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History 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


In this course the fossil record of the human lineage will be explored from the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees to the emergence of Homo sapiens. We will meet the main hominins of the past 8 million years and look at traits such as bipedal locomotion, life histories, body size,brain size, and their diseases. We will study our collection of casts including for example “Lucy”, Neandertals and early modern humans and investigate which tools they used, what they ate, whether they used fire, and why all but Homo sapiens got extinct.

Learning goals

Course objectives:

· Teaching students the principles and methods of paleolithic archaeology,paleoanthropology, and palaeopathology.

· 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 main fossil hominins and specifically about the origins and dispersal of Homo sapiens

· Discussing theories about the evolutionary history of human bipedality, brain size, toolmaking,diet, life histories and diseases.

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

Final qualifications:

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

  • describe 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, life histories, brain size, toolmaking and diet

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

· understand the fossil and archeological evidence for disease in hominins

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

· present a paleoanthropological topic in the form of a scientific poster


From 4 October 2022 to 29 October 2022. A detailed time table will be published on Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Lectures, tutorials and practicals. Also, reading textbook and primary literature. Selfstudy. During this course, you will spend around 28 hrs working in groups on one of your half-minor essay topics (Evolution of Diet, Brain, Life Histories, or Disease in humans) from an archeological perspective.

Assessment method

Exam: Multiple choice test: percentage of the final grade 75%, minimum grade 5,6 Poster + pitch: percentage of the final grade 25%, minimum grade 6,0

Inspection and feedback on the examination

On appointment with the coordinator / instructor


Will be used for communication and instruction.

Reading list

Mandatory book: R. Boyd & J.B. Silk; How Humans Evolved, 8th edition, 2018; Norton Publishers. Or later edition. Additional readings will be announced on Brightspace.


Register for this course via Usis

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