Learning outcomes of the course unit
The purpose of anthropology is the naturalistic study of the Hominid family, considered within the framework of zoological systematics, and issues relating to its origins and variations through time and space.
An initial objective of importance in the cultural education of students is to learn about theories of evolution, how they developed and the cultural and scientific context in which they originated, the scientific figures who shaped them and the debate to which they have given rise: they constitute a key element in the reading and interpretation of scientific observations. Particular attention is given to the origins and evolution of our species and to the implications for the conception that man has of himself.
Specifically the learning goal of the course is to interpret and learn about the biological history of our species, its origins and its evolution, both to be aware of how events developed in the past and to acquire the necessary consciousness for correctly planning the present and future.
Course contents summary
1.1 Origin and historical development of theories of evolution. Illustration of the most important scholars from the eighteenth century to the present. The contribution and integration of the various disciplines. Current debate. Evolutionism and the conception of man.
1.2 Mechanisms and processes of biological evolution. Individuals and populations; biological variability. Evolution and genetic structure of a population. Evolutionary mechanisms and forces.
1.3 Adaptation and fitness. Interaction between environment and evolutionary mechanisms. Fitness: meaning and evalutation.
Notes on climate, on changes in the climate, and on the flora and fauna that have accompanied the evolution of Hominids. Notes on dating methods.
3 Evolution of Primates and of the Homo genus.
3.1 Evolution of bodily systems and functions: comparative analysis.
- body architecture and upright posture; locomotion in Primates.
- Pelvic girdle: structure and functions. Hind limbs. The foot.
- Scapular girdle and upper limbs. The hand. Manipulation of objects.
- Nutrition, food gathering and diet.
- Masticatory system. The teeth.
- The head: splanchnocranium.
- The head: neurocranium and brain.
- Reproductive strategies. Sexuality and reproductive behaviour
- Parental care. Division of labour. Social organisation.
- Culture and society. Interaction between biology and culture. Communication and language.
3.2 Knowledge and analysis of the series of fossil evidence.
- Insectivore and prosimian fossils. Paleontological history of the Catarrhine (Old World) and Plathyrrine (New World) simians. Anthropomorphic fossils.
- Appearance of Hominids. Environmental changes; changes in the masticatory system, pre-adaptations towards upright posture and bipedal locomotion.
- Australopithecus: description, dating, taxonomic hypotheses and phylogenetic relationships.
- Appearance of the Homo genus. The most ancient lithic artefacts. Interpretative hypotheses and relationships among the various forms.
- Spread of the Homo genus through Asia and Europe. Fossil evidence. Hypotheses and interpretations.
- Neanderthal Man and his contemporaries in Africa and Asia.
- Appearance of the Homo sapiens species. Archaic and modern forms.
- Spread and numerical expansion of modern man.
Spread of the human species over the Earth. Biological variability and its evaluation. Reconstruction of the evolutionary history of populations.
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