nl en

Paleontological and archeological reconstruction of the human lineage


Admission requirements

This course is part of the minor Human Evolution and registration is restricted to students who followed the preceding course of this minor.

Contact information

Coordinator: Dr. A. Verpoorte


The evolution of human traits like bipedal locomotion, large brains and tool use can be reconstructed from fossil remains. In this course the fossil record of the human lineage will be explored. First, the main groups of hominins of the past 8 million years will be studied in detail. Casts of “Lucy” and other important fossils are compared during several practicals. We discuss the climate and environment of Homo erectus and Neandertals. We investigate the relations between diet, brain size and anatomical features, e.g. the importance of cooking and the use of fire. Next, we focus on the archaeological record of modern humans from their origins in Africa to the dispersal out-of-Africa and their interactions with other hominins.

Learning goals

Course objectives:

  • Teaching students the principles and methods of paleolithic archaeology and paleoanthropology

  • Providing knowledge about dating methods and site formation processes

  • Providing a framework of climate change and environments and the main sources of information on them

  • Providing knowledge about the basic characteristics of the main groups of fossil hominins, specifically about the origins and dispersal of Homo sapiens

  • Discussing theories about the evolutionary history of human bipedality, brain size, toolmaking and diet

  • Training to make a scientific poster presentation on a paleoanthropological topic

Final qualifications:

By the end of the course, the students should able to:

  • know the main anatomical features, age and distribution of the main hominin groups

  • outline the main developments in the hominin fossil record and the origins and dispersal of Homo sapiens in particular

  • outline the evolution of human bipedality, brain size, toolmaking and diet

  • discuss several theories about the evolution of these features in terms of the fossil and archaeological evidence

  • understand and discuss relevant scientific literature about the evolutionary history of humans

  • present a paleoanthropological topic in the form of a scientific poster.


From 15 October 2018 to 9 November 2018. A detailed time table will be published on blackboard.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and practicals. Also, reading textbook and primary literature. Selfstudy.

Assessment method

Multiple choice test for testing theory, assessment of posterpresentation. Attendance at practicals and performance on assignments may be part of the final score.


Will be used for communication and instruction.

Reading list

Compulsory book: R. Boyd & J.B. Silk; How Humans Evolved, 8th edition, 2018; Norton Publishers.
Primary literature t.b.a.


Register for this course via Usis and enroll in Blackboard.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.