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.
The first part of the course deals with topics regarding the mode of development of the sciences and illustrates the main paradigms which over time have guided the reading and interpretation of natural phenomena, Particular attention is given to the origins and historical development of theories of evolution and the current debate surrounding them.
The emergence and evolution of Hominids is traced through both an analysis of anatomical and functional variations of individual bodily systems and through the analysis of fossil evidence. The analytical discussion continuously underlines the totality of the action of evolutionary forces; it also considers the environmental setting in which evolution takes place and the ever stronger contribution made by culture to the evolution of the human species.
Course contents summary
Development of the sciences and the main paradigms which over time have guided the reading and interpretation of natural phenomena. Particular attention is given to the origins and historical development of theories of evolution and the current debate surrounding them. Notes on evolutionary mechanisms and processes. Evolution of the climate during the Tertiary and Quaternary Periods. Fossilisation and fossil dating principles. Principles of osteometry and human anatomy. Primates: anatomy, physiology and behaviour. Extant primates: taxonomy and geographical distribution. Evolution of anatomical systems and functions: adaptation and processes of homeostasis; body architecture and upright posture; locomotion, pelvic girdle, hind limbs. The foot. Scapular girdle and upper limbs. Evolution of the hand. Masticatory system. Teeth: morphology and function. Evolution of the head: splanchnocranium and neurocranium. Reproduction and family; parental care. Organisation of groups and division of labour. Culture and society. Communication and language. Analysis of the series of fossil evidence. Primates of the Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene and Miocene. Australopithecus: history of discoveries. Description of fossil evidence, geographical distribution, dating. Geology, climate and selection pressures. Taxonomy and phylogenetic hypotheses. Appearance of the Homo genus: Homo habilis and rudolfensis. The most ancient lithic artefacts. Homo ergaster and Homo erectus: history of discoveries. Morphology and geographical distribution. Lithic artefacts, culture and behaviour, use of fire. Homo heidelbergensis: morphology and geographical distribution. Neanderthal Man: history of discoveries. Morphology and geographical distribution. Culture and behaviour. Evidence of burial rites. Hypotheses regarding origins and disappearance. Anatomically modern Homo sapiens. Morphology and geographical distribution. Cultures and economies. Origin and spread of agriculture. Final overview: facts and hypotheses.
SPEDINI G. - Antropologia Evoluzionistica, ed. Piccin (new edition, January 2005).
CHIARELLI B. - Dalla Natura alla Cultura. Principi di Antropologia Biologica e Culturale. Vol.1: Evoluzione dei Primati e Origine dell'Uomo – Piccin (PD), 2003.
Other texts for further study:
MALLEGNI F. - Come eravamo: l’evoluzione umana alla luce delle più recenti acquisizioni. LTU ed. Pisa (2002).
KLEIN R. G. - Il Cammino dell'Uomo. Antropologia Culturale e Biologica, ed. Zanichelli.
FACCHINI F. - Antropologia: Evoluzione, Uomo, Ambiente, ed. UTET.
Classroom lectures with multimedia presentations.