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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Social Anthropology

Undergraduate Course: Human Origins and the Genesis of Symbolic Thought (SCAN10055)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe course covers human origins from a social anthropological point of view. Topics include the history of the idea of 'human origins' in social anthropology; comparisons between humans and other primates; fossil finds; group size and settlement from early prehistory to the Neolithic; hominin learning, sharing and exchange; the origins of language and symbolism; the evolution of kinship structures; and the relevance of social anthropology to ideas from sociobiology, evolutionary psychology and other disciplines. We will also look at the settlement of Australia, migrations to the Americas and early rock art. The thematic heart of the course is the explosion of religion, art and language at the 'Symbolic Revolution', and the social consequences of these. That is normally dated at between 130,000 and 60,000 BP.

The course stems directly from the course convener's two most recent books: Social Anthropology and Human Origins (2011) and Genesis of Symbolic Thought (2012). Although the course will touch on some material also in Human Origins (ARCA10003), taught in the Archaeology department, the focus is quite different. Combined degree students may certainly take both courses.
Course description Not entered
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 Anthropology courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Students will demonstrate a critical understanding of the debates and issues in social anthropological aspects of human origins, and especially of the origins of symbolic culture.
  2. Engage in discussions of issues of importance to understanding the social nature of humanity.
  3. Acquire a knowledge of species names and reputed cognitive abilities of species, and a similar knowledge of important archaeological sites, and of relevant dates.
  4. Debate issues such the social anthropological significance of the relation between neocortex size and group size; and how and why language emerged
  5. Know how to employ ethnographic evidence, for example, from modern hunter-gatherer societies to examine such issues.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsSocial Anthropology and Human Origins
Course organiserProf Alan Barnard
Tel: (0131 6)50 3938
Course secretaryMr Ewen Miller
Tel: (0131 6)50 3925
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