A detailed examination of some of the key issues in human ecology and behavioural evolution from the emergence of “cognitively-modern” humans in the early Upper Pleistocene until the beginnings of food production in the Holocene. The course will review contemporary debates on issues such as: the emergence of biological and behavioural modernity in Africa, the adaptations of hunter-gatherers to the harsh environmental conditions of the last glacial in Europe, the analysis and interpretation of Upper Palaeolithic cave-art, the nature of hunter-gatherer societies immediately prior to the transition to agriculture in Europe and the Near East, the colonization of Australia and the Americas and human involvement in megafaunal extinctions.
Aims of the course
This course will examine key issues in human evolution and development from the emergence of modern humans (ca.150,000 BP) until the transition to food production (ca. 12-6,000 BP). It will involve a comparative study of the archaeological records from Africa, Western Asia and Europe, and a review of the evidence for the colonization of Australasia and the Americas.
On successful completion of this course, students will:
- be knowledgeable about the central debates concerning the development of hunter-gatherer societies through the late Pleistocene and early Holocene
- have an understanding of the nature of the evidence and the ways in which it has been collected and analysed.
- have a critical appreciation of the range of models which have been used in its interpretation.
By the end of this course, students will have expanded:
- their skills in evaluating archaeological data-bases, and the techniques and models used in their analysis and interpretation.
- their experience in articulating complex ideas and information in written and oral presentations.
- their abilities to design and undertake original research.
This 0.5 element course will be taught weekly in 10 two hour sessions. Each will begin with a lecture, followed by 1-2 short student presentations and an open discussion. The presentations will normally involve a critical review of 1-2 articles and will be agreed in the week preceding the seminar. There will be recommended readings, which students will be expected to have done, in order to follow and actively contribute to discussion.