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BioAnth Courses: B3 – Human Evolution

b3B3 – Human Evolution

This paper provides a foundation in Human Evolution.

The paper looks at human evolution from its primate context millions of years ago to the present day. It explores hominin origins and their relationship to the apes, the emergence of bipedalism in an ecological framework, and the adaptive radiation of hominins between 4 and 2 million years ago. It examines the first tool use of hominins more than 2.5 million years ago, and the factors shaping the evolution of early Homo and their technology within Africa. From shortly after 2 million years ago, hominins dispersed beyond Africa, and we will look at the fossil and archaeological record for these dispersals and adaptations, their diversity, as well as their behaviour and technology. We focus in detail on the emergence and dispersal of modern humans, giving particular focus on the diversity of their technology and adaptations in different parts of the world, and their relationship to both the climate in which they evolved and the archaic competitors such as Neanderthals whom they out-survived. We will explore modern human dispersal(s) and how these shaped human diversity. The context for all this will be evolutionary theory and biology, looking at the role of selection and adaptation, and the processes by which lineages diversify and potentially become extinct. We will look at the relative importance of genes, phenotypes and behaviour in the evolutionary process.


It is taken by:

  • students doing the Biological Anthropology Track in Part IIA of the Archaeology Tripos
  • students who have completed Part IB MVST, NST, PBS or Part IIA HSPS and are doing a one-year Part II in Biological Anthropology as part of the Archaeology Tripos
  • students doing a Major in Human Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour as part of the NST Part II Biological and Biomedical Sciences

It may be taken as an option by:

  • Part IIA students in the Archaeology Tripos
  • Part IB students in the HSPS (Human, Social and Political Sciences) Tripos
  • Part IB students in the PBS (Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) Tripos
  • Part II students in the NST Tripos
  • NST Part II Biological and Biomedical Sciences students (not majoring in Human Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour)


Paper Coordinator: Prof Robert Foley

Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures
Lent Term: 8 Lectures & 3 seminars
Assessment: 3 hour exam