302 Foundations of Biological Anthropology





The module is designed as a bridging module between more biological elements of the BSc programme and the more socio-cultural anthropology courses students take as part of that programme. Being largely a broad survey of human evolutionary biology and identity, it will serve to introduce the more biological students to arguments and materials that will place their biological understanding within a broader framework of ideas about what makes people who and what they are and encourage them to explore the socio-cultural aspects of biological science. For the more socio-cultural BA students the module provides an opportunity to consolidate biological understanding from the Foundations of Biological Anthropology module and learn how to assess the assumptions and limitations of biology in the understanding of human behaviour. We will cover topics such as the human fossil record, human variation, what makes us human and ecological adaptation. By the end of the module the student should have knowledge of the basic principles of biological anthropology, an understanding of human identity, and be able to relate those ideas to wider concepts in biology. The student will be given an overview of the hominin fossil record and its interpretation, and receive in depth study of the different biological and social aspects that define us as human and the evolution of human life histories. The student will be introduced to the genetic and phenotypic variation of the modern human species, how humans have adapted to particular environments, and the importance diet played in human evolution. The student will also acquire some of the practical skills of data collection currently used by biological anthropologists.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

The module is based on 24 contact hours balanced between lectures, laboratory practicals and seminars. There will be 1 hour lectures per week (12x1), 1x2 hour laboratory practical per module, 1x2 hour seminar and 8x1 hour seminars per module.


Start date of the module: January 2016

Stage 2
This module is compulsory for BSc Anthropology and BSc Biological Anthropology students. This module is also suitable as an optional module for students of the following degree programmes: BSc in Medical Anthropology ; BA Social Anthropology; BSc Wildlife Conservation.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by 50% coursework and 50% exam (2 hours)
The coursework consists of a written laboratory report (worth 25%) and an essay (worth 25%). The coursework and the exam provide assessment which rewards scholarly research, critical thinking and good written skills. In addition, the unseen examination also tests the student's ability to retain and accumulate knowledge.

Indicative reading

1. Cartmill, M., and Smith, F.H. (2009). The Human Lineage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell
2. Conroy, G.C., and Pontzer, H. (2012). Reconstructing Human Origins: A Modern Synthesis. New York: W.W. Norton. (3rd edition)
3. Klein R.G. (2009). The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (3rd edition)
4. Lewin, R., and Foley, R. (2004). Principles of Human Evolution. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing. (2nd edition)
5. Mielke, J.H., Konigsberg, L.W., and Relethford, J.H. (2011). Human Biological Variation. Oxford University Press. (2nd edition)
6. Wood, B. (2005). Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press
7. Hublin, J. J., & Richards, M. P. (2009). The Evolution of Hominin Diets. In Integrating Approaches to the Study of Palaeolithic Subsistence. Springer Berlin.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students completing the module should be able to:
1. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of principles of biological anthropology, specifically relating to human evolution, the fossil record, adaptation and ecology.
2. Clearly understand the relationships between biology and life processes specifically in relation to human evolution and analyse the interplay between human biology, life history processes and human behaviour
3. Critically discuss biological models and adaptive strategies to understand ‘what makes us human?’
4. Understand causal and interpretative ideas about life processes and history in different cultures and the ways in which human identities are socially processed in different cultures
5. Understand how changes in environment and diet contributed to human evolution

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