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Introduction to Human Evolution

Wellesley College via edX


As contemporary humans, we are a product of our evolutionary past. That past can be directly observed through the study of the human fossil record, the materials preserved for archaeological study, and the DNA of living and extinct human populations. This course will provide an overview of human evolutionary history from the present--contemporary human variation in a comparative context--through our last common ancestor with the living great apes, some 5-7 million years in the past. Emphasis will be placed on major evolutionary changes in the development of humans and the methodological approaches used by paleoanthropologists and related investigators to develop that knowledge.

The course will begin by asking basic questions about how evolution operates to shape biological variation and what patterns of variation look like in living humans and apes. We will then look at how the human lineage first began to differentiate from apes, the rise and fall of the Australopithecines, the origin and dispersal of the genus Homo, and eventually the radical evolutionary changes associated with the development of agricultural practices in the past 15,000 years. Throughout the course students will be exposed to the primary data, places and theories that shape our understanding of human evolution.

Taught by

Adam Van Arsdale


5.0 rating, based on 8 reviews

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  • Profile image for Sivananda Ramnath
    Sivananda Ramnath

    Sivananda Ramnath completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This is one of the best online courses I have taken. The professor succeeds in creating a desire to learn more about this topic. The course production is of very good quality. A lot of effort has to been made to provide a wealth of information. This is not a mere recording of classroom lectures but a well designed MOOC and all the videos and other materials have been designed around this. The quiz questions and exams are very well designed, and though provoking rather than a test of memory. Finally, I think Wellesley College students have the good fortune of having an opportunity to to do courses under Professor Adam Van Arsdale.
  • Patrícia Guedes

    Patrícia Guedes is taking this course right now, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    The course is very well thought with excellent support material. Given the range of subjects needed for the study of human evolution, it's important that we have some basic knowledge of mathematics, anatomy and science. Great way to expand the mind and the thinking process.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A high quality course, detailed and clear. There is a very well worked out series of online tests and activities.

    I found the section on new discoveries in the field absolutely fascinating.
  • Bruce Pohlmann

    Bruce Pohlmann completed this course.

    Excellent introduction to the field. The material can get a bit technical, but that's the part that I really enjoyed. Engaging lectures.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I took this course when it first came out, now I am redoing it as a refresher. Prof Van Arsdale is outstanding. I consider this course as one of my top 5 (out of approx 40).
  • Yusuf Oluwadamilare O is taking this course right now, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Human evolution as a lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years. This as an evolutionary record of origin of man is quite enlighten and scientific.
  • Debbie Brown completed this course.

  • Profile image for Angie Bell Goolsby
    Angie Bell Goolsby

    Angie Bell Goolsby is taking this course right now.

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