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The drop-down boxes below give detailed information on the content of BioAnth papers. BioAnth papers are offered to students from different Triposes, who can sit them as part of both Part I and Part II depending on each Tripos.

Part I (Archaeology, HSPS, and  PBS students):

  • B1  Humans in Biological Perspective

Part II (ArchaeologyHSPSMedST/VetSTNST, and PBS students):

  • Full-year Courses:
    • B2    Human Ecology and Behaviour
    • B3    Human Evolution
    • B4    Comparative Human Biology
    • B5    From Data to Interpretation
  • One-term Courses:
    • B12 Human Palaeobiology
    • B13 Evolutionary Medicine
    • B14  A Technologically Dependent Lineage
    • B15  Human Sociality: evolutionary perspectives on cooperation, culture and cognition
    • B16  Genomes: Ancient, Modern and Mixed
    • B17  Our Extended Family: Primate Biology and Behaviour 
B1 – Humans in Biological Perspective

B1 – Humans in Biological Perspective

The paper covers major topics in Biological Anthropology, including non-human primate biology, evolution and behaviour, human origins, comparative perspectives on human health, growth and nutrition, and human genetic diversity. The paper introduces students to behavioural and gene-environment interactions, and the ecology and adaptations of modern populations in the context of their growth, health and cultural diversity. Specific topics covered include the diversity of primates, major patterns and processes in the evolution of humans, the burden of malnutrition and interrelationships with poverty, the role of nature and nurture in shaping the human mind, and insights into the genetic diversity within and between human groups.

Paper Coordinator: Dr. Guy Jacobs
Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures
Lent Term: 16 lectures
Easter Term: 4 lectures

Assessment: 3-hour exam

B2 – Human Ecology and Behaviour

B2 – Human Ecology and Behaviour

This paper examines human behaviour from a comparative perspective, emphasising both the primate evolutionary context and the vast diversity within our species. The paper begins with a focus on non-human primates and introduces students to the core principles of primatology. Particular attention is paid to the interrelationships between foraging strategies, social systems and life-history. We then situate humans within the broader primate context by exploring how the shift to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle drove the evolution of our derived life-history and social behaviour. Finally, we consider evolutionary explanations for the astounding behavioural diversity across the entire spectrum of human societies, from industrialised market economies to small-scale farmers, pastoralists and foragers. Variation in mate choice, marriage systems, familial relationships and fertility rates among human populations is examined.

Paper Coordinator: Dr Nikhil Chaudhary
Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures
Lent Term: 8 lectures & 3 seminars

Assessment: 3 hour exam

B3 – Human Evolution

B3 – Human Evolution

This paper is organised into two parts - an overview of human evolution in Michaelmas Term (16 lectures), and a set of 8 lectures focused on the evolution of modern humans and their interaction with other contemporary hominin species. In Michaelmas, the paper introduces students to human evolution, with an emphasis on the fossil record and the evolutionary principles that shaped the evolution of our lineage. The course will explore the apes of the Miocene, and discuss the controversies surrounding hominin origins; it will review the record for Pliocene hominins, focusing on evolutionary trends among the australopithecines, the appearance of morphological and technological innovations, and the role of African geography in shaping early hominin diversity; it will introduce the debate on the origins of the genus Homo, and explore the evolutionary geography of inter-continental hominin dispersals in the Pleistocene; finally, it will critically assess the fossil record for the evolution of multiple regional species in the later Quaternary, including our own, and explore the adaptive processes that led to this diversity. In Lent, the paper will focus on later hominins, the evidence for their behaviour and morphological adaptive trends, and the genetic evidence for inter-specific interactions.

Paper Coordinator: Prof Marta Lahr
Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures
Lent Term: 8 Lectures & 3 seminars

Assessment: 3 hour exam

B4 – Comparative Human Biology

B4 – Comparative Human Biology

This paper examines the biology of our species in the context of non-human primate and wider mammalian variation. The paper covers diverse aspects of human biology, including anatomy, physiology, behaviour, cognition, growth patterns and life-history characteristics.

It considers the ways in which our biology differs from that of our closest living relatives, the non-human primates, as well as mammals and vertebrates more broadly. It also explores biological variation within and between human populations, drawing on evidence from both past and contemporary human groups by combining perspectives from the fields of Palaeoanthropology, Evolutionary Genetics, Osteoarchaeology and Human Biology. The paper considers not only how we vary, but why, discussing both the underlying evolutionary mechanisms (such as natural selection, neutral variation and epigenetics), as well as the developmental basis of the variation we observe.

Paper Coordinator: Dr Mark Dyble
Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures
Lent Term: 8 Lectures & 3 seminars

Assessment: 3 hour exam

B5 - From Data to Interpretation

B5 – From Data to Interpretation

This paper introduces students to quantitative data analysis and scientific computing.

This paper provides foundational skills for critical thinking, data handling, and quantitative analysis for archaeological and anthropological research. It covers theoretical, methodological, and practical aspects of modern scientific research, enabling the identification of appropriate statistical analyses and relevant data required to address specific research questions. Lectures cover theoretical aspects pertaining to the logic of scientific arguments and the core principles of statistical inference, as well as key concepts of data handling, visualisation, and analysis. Practical sessions and supervisions provide hands-on experience for carrying out many of the analysis presented in the lecture primarily through the use of R statistical computing language.

Paper Coordinator: TBC
Michaelmas Term: 9 lectures & 7 ‘hands-on’ sessions
Lent Term: 10 lectures & 6 ‘hands-on’ sessions

Assessment: Coursework

B12 – Human Palaeobiology

B12 – Human Palaeobiology

Paper content coming soon

Paper Coordinator: TBC
Michaelmas Term: 12 lectures & 4 seminars

Assessement: Coursework

B13 – Evolutionary Medicine

B13 – Evolutionary Medicine

Paper content coming soon

Paper Coordinator: Dr Mark Dyble
Timetable to be confirmed. 16 lectures & seminars.

Assessment: 2 hour exam

B14 – A Technologically Dependent Lineage

B14 – A Technologically Dependent Lineage

Humans are unique among primates in their dependence on technology. This paper explores how and why hominins (incl. modern humans) became entirely dependent upon technology, and how the development of stone and organic tools over the last three million years can be used to unravel this story. After establishing a foundation in gene-culture co-evolutionary theory, we will explore how hominin anatomy and technology evolved together to produce our diverse fossil and artefact record. This includes focused discussion on hominin cognition, language, post-cranial anatomy, and subsistence behaviours, and how each was facilitated and influenced by material culture. Equally, we will discuss how the evolutionary trajectory of stone and organic technology was impacted by anatomical and cognitive developments in the human lineage. Further, we will investigate several major technological innovations and the role they played in the colonisation of highly diverse ecological settings across Africa, Eurasia and the Americas. This includes the use of fire, clothing, and projectile technologies, among others.

Paper Coordinator: Dr Alastair Key
Timetable to be confirmed. 16 lectures & seminars.

Assessment: To be confirmed.

B15 – Human Sociality: Evolutionary Perspectives on Cooperation, Culture and Cognition

B15 – Human Sociality: evolutionary perspectives on cooperation, culture and cognition

This course focuses on understanding the remarkable social behaviour and cognition of our species. Whilst cooperation is widespread throughout the natural world, many anthropologists consider human prosociality as unparalleled. Here, we consider evolutionary explanations for the scale and ubiquity of cooperation between non-relatives and the emergence of our prosocial emotions. Along the way students are introduced to the field of cultural evolution as we explore the co-evolutionary relationship between human culture and cooperation. We also address the evolution of our highly sophisticated social cognition, and finish by examining the persistence of disturbances to the social brain such as autism and schizophrenia. Throughout the term ongoing debates related to human social evolution are discussed, including the relationship between cooperation, religion and morality. Additionally, analytical techniques used in the study of sociality such as game theory and social network analysis are introduced.

Paper Coordinator: Dr Nikhil Chaudhary
Michaelmas Term: 14 lectures & 2 seminars

Assessment: 2 hour exam

B16 – Genomes: Ancient, Modern and Mixed

B16 – Genomes: Ancient, Modern and Mixed

Paper content coming soon

Paper Coordinator: Dr. Guy Jacobs
Michaelmas Term: 16 lectures, seminars & practical sessions

Assessment: To be confirmed.

B17 – Our Extended Family: Primate Biology and Behaviour

B17 – Our Extended Family: Primate biology and behaviour

This paper explores the fascinating world of our closest relatives in the animal world - the diversity, evolution, ecology, and behaviour of non-human primates. Primates exhibit both unique features among mammals, such as their sociality, life history and potential for culture, but they also share with them patterns of adaptive radiations, extinction, dispersals and competition. Advanced primatology offers an opportunity to study current research topics that bring together the general approaches of evolutionary biology and the unique perspectives of primatologists.

Paper Coordinator: TBC
Lent Term: 16 lectures & seminars

Assessment: 2 hour exam

Dissertation

Dissertations in Biological Anthropology as part of the Archaeology Tripos
 

Dissertations towards the completion of Part IIB in the Archaeology Tripos (Biological Anthropology Track or Biological Anthropology/Archaeology Joint Track) or as a Part II option/minor in the PBS or NST Triposes follow these regulations:

  • A topic within the field of Biological Anthropology, approved by the Head of Department by the end of Michaelmas Term
  • Not more than 10,000 words, including footnotes, figures, tables, and captions but not including appendices and bibliography.
  • It may or not include original data collection and analysis (i.e., either in the form of a piece of original research, or in the form of an extended essay)
  • To be submitted on the second Friday of Easter Term

 

Dissertations in Biological Anthropology as part of BBS, Natural Sciences Tripos

Dissertations submitted towards the completion of Part II in the NST Biological and Biomedical Sciences ‘Major in Human Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour’ follow these regulations:

  • A topic within the field of Biological Anthropology, approved by the division of Michaelmas Term
  • Not more than 6,000 words, excluding tables, figures, and references.
  • Not including original data collection and analysis (i.e., in the form of an extended essay)
  • To be submitted on the first Friday of Easter Term

Further guidance is available on the BBS Dissertation webpage.

 

Paper Coordinator: BioAnth Part II Coordinator