Anthropological Sciences 101

ANSC 101: Anthropology of the Human Past

Credit Hours: (3)

This course serves as the introduction to the Anthropological Sciences and thus to the biocultural origin and evolution of the human species and human societies worldwide. It includes a survey of human and nonhuman primate evolution and prehistory (including the methods and theories used by anthropologists to illuminate these subjects) and the emergence of fully modern humans in terms of their behavior and culture. The more recent evolution of societies as diverse as small-scale hunter-gatherers to more complex civilizations is also considered in the context of the biocultural factors that have shaped their development. Finally, students will be introduced to the range of modern applications in anthropological sciences, ranging from cultural resource management to forensic investigation.

Note(s): This course has been approved for credit in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Area of the Core Curriculum.


Detailed Description of Course

This course will cover such topics as the biological evolution of humans and our nonhuman primate relatives, the cultural evolution of humans since our origin until the development of complex civilizations, the origin and distribution of cultural and biological variation found in human populations throughout time and across geographic space, and the interaction between the biological forces of evolution (genetics, environment, ecology) and the cultural adaptations of human populations.  More specifically this course will cover:

  • An introduction to the Anthropological Sciences
  • An introduction to biological evolution and heredity
  • The interaction of biology and culture in understanding humans past and present
  • Non-human Primates:
  • Taxonomy
  • Behavior
  • Hominid evolution:
  • Early hominids
  • Genus Homo
  • Modern human origins-
  • Neandertals, Anatomically Modern Homo sapiens
  • Upper Paleolithic
  • The Neolithic: origins of agriculture
  • Early complex societies:
  • Old World
  • New World
  • Human variation and adaptation
  • Applied fields in the Anthropological Sciences:
  • Cultural Resource Management,
  • Forensic anthropology,
  • Medical anthropology


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

As this will be a 100-level introductory course available to students from many majors and levels (including incoming freshmen), course content will be presented mainly through classroom lectures, readings, discussions, short writing assignments, and audio-visual materials. Whenever possible, current anthropological studies (both popular and professional) will be highlighted to introduce students to the Anthropological Sciences.  Students will be encouraged to apply the discipline to understanding their  past as well as solving current and future world problems.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Having successfully completed this course, the student will be able to:

  • Explain the origin and development of human biological and cultural variation
  • Describe and explain the modern distribution of human biological and cultural diversity
  • Discuss and evaluate competing theories for the long term trends in human biocultural evolution
  • Discuss the interaction between human populations and the natural world throughout time and space, including human adaptation and environmental impacts
  • Explain and interpret major behavioral science concepts such as our emergence as a biological and cultural species, and the impact of our biology and culture on the individual and the larger population
  • Use anthropological methods and theory to explain the origins and development of human social, economic and political inequality
  • Explain the application of anthropological concepts to solve problems in the areas of environmental sustainability, forensic science, archaeological preservation, and heritage management.


Assessment Measures

Three assessment measures will be used in this class including exams, quizzes, and short writing assignments.

  • Quizzes will be used as both a self-assessment measures for the students as well as a way for the instructor to gauge student understanding of class materials.  The quizzes will be short and given on a weekly basis.
  • There will be four exams given during the course of the semester. These exams will be part multiple-choice and part written exercises.
  • Several short writing assignments will be given throughout the semester and will allow students to demonstrate mastery of key course concepts.


Other Course Information



Review and Approval


October, 2009