Advanced Topics in Palaeothropology - SE8011

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
7 15 (7.5)







Hominins – the array of species of which ours is the only living representative – provide the clues to our own origins. In this module, the methods and evidence used to reconstruct their biology and behaviour are discussed. This module will provide students with an advanced knowledge of human evolution, as well as techniques used in the examination of behaviour and cognition in fossil hominins. Emphasis is placed on the study of both the fossil and archaeological evidence for human evolution. Student-led seminars will critically examine classic and recent journal articles, considering the quality of research and presentation, and the evidence for reconstructing specific aspects of human behaviour.


This module appears in:

Contact hours




Method of assessment

4000 word essay 80%, seminar leadership 20%

Indicative reading

Alemseged Z, Spoor F, Kimbel WH, Bobe R, Geraads D, Reed D, Wynn JG. 2006. A juvenile early hominin skeleton from Dikika, Ethiopia. Nature 443:296-301.
Bermudez de Castro and Martinon-Torres (2012) A new model for the evolution of the human Pleistocene populations of Europe. Quaternary International doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2012.02.036
Conroy, G.C. and Pontzer, H. (2012) Reconstructing Human Origins: A Modern Synthesis, 3rd Edition. New York: W.W. Norton.
Ungar PS, Sponheimer M (2011) The diets of early hominins. Science 334:190-193.
Wood B, Harrison T (2011) The evolutionary context of the first hominins. Nature 470:347-352
Zilhão et al (2010) Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals. PNAS 107:1023-1028.

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate an advanced ability to assess evidence and articulate theories concerning the biological and cultural evolution of humans.
2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of theoretical arguments and data in the field of palaeoanthropology.
3. Demonstrate an advanced ability to summarise the key stages in the pattern of human anatomical and cultural evolution.
4. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of how palaeoanthropologists reconstruct hominin behaviour.
5. Demonstrate an advanced ability to critically evaluate scientific papers and contribute to academic discussions and debates.
6. Demonstrate advanced critical reasoning and writing skills.
7. Demonstrate advanced verbal and visual presentation skills.
8. Demonstrate advanced interpersonal skills such as the ability to discuss critically and debate topics with peers
9. Demonstrate advanced learning and study skills as a result of independent scholarly research into particular topics

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