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Human Evolution (EBC)


Admission requirements

Open to all biology students as a choice.


The course aims to give an introduction to the evolution of modern humans (Homo sapiens) from primate ancestors with strong emphasis on biological evolution, physical anthropology and evolutionary medicine. Anatomy and development of the primate skeleton – especially the skull (including the dentition) and limbs – will be considered as a background for understanding the skeletal anatomy that characterizes modern people. The diet of humans and primates will be considered in light of what it can tell us about the environment in which humans evolved. We will try to understand what is meant by human ‘races’; and will examine how skull measurements and other anatomical features have been used and abused by scientists in the past to make claims about human ‘races’. Cultural evolution and the evolution of language are also considered. The human genome will be considered in some detail. The effect of disease in shaping human evolution, and the effect of human evolution in shaping disease, will be discussed. As will the effect of human evolution on the environment.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
To give an introduction to the science of human evolution from a physical anthropological, biological and medical perspective.

Final qualifications:

  • To understand the phylogeny of Primates and the place of prehistoric and modern humans within it.

  • To be able to carry out an analysis of genes in the human genome (via ensembl) and compare them with genes in other species.

  • To have a good understanding of the primate and human skull, teeth and limbs and know some major differences in different primate groups.

  • To have an understanding of mate choice, language and cultural evolution.

  • To understand the role of diseases in human evolution, and the relationship of human evolution to disease.



Mode of instruction

For the first two weeks (9.00 – 12.30): lectures, at least half in English, genomics practicals, documentary videos and practicals in which skulls and foetal material will be examined. The afternoons, and the whole second two weeks, are self-study, where the students will prepare for the essay, end exam and end presentation. Lectures are given by IBL staff, Naturalis NCB staff and visiting experts.

Assessment method

Genomics practical, essay, end exam and end presentation


Blackboard will be used

Reading list




Contact information

Prof. dr. Michael Richardson


Please be aware that the practicals are obligatory, and some preserved human fetal material will be examined in these.