Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jennie Shaw
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

We will unravel the complex, often murky evolutionary story that culminated in “us” (Homo sapiens) and examine the archaeological signatures of humankind’s greatest achievements: tool making, art, burials, agriculture, complex civilizations, and monumental architecture, to name a few. The first portion of the class will introduce students to the principles and methods that archaeologists use to interpret behavior and assign dates to those behaviors. We will then spend time understanding our first human ancestors in Africa and how they evolved and migrated around the globe. The latter half of the class explores the archaeology of food production and the development of cities and social hierarchy, using case studies from around the world.

Student learning goals

Develop a working language and understanding for the processes which define evolution

Understand the competing hypotheses for the establishment of Homo sapiens around the world

Explain the common characteristics of "complex societies"

Understand the processes by which archaeologists ascribe human behavior to archaeological sites and artifacts

General method of instruction

Lecture is the primary method of instruction and will be supplemented with many images and a few videos. Sections meet once a week and are a great chance to discuss lecture topics and view artifacts.

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites for this class, other than a general fascination about the past.

Class assignments and grading

There will be weekly section assignments, as well as occasional in-class exercises and exams.

Two midterms (20% each) and a final exam (20%). Sections and in-class exercises comprise the remaining 40% of the grade.


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 Jennie Shaw
Date: 11/03/2009