Learning outcomes of the course unit
The purpose of Anthropology is the naturalistic study of the Homo genus, considered within the framework of zoological systematics and issues related to its origins and variations over time and space.
The first part of the course will deal with topics concerning the development of the scientific method and the main paradigms that have guided the comprehension and interpretation of natural phenomena over time. Special emphasis will be given to the genesis and historical development of evolutionary theories and the current debate surrounding them.
A number of lectures will be dedicated to the hereditary nature of the gene pool and to human anatomy.
The appearance and evolution of the Homo genus and its predecessors are followed both through the analysis of anatomic-functional changes of individual apparatuses and through the analysis of fossil finds. The global nature of the influence of evolutionary forces will constantly be emphasised during the analytical treatment; the environmental context in which evolution takes place and the increasingly important contribution made by culture to the evolution of the human species is also considered.
Course contents summary
The development of sciences and the main paradigms that have guided the study and interpretation of natural phenomena over time, with a special focus on the genesis and the historical development of evolutionary theories and on the current debate surrounding them. Notes on the mechanisms and processes of evolution. Climatic evolution in the Quaternary period. Fossilisation and fossil dating principles.
Principles of osteometry and human anatomy. Notes on the systematics of modern-day primates: taxonomy and geographical distribution.
Genetic characterisation of the individual. Notes on human anatomy with special focus on the locomotor system.
Evolution of apparatuses and functions: adaptation and homeostatis processes; body architecture and erect posture; locomotion, pelvic girdle, lower limbs. The foot. Scapular girdle and upper limbs. Evolution of the hand. Masticatory apparatus. Teeth: morphology and functionality. Evolution of the head: splanchnocranium and neurocranium. Reproduction and family; parental care. Communication and language.
Analysis of the series of fossil finds. Australopithecus: description of finds, geographical distribution, dating. Geology, climate and selective pressures. Taxonomy and phylogenetic hypotheses. The appearance of the Homo genus: Homo habilis and rudolfensis. The oldest findings of lithic artefacts. Homo ergaster and H. erectus: history of discoveries.
Morphology and geographical distribution. Lithic artefacts, culture and behaviour, use of fire. Homo heidelbergensis: morphology and distribution. Neanderthal man: history of discoveries. Morphology and distribution. Culture and behaviour. Evidence of funeral rites.
Hypotheses regarding origin and disappearance. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens. Morphology and distribution. Cultures and economies. Origin and diffusion of agriculture. Overview: facts and hypotheses.
Biondi G., Rickards O. Umani da sei milioni di anni. Carocci ed.
SPEDINI G. - ANTROPOLOGIA EVOLUZIONISTICA, ed. Piccin
(January 2005 edition)
CHIARELLI B. - DALLA NATURA ALLA CULTURA. Principi di Antropologia Biologica e Culturale. Vol.1 Evoluzione dei Primati e origine dell'Uomo - PICCIN (PD), 2003.