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Human Evolution

The information about this minor is subject to change for 2020-2021

This multidisciplinary minor will provide students with up-to-date empirical and theoretical knowledge how and why modern humans became the way they are. Human evolution concerns the species Homo sapiens, its evolution from other hominin lineages and animal ancestors, and the various factors shaping this process. 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 one coherent course.

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.

During the minor students will become familiar with a variety of approaches and theories, as well as current debates in the field by a combination of lectures, reading and discussing primary literature, practical’s and museum visits. They will be trained to critically evaluate different ideas and types of evidence.

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 31 August 2020 – 6 November 2020

30 EC: Fulltime from 31 August 2020 – 29 January 2021


Admission criteria apply to this Minor (see Appendix 3 of the Education and Exam regulation BSc Programmes (OER)).

The minor is accessible to all students, although some basic biological knowledge will help. The first week is designed to clear deficiencies with an introduction into evolutionary biology and genetics.

Students from Biology and Archeology have priority. With the exception of students from Biology or Archeology, students can be interviewed to evaluate their motivation.


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): 1061

  • For the first half of the minor (15 EC): Please send an email to: Education Office Biology

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