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Unit information: Early Human Origins in 2022/23

Unit name Early Human Origins
Unit code ARCH20005
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Brimacombe
Open unit status Not open
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School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Unit Information

The premise that "to understand human evolution we need to know what makes us human" structures this unit. Basic human traits such as bipedalism, large brain size, tool dependency and the use of symbols are explores from an evolutionary perspective. This unit introduces students to the main elements used in model building including hunter-gatherer ethnography, genetics, physiology, primate studies, taphonomy and archaeology. The time span covered includes the evolution of australopithecines between 5 - 7 million years ago to the arrival of modern humans in the New World about 20,000 BC.


  • To provide you with an overview of the fossil, archaeological, molecular, and environmental evidence for the pattern of human evolution, which will permit you to assess the relative importance of these categories of information in different contexts.
  • To enable you to assess the importance of an evolutionary perspective to the human sciences and our perception of what it means to be human.

Your learning on this unit

By the end of this unit successful students will be able to:

  1. Define the term ‘Primate’, describe the structure of primate phylogeny, and explain how humans fit into this phylogenetic framework.
  2. Explain the role of studies of modern primate social structures and anatomy in the interpretation of human evolution.
  3. Discuss critically the major categories of palaeoanthropological investigative procedure.
  4. Understand the key stages in the pattern of human evolution, both in terms of anatomical changes and cultural changes, as they are currently understood.
  5. Name the geographical location of major sites and finds.
  6. Describe critically the main developments in the history of the science of human evolution, and be able to assess the contribution of key scientists.

How you will learn

Weekly lectures/practicals or seminars, supported by self-directed activities

How you will be assessed

1) One timed assessment (50%). Assesses ILOs 2-4

2) One 2500 word essay (50%). Assesses ILOs 1-6


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. ARCH20005).

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.