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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Angela E. Close
ARCHY 401
Seattle Campus

Archaeology of Human Origins

Early part of the prehistoric archaeological record in Africa and Eurasia, from >2,000,000 years ago until the spread of modern human beings; development of stone and bone technologies; ways of making a living; cultural adaptations; intellectual and social development. Prerequisite: ARCHY 205.

Class description

This course traces human development from earliest times up to the appearance and spread of modern human beings. We will begin by considering in what ways our hominin ancestors of more than 3,000,000 years ago were like us and in what ways they may still have been incomprehensibly different. We will then trace the evidence for the long path from the australopithecines to Homo sapiens, and the ultimate colonization by the latter of the entire Old World. While the stages of human biological evolution will be outlined, the primary emphasis will be upon the archaeological evidence for the social, intellectual and technological development of our ancestors, including advances, setbacks and outright failures.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Requirements include:

1. A mid-term exam (25% of the course grade).

2. An individual presentation in class (20% of the course grade)

3. Participation in class (25% of the course grade)

4. A final paper (30% of the course grade).

Exam. The mid-term exam will cover all of the course up to that point, including material covered in student-presentations. It will consist primarily of short essay questions.

Presentation. Each student will give a 15-20-minute presentation in class, addressing some issue supremely relevant to the course, to be negotiated between the student and the Instructor. Five of these are specified below; others will address some aspect of the prehistory of western Eurasia between ca 50,000 and 30,000 years ago.

Participation. This includes ‘participation’ as usually conceived (asking questions, making helpful observations, valuable interruptions etc.) and may include “pop-quizes” (5%).

Participation also includes the analysis of five selected, recent (2010 and 2011) publications (see Course Schedule) (20%). Five students (self-selected, one hopes) will each take on one of these publications as the core of their in-class presentation. After the presentation and discussion, every student will then write a short analysis of the publication. ‘Short’ means less than 1000 words of text. There is a useful template for the analysis of scholarly publications available through the web-page. After presentation/discussion on a Tuesday, papers will be due by the beginning of class on the following Thursday; after presentation/discussion on a Thursday, papers will be due by 2 pm on Friday (the next day).

Final Paper. Each student will submit a written paper synthesising the prehistory of western Eurasia 50,000-30,000 years ago. Papers will be approximately 10 (for undergraduates) or 15 (for graduate students) double-spaced pages of text, excluding References, illustrations and any other supplementary material.


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.
Last Update by Angela E. Close
Date: 03/15/2011