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The University of Southampton

ARCH1001 Human Origins

Module Overview

The investigation of human origins has been described as the intellectual romance of the social sciences. This module examines the changing ideas about our earliest ancestors and the evolution of hominin culture and biology and explores the links between the two. The development of language, art and social behaviour are also considered in some detail.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• The idea of Human Evolution • The idea of deep time • The concepts of change over time decoupled from the notion of progress • The biological evidence associated with the material culture evidence • The material culture evidence

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The time depth over which human evolution has occurred, and the variety of ‘ancestors’ and ‘cousins’ who have shared the world with each other and when
  • The different arguments concerning the biological and phylogenetic relationships between different hominine taxa and genera
  • The material culture record, how it changes over time and what hominins are responsible for that record
  • The nature of the archaeological record itself, how do Palaeolithic sites form, and what problems does this pose for interpreting the past
  • Identify the major episodes in global colonisation
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Display knowledge of the different and often contradictory arguments concerning the major current debates in Human Evolution
  • Assess for yourself these basic arguments
  • Synthesise basic information on biological and archaeological data
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Present information in a clear and appropriate written form
  • Understand basic information media such as statistical or graphical data presentation
  • Access information from the library
  • Demonstrate and awareness of, and how to find, information from traditional sources such as books and journals
  • Assess information from the internet
  • Use and present word processed documents


Through lectures and seminars the main issues in Human Evolution stated in the Planned Learning Outcomes section will be flagged and outlined. The lectures are the best medium through which to emplace the big picture. Through the essays and exam revision you explore a variety of these issues in more detail. Through independent study and reading you gain the broader background to these issues. Formal assessments require you to practise your IT and communication skills. Feedback on formal assessments provides the opportunity for further reflection and personal reflective engagement. Because of the vast (c. 5 million years) span of time involved, the bewildering array of date and interdisciplinary approaches to Human Evolution, a formal lecture/seminar pattern of teaching is the most appropriate for emplacing knowledge and understanding, and at the same time allowing for the development of personal inquisitiveness on more focussed issues.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Video shows • Demonstrating biological and cultural artefacts • Seminars • PowerPoint presentation Learning activities include • Independent study • Group discussions • Web browsing Innovative or special features of this module • Module website with lecture notes and images

Independent Study125
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Chris Scarre (2018). The Human Past (4th edition). 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Written exam  (90 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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