Skip to main content

The Archaeology of Human Evolution


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Tim Reynolds
  • Assessment: two 2500-word assessments (25% each) and a 48-hour take-home examination (50%)

Module description

Within the lifespan of our species we have overlapped with at least four other forms of human. On this module we explore human origins and the methods and techniques for studying them, and investigate key questions in the story of human evolution:

  • When and how did hominins split from a shared ape ancestry in Africa?
  • What allowed our ancestors to spread out across Asia and Europe?
  • How did early humans live?
  • What happened to the other human species?

There is also an optional trip to London Zoo.

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction: issues in human evolution
  • History of ideas on human origins and evolution
  • The Primates
  • Geological, climatic and environmental background to human evolution
  • Taphonomy
  • Anatomical methods
  • Biomolocular methods
  • Introduction to the Australopithecines
  • The Australopithecines
  • Origins of the genus Homo: Homo habilis/rudophensis
  • Out of Africa 1
  • Consciousness, intelligence and behaviour
  • Consolidation: Homo erectus
  • Geographical variability: Homo heidelbergensis,’ Archiac Homo’
  • The Neanderthals
  • Origins of modern humans: Out of Africa 2
  • Modern humans in Asia
  • Modern humans in Europe
  • Colonisation: occupying the New World
  • Review

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate a broad knowledge of the archaeology and cultural development of different human species
  • understand the interpretative models for human evolution
  • understand the interplay between archaeological evidence, method and theory
  • critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the archaeological sources for the period
  • demonstrate knowledge and comprehension of academic and archaeological debate
  • locate, retrieve and process primary and secondary archaeological information
  • read critically diverse sources of archaeological information.