Human Evolution

This three-hour tutorial is intended as  a comprehensive primer on hominization and the emergence of Homo sapiens. The tutorial has been designed to be of particular use to students reading for degrees in anthropology, archaeology, genetics and evolution, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy.

 

We begin 7 million years ago with the fossil Sahelanthropus tchadensis, thought to be a bipedal ancestor of later hominins such as the australopithicines that emerged 3 million years later. We trace fossil lineage, introducing the first species of the Homo genus, Homo habilis that walked the earth some 2.8 million years and who appears to have used stone tools. From there we progress through the beautiful history of our genus, encountering Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus and Homo ergaster along the way. Our travels take us from North Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, to Georgia, Israel and Southern Europe. In the second half of this session, we address some of the big debates and questions within paleoanthropology. When did humans diverge from the other great apes? What patterns of temporal and geographical distribution have occurred within Homo populations over the past 2 million years? What is the link between intracranial volume expansion and use of stone tools between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago? We conclude by considering the recent evolution of our species: how blue eyes arose from a single genetic mutation some 6,000-10,000 years ago; how our current behavioural patterns evolved; and how natural selection is still at work in modern human populations, providing examples of identified gene variants.

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For further information and a programme, please email     Dr Guy Sutton at the address in the footer below.

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