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Biology Courses

Anthropology & Sociobiology (SBS11QAS)

(for Juniors and Seniors)

  • This course encompasses 3 fields of anthropology: Paleontology and the Evolution of Humans, Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology.Two seminal  questions will be proposed to the  class at t he end of the  course- What does it mean to be human? and What would  happen to human culture a nd history  if all the  indigenous cultures of the  world were to disappear and would you care?
  • Assignments will include readings of seminal works in the field, field trips to local museums, a research pa per and student group presentations.
  • This course is offered only in the spring term.

The biological basis of culture.

While there are many possible models in anthropology, the human ecology approach seeks to understand behavior in terms of biological adaptation to the physical world. This approach encompasses four fields of anthropology: Paleontology, Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics, although the emphasis in this course is on the first three. The focus of the course is the structure of human societies and how this structure reflects the adaptation of the society to its environment in behavioral terms. Topics will include: (1) Sociobiology and the theories of the "selfish gene" and how this affects behavior. (2) Paleontology and the theories of forces leading to evolution of humans, with an emphasis on environmental influences on human evolution, primate behavior as patterns for early human behavior and the evolution of humans from Austrolopithicus through Homo sapiens. (3) Archaeology, which includes the rise of civilizations and environmental determinants such as "central place theory", importance of waterworks, agriculture, and animal domestication in the development of settled communities. Focus areas may include the Middle East and Meso America. (4) Cultural Anthropology which includes studies of various non-technical societies and how their culture allows them to adapt to and survive in their environment. Theories would include such topics as the development of ethnic groups and boundaries. 

Students will be expected to do various readings of seminal works in the field and to participate actively in classroom discussion. Assignments might include field trips to local museums, attendance at lectures, written analyses and an original research paper. 

Students interested in psychology and human behavior might consider taking this course.