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Human Evolution

This multidisciplinary minor addresses the fascinating question how modern humans got to be the way they are. It provides students with up-to-date knowledge of the topic. The minor deals with the species Homo sapiens, its evolution from other hominin lineages and primate ancestors, the origin and variation in many traits shown by modern humans, and the various factors shaping them. Not only is human evolution of great intrinsic interest, but it also has important implications for our understanding of human diversity, behaviour, health, disease and ageing. The minor is based on a wide-ranging and unique collaboration between experts from Biology, Archeology, the Leiden Academy of Vitality and Ageing, LUMC, Social Sciences and Humanities. Prominent subjects of these disciplines are integrated into this minor. The minor consists of different courses in which various relevant topics are approached from the perspective of different disciplines, each lasting one or more weeks.

Starting with introducing the principles of evolution, it continues with examining how evolution shapes the morphology and behaviour of animals, in particular primates. It next addresses the reconstruction of the human lineage and what the paleontological and archeological evidence tells about the evolution of various hominids and about the origin of human traits like tool making or use of fire. Hereafter it turns to modern humans and how evolutionary knowledge may help to understand processes such as ageing and the susceptibility to various diseases. This leads to an exploration of the diversity in appearance and behaviour of modern humans and the evolution of, and variation in, a range of human traits, such as foraging strategies, mate preferences, culture, language and music. At the end of the minor the students will use the assembled knowledge to review a topic of their own choice.

General information

  • Size: 15 or 30 EC
    It is possible to follow the complete minor for an accreditation of 30 EC or to follow only the first half of the minor for an accreditation of 15 EC. In case of more interest than the maximum number of participants, priority will be given to students who registered for the full minor.

  • Period:
    15 EC: Fulltime from 2 September 2019 – 8 November 2019
    30 EC: Fulltime from 2 September 2019 – 31 January 2020

  • Language: English

  • Number of participants: minimum 20, maximum 50

  • General information: Education Office Biology

  • Coordinator: Prof. dr. C. ten Cate

  • The minor is provided by the Bachelor Biology


Admission criteria apply to this Minor (see Appendix 3 of the Education and Exam regulation BSc Programmes (OER)).
The course is open for all students with an interest in human evolution. It is particularly directed towards students from Natural Sciences and Archeology, but other students are welcome. Some knowledge in evolution and genetics is helpful but not a necessary prerequisite. The first week of the minor is designed to clear some deficiencies in these areas.

Note: Courses can only be followed in order of description. It is not possible to join a separate course without having followed the previous course.
When the interest exceeds the maximum, participation may be based on ability to do the full minor, selection on motivation or previous marks.


Students of Leiden University Registration possible from May 1 until August 1 in uSis.
You have to register in uSis by entering one of the class numbers (‘studieactiviteit nummers’):

  • For the whole minor (30 EC): 1405

  • For the first half of the minor (15 EC): 1431

Students of TU Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam
Registration possible from May 1 until May 31 via the registration system of TU Delft or Erasmus University Rotterdam.

NB: Registration in usis does not directly mean that you can participate in the minor. You will receive and email that confirms your registration and placement.

Other students
Students from other universities can register until May 31 by sending an e-mail including motivation letter, CV, transcript and letter with permission from your own University to Education Office Biology


Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Origins of human anatomy, physiology and behaviour 9
History of the human lineage 6
Health, ageing and genetic diversity 4
Universals and variation in human behaviour 5
Review on topic of own choice 6


The programme of the 30 EC Minor consists of the courses:

  • Origins of human anatomy, brain and behavior (9EC)

  • Reconstruction of the human lineage (6EC)

  • Genetic diversity, health and ageing (4EC)

  • Universals and variation in human behaviour (5EC)

  • Review on topic of own choice (6EC)

Note: Courses can only be followed in order of description. It is not possible to join a course without having followed the previous one(s)!