Angela E. Close
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.
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 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.
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