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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Molly E Odell
ARCHY 105
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

This course will examine what it means to be human through the lens of an archaeologist. Beginning with our earliest ancestors in Africa, we will address some of the long-standing issues debated by anthropologists as well as those which have only recently come to the forefront – Why did our ancestors begin to walk on two legs? When did they begin using stone tools? Was the tiny Homo habilis the first of our genus or a side-branch that went extinct? Is new DNA evidence enough to prove that some of us are descended from Neanderthals? Was agriculture humanity’s greatest mistake? Is state-level society inevitable? Answers to these questions are not always straightforward, even to archaeologists, and new discoveries are constantly change what we know. As a result, we will focus on evaluating different sides of each argument, rather than on memorizing dates and facts.

Student learning goals

Students will be able to debate the major issues in human prehistory.

General method of instruction

Interactive lectures (question and answer), in-class activities, in-class practice exams

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Two midterm exams: 20% each Final exam: 30% In-class activities: 10% Practice exams: 10% Online (open-book) reading quizzes: 10%


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.
Class Website
Last Update by Molly E Odell
Date: 10/26/2011