ANTHRBIO 166 – Searching for Human Origins
Understanding our origin has long been an agenda of philosophers, theologians, anatomists, and naturalists, and early theories generated were rooted primarily in conceptual frameworks. Speculation was the dominant theme of these narratives. The discovery and systematic study of human fossils is a recent phenomenon and the wealth of fossil data that has been collected, especially during the last 40 years has revolutionized our perspectives of our origins and the processes involved in the evolution of the human lineage. While major questions have been answered, many still remain, and contemporary scientific explanations continue to be influenced by preconceptions and traditional views. In this course, we will examine how the fossil record has reshaped our understanding of our evolution during the last 7 million years, philosophical, theoretical and analytical dimensions of these scientific inquiries, and major controversies which have been played out in interpretations of the data collected primarily from the East and South African fossil records.
ANTHRBIO 446 – Evolutionary Processes
The goal of this course is to develop a theoretical framework in evolutionary biology within which we can explore human evolution and ultimately aspects of modern human biology and behavior. We will begin with a broad, historical survey of the development of evolutionary theory and then focus on a number of key theoretical issues. Before going on to assess the extent to which evolutionary perspectives can shed light on modern human culture and biology, we will briefly examine the extent to which the application of evolutionary concepts enlighten us on the adaptive significance of key morphological innovations in early hominins as well as the utility of primate models for developing an evolutionary foundation for human behavior. These studies will provide biological continuity for assessing unique aspects of modern humans and allow us to identify specific topics on which we should converge. Towards the end of the course, we will examine aspects of human biology and culture that have been interpreted in an evolutionary context and evaluate the usefulness of applied evolutionary theory in the study of modern humans.
ANTHRBIO 373 – Human Evolutionary Ecology
Utilizing an ecological perspective, we will address basic questions of why and how humans evolved over the past seven million years. What were the adaptive forces that our ancestors faced and how has this shaped who we are today? To pursue these concepts, we need to adopt a multidisciplinary perspective, drawing from fields as diverse as anthropology, evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, paleontology, geology, physiology, climatology, and psychology. Initially, this will involve a scrutiny of biotic and abiotic factors that may have influenced early human evolution including local and regional environmental/climatic change, associated faunal and floral communities, habitat and dietary reconstructions, seasonality and foraging strategies, tool manufacture and use, the transition into a glacial world characterized by constantly shifting climates, and potential geographic and ecological barriers controlling the dispersal of early humans. While retaining a broad perspective, we will focus on some of the key evolutionary stages in human evolution, ultimately including the extent to which ecology can be linked to the evolution and development of social structures and the capacity for culture in modern humans.
ANTHRBIO 469 – Lab Methods in Paleodiet Reconstruction
The adoption of quantitative biogeochemical techniques by biological anthropologists has led to innovative and novel approaches to reconstructing paleodiets, migratory patterns, ecological context of human adaptations, and life history patterns. Stable isotopic or trace element analyses have in particular contributed to a number of anthropological research agendas. This course aims to provide an introduction to biogeochemical case studies in anthropology and the challenges of designing, conducting, analyzing and writing up laboratory and field research in biological anthropology. It will include practical advice on how to develop feasible and interesting research objectives, select an appropriate research topic, and design protocols for collection of quantitative data. Each student will implement a pilot project and generate empirical data that will be analyzed and presented.