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BioAnth Courses: B6 – Major Topics in Human Evolutionary Studies

b6B6 – Major Topics in Human Evolutionary Studies

This paper addresses the question of what are the key questions in Biological Anthropology
and how to investigate them in practice.

The paper is an exploration of current topics and issues at the core of Biological Anthropology - the evolutionary underpinnings of the biological and behavioural variation of humans, our hominin ancestors and our closest living animal relatives - i.e., the broader field of human evolutionary studies. It is designed to build on the background knowledge in biology and anthropology that students have acquired in their first and second years, in order to look at what are major questions of debate and what are the ways to approach these - in other words, what are the problems and how do we address them. It will comprise eight modules, each looking at a particular area of the discipline. These will vary from year to year, to reflect topical areas where research is changing rapidly. The emphasis will be on a) how to identify important questions; b) show how these relate to broader issues in anthropology and biology; c) focus on the practical methods and approaches being used or developed to tackle these questions; and d) provide guidance in how to put into practice knowledge and understanding in pure and applied science. Examples of potential topics include epigenetics, the origins of war, extinction biology, ancient DNA, climate change, phylogenetics and evolution.


It is taken by :

  • students doing the Biological Anthropology Track in Part IIB of the Archaeology Tripos

It may be taken as an option by:

  • 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 the Biological Anthropology/Archaeology Joint Track as Part IIB of the Archaeology Tripos


Paper Coordinator: Prof Robert Foley
Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures & seminars
Lent Term: 16 Lectures & seminars

Assessment: submitted work in the form of a grant proposal on a topic of the student’s choice drawn from one of the six modules.