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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.


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.

Course Objectives

After completion of the course, students can: · Explain the principles and methods of paleolithic archaeology, paleoanthropology, and palaeopathology. · Recognise dating methods and site formation processes. · List the main fossil hominins and specifically identify the origins and dispersal of Homo sapiens. · Describe the main anatomical features, age and distribution of the main hominin groups. · Identify the fossil and archaeological evidence for disease in hominins. · Discuss theories about the evolutionary history of human bipedality, brain size, toolmaking, diet, life histories and diseases. · Discuss several theories about the evolution of these features in terms of the fossil and archaeological evidence. · Discuss relevant scientific literature about the evolutionary history of humans. · Create and present a scientific poster presentation on a paleoanthropological topic.


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

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudyMap will automatically be displayed in MyTimeTable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Please note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

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

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.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudyMap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information. Exemptions are minor students and fall semester for 1st year bachelor students: the student administration will enroll these groups for courses.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.

Extensive FAQ's on MyStudymap can be found here.

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


Coordinator: Dr. A. Verpoorte


Brightspace will be used for communication