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Unit information: Introduction to Primatology in 2021/22

Unit name Introduction to Primatology
Unit code ARCH30050
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Brimacombe
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Much of our knowledge of how humans evolved has been developed through comparative studies of other living and fossil primates. Understanding the biology of our closest living relatives allows us to focus on the selective pressures that were responsible for uniquely human traits.

The overarching aim of this unit is to provide detailed exploration of primate biology and its relevance for biological anthropology. The first aim of the unit is to explore the morphological and behavioural diversity of living primate species. This will include developing an analytical approach to evaluating relationships among these variables. Second, the unit will explore the fossil record of primates dating back to the split from other mammals between 65 and 80 million years ago, with a specific emphasis on understanding how the patchwork of fossil ancestors links to lineages currently alive today. The third main aim of the unit will be a focus on theoretical approaches to interpreting the varied lines of evidence within this field. This will include comparative anatomical studies, cladistics analysis, and evaluation of life history. We will then consider applications of living and fossil primate data to the study of fossil hominids.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. Assess the diversity of living primates today and critically evaluate taxonomic relationships using morphological, genetic, and behavioural evidence.

2. Provide an evaluation of primate fossil origins from the Paleocene to the present while demonstrating a balanced appraisal of the strength and quality of the fossil evidence.

3. Interpret primate behavioural ecology within the context of human evolution and demonstrate a critical understanding of how comparative behavioural and morphological studies are conducted.

4. Understand and manipulate cladistic analysis, providing critical analysis of how the method links to models from evolutionary theory.

5. Demonstrate a detailed understanding of life history and how human life history patterns can be better understood through studies of other species.

Teaching Information

  • Weekly lectures * Two seminars
  • Two practicals
  • One project design session

Assessment Information

  1. 2000-word lab report (40%). ILOs 1, 2 and 3.
  2. 3500-word essay (60%). ILOs 4 and 5.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ARCH30050).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.