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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Angela E. Close
Seattle Campus

The Human Past

Explores human cultural and biological evolution: how ancestors 2,500,000 years ago were like us but still different, Neanderthals and their extinction, social/economic revolutions from foraging to farming to "civilized" - progress, setbacks, failures, relationships with social and natural environments, and the role of technology. Examines the astonishing variety of adaptations humans have made.

Class description

Current views of the social lives of our ancestors 2-4,000,000 years ago are probably wildly off the mark - violence was out and sex was in. We have had many close relatives ("Homo") but all became extinct. The extinction of the Neanderthals was largely our fault. We nearly went the same way, not long ago. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Student learning goals

Evolution happens.

Evolution is not the same as progress.

Most of our relatives became extinct long ago and it is largely by chance that we are still here.

People are not particularly nice to each other in any situation.

Agriculture was not necessarily a good idea.

General method of instruction

This is unavoidably a large lecture-class but we keep in mind how fascinating all this is. There will be (carefully selected) videos. Weekly sections provide a small-class, more intimate learning-environment.

Recommended preparation

Open your mind. We do not "know" what happened in the deep past - there is only a little evidence and we have to do our best with it. The thing we must not do is assume that earlier peoples were just like us. (Even most living peoples are very different from us.) It is probable that some things in the past were unlike anything we might see today.

Class assignments and grading

Weekly (almost) web-quizes, based on in-class materials, readings and web-searches. Mid-term (written) and final (multiple choice) exams. A written assignment.

All of the above

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Angela E. Close
Date: 09/08/2008