Evolving Minds and Societies

ARC00018M

Module leader: Andy Needham

Aims

Welcome to Early Prehistory! In this course we consider the fascinating question of what it means to be ‘human’. We ask is if there are critical characteristics of humans which mark us as different from other species, and how, when and where we might identify them in the archaeological record.

We address human societies from those of our common ancestor with chimpanzees, to early human activities 2 million years ago in East Africa, Homo ergaster and Homo heidelbergensis and lastly Neanderthals. We question the key changes taking place in each period and in each consider what defining patterns of humanity we might identify emerging within the archaeological record.

We aim to provide a broad understanding of the key phases in the evolution of 'humanity' and a critical awareness of how the evidence is interpreted.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should have:

  • developed an understanding of the key phases in the evolution of human cognitive abilities
  • developed an understanding of the key phases in the evolution of human social systems
  • developed a familiarity with some of the archaeological evidence for Lower and Middle Palaeolithic societies

Upper Palaeolithic Venus figurine, source: Wikimedia Commons