Human Origins and Prehistory
Course Outline
Anthropology A103/A303, Spring 2007

Dr. Larry J. Zimmerman

 ANTH A103 (Section  22251) 1:30 PM- 2:45 PM  TR, Cavanaugh 411
ANTH A103 (Section
  28147), ANTH A303 (Section  28148)
Telephone: 317-274-2383; Fax:  317-279-5220; E-mail:
Office: 433 Cavanaugh (most times), Eiteljorg Musuem (Phone: 317-636-9378 ext 1361)
Office Hours:  Generally, MW 10:00-Noon & 1:00-2:00, TR 10:30-Noon;  or by arrangement. See me before or after class too. You may also make an appointment with the Anthropology department secretary  CA 410) who will also take your phone number so I can confirm the appointment or change it.
Class Web Site:

Course Description

The distant human past fascinates many people. Where did our species come from, and how did it change through time? What were the people of the past like? How could they have survived in difficult environments? How could some have accomplished incredible feats of artistry and engineering thousands of years ago? How does what happened back then affect us now? Prehistory is about these questions,  a kind of detective work into the ancient past. Most aren't aware that the precise nature of this detective work is guided by exacting theories and methods that combine the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  We can expand our perspectives about humanity by using  genetics, evolutionary theory, comparative anatomy, the fossil record, artifactual evidence and biocultural behaviors to provide a rich picture of what it means to be human. In this class we'll explore many of these issues and perspectives.


Although the objectives of this course are many, several are key. You should:

  1. understand what the past is and what it means.
  2. understand how archaeologists study the past.
  3. learn the basic concepts, terminology and methods of archaeology.
  4. learn the basic concepts and terminology of bioanthropology.
  5. learn the basic sequence and issues of human biological evolution.
  6. understand the important biological foundations of human culture.
  7. learn the basic sequence and issues of cultural evolution.
  8. learn about ongoing issues relating to the interaction of biology and culture in the contemporary world.


Some themes are common to all of the above topics. You should be aware of these themes during your readings, videos, and projects. Try to identify them where possible. These are:

Course Web Site

The web site that supports this course is located at It will expand in material and resources as the class progresses. Please look at the site soon.  You can link to it from the class pages on the OnCourse system. On the site you’ll find the class announcements with shifts in the schedule, a course syllabus with hot links, details on lab assignments & projects, lecture notes, video guides, links pages of annotated web sites in support of particular class topics, and assorted other materials. The web site is meant to assist your learning in the class. Use it as much or as little as you choose.

Class Format

Class will generally be based around lecture and discussion. Part of at least one class each week will be devoted to group discussion. You will see several videos in class.


You class grade will come from five major activities, worth a total of 400 points. Each activity is described below, along with the points it is worth.  But there is an alternative! See the “Roll your own grade” option. A303 students have an extra assignment (see below). will be create an annotated bibliography on one of the following topics:

Milestone Quizzes (100 points)

You will have 5 quizzes.  Each will be worth 20 points. These quizzes are designed to test whether you have mastered core material in the class as given at that point in the semester. Some you will know are coming a class period or so ahead; others will be unannounced. The quizzes will consist of true/false and multiple-choice questions, perhaps fill in the blank or short ID.

"Laboratory" Exercises (100 points)

In class, you will be involved in five laboratory exercises, each worth 20 points. These labs are simple activities designed to teach you important major concepts about bioanthropology and prehistory. To earn the points, you will participate in the lab exercise and then write your observations on a simple form (see website). Contents of each lab are considered to be testable, but I hope you'll also find them to be fun!

Comprehensive Final (100 points)

You will take a comprehensive final examination for this class during the scheduled final exam hour, May 5, 1:00-3:00 PM.  The exam will contain a range of question types, but many of them will come directly from the Milestone Quizzes. Because you don't have a quiz over the last part of the class, some questions will be about that part of the class. You will mostly have to review the quizzes to do well on the final. Cheat Sheet: for this exam, you will be allowed to bring to the exam one (1) 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper with anything on it you like. You may use both sides of the paper and use any font size. If you use one, you will turn it in with the exam and with your name on it. Do not make a copy of yours for a friend/classmate. The idea behind them is 1) to take away some exam stress and 2) to provide you with an excellent study technique. When you write something down, you tend to learn it. Students who diligently create cheat sheets rarely even use them during their exams.

Please note: you may be offered the possibility of doing a take home identification/significance and short essay final.

Projects (100 points)

Classes such as this one are taken for a wide range of reasons, everything from it being the only core course still open at this time to an intense, life-long interest in archaeology or human evolution, to being a requirement for a major. So that you can get out of the class what you like, you will do a project. It can be as simple or complex as you wish. You may do it as an individual, or you may collaborate with other class members. If you collaborate, each member of your group will be assigned the same number of points.

You should remember that the quality of content (up to 50 points), amount of effort (up to 25 points) and creativity (up to 25 points) all will enter into grading this project. These scores will be subjectively assigned.

The projects can be of three types:


One project can be a Human Origins and Prehistory Notebook, which you will develop by compiling materials related to the class. Use a three-ring binder and put in it any materials you think appropriate, but the following are suggestions:

  1. Summaries and notes from assigned classroom readings.  
  2. Write a summary of additional articles about bioanthropology and archaeology in newspapers and popular magazines such as Discover, Natural History, Smithsonian, Archaeology, Scientific American, American Scientist and the like. Be sure to include a computer printout (many are online) photocopy of the article with your summary. Do not cut articles from magazines and include them. If I find that you have, you risk losing the entire grade on this project. The University Library constantly finds articles cut from its journals, instead of being copied by the student. This deprives many others of the use of this article and costs a great deal for the library to replace, money you eventually pay through tuition and fees anyway!
  3. Copies of work deriving from lab exercises.
  4. Printed copies of materials from web sites you find useful and your evaluation of the materials.
  5. Answers to study questions on videos.
  6. Study guides you put together on videos related to class that you see outside class.
  7. It also may include chapter outlines from the text or other materials you think are interesting or appropriate (except copies of text materials themselves). You may have your notebook back after final grades are calculated.

You will find that doing a diligent job of preparing the notebook will be a tremendous study aid if you assemble it during the course, not at the due date.

Local Museums/Zoo/Malls

The objective of this project is to help you make anthropological connections to the things around you in your city. For those who are more adventurous, you may do one of several possible projects in local museums, the Indianapolis zoo, or any of several malls. We have several fabulous facilities within easy walking distance of campus, and some, like the Eiteljorg, offer free admission with your JagTag.

In each case, your task will be to be an anthropological observer. You will prepare a report about where you went, what you saw, and how it relates to class. Here are some ideas, but you may have more imaginative approaches.

a.       Non-Human primates—Your task is to go to the zoo (there is an admission fee of $8; go to for hours and details). First, go online or to the zoo and identify which non-human primates the Indy Zoo has. There are at least five (you can find out from the zoo web site). Find out what you can about each by doing a bit of research ahead of your visit, online or at the library. What are the natural habitats of each? What about social units and behaviors? When you go to the zoo, how many of these units and behaviors can you observe? Pay particular attention to locomotor patterns and anatomical similarities and differences between species. If there is an infant in any of the exhibits, it will be of special interest. You should pay particular attention to how its mother interacts with it and the similarities between these interactions and those of human mothers and infants. Write a brief report on your observations. If you have a camera or camcorder, you may also wish to take videos or photographs, which can be quite challenging in naturalistic exhibits. Take “field notes” as you watch the animals. Then watch the human primates who are watching the non-human primates. What are their reactions to the animals? Are they different from their reactions to other zoo animals? Assemble a brief report about each species. This should probably include 2-3 pages on each; be sure to include a copy of your field notes, any photos you took, and your observations of people who see the animals. If you took video or digital photos, you can submit the report on CD. You can go to other zoos to see primates, but let me know first please. Both Cincinnati and Louisville have fair primate collections.

b.       Mall behaviors—This requires you to go to a mall or some other public place with lots of people who represent a fairly complete age range and both sexes. The best place to do this is a mall with interior space such as food courts (rather than a strip mall). City Centre, for example, is within reasonable walking distance of campus. In good weather, you could also use the zoo or perhaps even the River Walk area so long as there are lots of people around. You should be able to use some of the same observation strategies for human primates that primatologists use for non-human individual and social behaviors. Use some of the same criteria discussed in the text as your criteria: composition of groups of people (number of males and females and their ages); infants/children; interactive behaviors in relation to parents or siblings; interaction between individuals; friendship; aggressiveness; and other categories of behavior you'd like to add. Keep careful track of your observations over about a 2-3 hour period. You may take photos, but if anyone might be recognizable, ask their permission to take a picture. General overview shots require no permissions. Write a 10 or so page report on where you went and your observations there.

c.       Material culture, preservation, and museums—This report requires you to observe the range of material items in a particular museum, such as the Eiteljorg (free), the Indiana Historical Society, or the Indiana State Museum. Choose a type of material object in the exhibit and find out what you can about the nature of the particular object from the display itself, but then do research online or at the library on that type of object (for example, a Clovis point, a certain pottery type, a certain type of blanket, or the like). How was this object obtained by the museum? What can you tell about the manufacture of this and other similar objects? What about its function for the culture that made it? How well would it preserve in an archaeological context? Write a report of 10 or so pages on your findings.


Web Site

If you wish, you may also choose to develop a Web site. The subject must relate to prehistory/archaeology/bioanthropology, but other than that is open. If you have not done web development before, perhaps you can team with someone who has (actually, it's pretty easy, so you can learn it quickly). You can either house the web site with some internet service provider (Geocities and others may provide a free service), or you can give it to Dr. Zimmerman to be housed with the class web site. Especially good web sites may be demonstrated in class.

Art Project

Some people work better using non-standard academic tools. If you are artistic, you may prepare a piece of art for the project. The work must embody at least one major principle of the class. You will also need to prepare a paper of at least one page that explains the importance of the concept and how your work relates to it or schedule an appointment with me where you discuss it with me. It can be sculpture, painting, a musical work, a play or a work in any artistic medium. However, simplistic and "cheesy" doesn't cut it. It needs to have some level of substance.

Project Submission

You will be submitting your projects twice during the semester. The first will be around midterm and is listed on the class lecture/reading schedule. This assessment it to be sure that you are making progress and that all the work is not being put off till the last minute. In the case of notebooks, you simply turn it your notebook. In the case of web sites, it can be a partial site turned in on disk, a link to a location where you are housing it, or the concept of the site diagrammed on paper with some links listed. For an artistic work, it can be a brief description of your intention. No points will be assigned, but points will be deducted from the final score if this first submission is not met. The final submission will be during the last class meeting.

A303 Students

In addition to the grading activities and projects above, A303 students will be required to develop an annotated bibliography related to one of the following topics (or one of your choosing with approval of the professor):

A scientific critique of Intelligent Design Can really apes communicate symbolically?
Dating methods in archaeology and paleoanthropology The relationship between neanderthals and anatomically modern humans
Were groups other than Indians in the Americas before Columbus? The function and meaning of cave art

This bibliography should contain at least 25 items and should be of relatively current sources, contain full bibliographic information, and an annotation of no more than 2-3 sentences each saying what the article or book contains. This will be given a pass/fail grade. A failure will result in the reduction of your final grade by 20 points  (for example, if you earn 338 points on the other parts of the class before any extra credit and failed, you would have your score reduced to 318). A pass will result in no reduction. An especially good bibliography will earn up to 10 points to be added to your score (even beyond the 40 possible extra credit).

Final grades will be calculated using your total accumulated points according to the following scale:

390 or above = A+
370-389 = A
360-369 = A-
350-359 = B+
340-349 = B
320-339 = B-
280-319 = C+

260-279 = C
240-259 = C-
220-239 = D+
200-219 = D
160-199 = D-
159 or less = F

Extra Consideration Points

I will announce several activities for you to use to boost your points. These may involve such things as taping and analyzing archaeology/bioanthropology videos from television, watching “cave man” movies, attending a lecture or event having to do with archaeology or human origins, or reading and reviewing novels or other books about prehistoric cultures. The maximum number of points to be earned will be 40.  I will try to announce opportunities in class, but will also put them on the OnCourse class announcements and the class web site.

Textbook and Other Readings

Only one text is required for the class, Evolution and Prehistory: The Human Challenge by Haviland, Walrath, Prins, and McBride (7th edition, ISBN 0-534-61016-1. I have ordered the Advantage edition of the book, which is set up for a three-ring binder. I have also ordered Hominid Fossils CD-ROM: An Interactive Atlas. A special discount was arranged for these as a package.  The package is available at the Cavanaugh Hall Jaguar Bookstore. You can also buy these on used textbook websites and can perhaps find lower costs. Your text comes with a four-month subscription to InfoTrac, which will allow you access to a wide range of journals that may be of help. The text also has  an online website with a wide range of materials related to class; it may be of some use. You may find interesting  “The Latest Dirt,” which keeps up to date on the most recent fossil finds. You will also be assigned online readings and audio materials as noted or as announced, some of them useable for extra consideration points.

Tentative Lecture, Reading and Exam Schedule

Following is a loosely arranged lecture and reading assignment schedule. I reserve the right to change the schedule based on class needs, illness, or other factors. The dates given for the Milestone Quizzes are only approximations of when I think they will be. I will announce some quizzes, but not others, so you will benefit by staying up to date on readings and lectures. You will be given at least one class period’s notice if a change is made for an announced milestone quiz (this won’t happen for the pop quizzes, of course). Notice that sometimes you will have a group of readings with nothing following the next class. This group of readings may apply over several class periods. Read ahead if you like. In bold Italics are key activities, quizzes and due dates. Lectures will expand on and illustrate the following topics:  Note well: All dates are only approximations  to help you keep track of where you should be in readings and "what's coming next." The pace will be determined by lots of factors including the amount of discussion, class needs, and my assessment of whether we need to spend more or less time on a subject. All milestone Quiz dates are approximations; be ready for them.

Approx Date Topic or activity Readings

Jan 9



Jan 11

How do we know what we know?
Video: A Private Universe



What culture is; What anthropology is

Chapter 1  The Essence of Anthropology.

Jan 18

A history of evolutionary theory  Powerpoint to accompany lecture

Chapter 2 Biology and Evolution.

Jan 23

Misconceptions about evolution


Jan 25



Jan 30

Understanding Evolution (video)

Read online intelligent design materials

Feb 1

Lab 1 Concepts of Time;
The Mechanics of Evolution 


Feb 6

Milestone Quiz 1


Feb 8

Primate studies 1

 Lab 1 report due; Chapter 3  Living Primates. 

Feb 13

Primate studies 2 


Feb 15

 Lab 2 Evolution of primate anatomy and locomotion  (In class)

Primate studies (video TBA)


Feb 20

Primate Studies 3: Behaviors


Feb 22

 Primates concluded   

Lab Report 2 due

Feb 27

Milestone Quiz 2
On doing archaeology

Chapter 4 Field Methods in Archaeology & Paleoanthropology.

Mar 1 Critical thinking and the past: The Wild Side of Midwestern Archaeology: Pseudoscience and the Past  
Mar 6 What makes us human? Ape Men: The Human Puzzle video Chapter 5 Macroevolution and the Early Primates. Do "Challenges of Human Paleontology" section on CD-ROM

Mar 8

The ape that stood on its own two feet   Milestone Quiz 3

Chapter 6 The First Bipeds.

Mar 13 & 15

 No class: spring break

Use CD-ROM to learn more about specimens

Mar 20

Ape Men: Giant Strides   video

Chapter  7 Homo habilis and Cultural Origins.

Mar 22 Ape Men: All in the Mind  video Use CD-ROM to learn more about specimens

Mar 27

 The Hobbit  video

Chapter 8 Homo erectus and the Emergence of Hunting & Gathering.

Mar 29

 Creationism Redux: Video: Ape Men: Science and Fiction; Discussion

Chapter 9. Archaic Homo sapiens and the Middle Paleolithic

Apr 3

Summarizing the main ideas about human evolution; Milestone Quiz 4
Lab 3 Sacred sites-Sacred Art 
 On your own

 Chapter 10. Homo sapiens and the Upper Paleolithic.

Apr 5

Times of Great Change: The Neolithic and the Rise of Civilization

Chapter 11. The Neolithic Revolution: Domestication of Plants & Animals.

Apr 10

Times of Great Change continued;
Lab 4 Monumental Architecture On your own


Apr 12

The Ice Man video

Chapter 12. The Emergence of Cities & States. 

Apr 17

Who Built Stonehenge? video;  Milestone Quiz 5
Lab 5 Digging Through the Web  On your own


Apr 19

 Race: Humanity’s Most Dangerous Myth

Chapter 13 Modern Human Diversity.

Apr 24

 All non-exam projects duee-mail or deliver to Zimmerman office


May 1

Final Examination 1:00 - 3:00 PM in the regular classroom



You will see several excellent videos or films which directly support the reading material and lectures. The material in the films is considered testable. You may wish to include summary sheets on the films in your notebook. You will find a study guide for each video we see, linked from the class web site. Generally films will be announced one class period ahead, so if you can look at the video study guide before seeing the video. If you can’t, please look at it as soon as possible afterwards. You may wish to take note during films as you would during lectures; they are not shown for entertainment.

Attendance Policy

As Woody Allen says, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up!” This class is the same: to do well, you have to be there.  Because we only have about 30 class meetings, there is a great deal to accomplish. Thus, three (3) unexcused absences will result in a grade reduction of one letter grade, no matter the grade you earn in labs, projects, or exams (think about it: three absences is 10% of the class periods!). Each additional two (2) absences will result in an additional grade reduction.  Excused absences are the usual: illness, emergencies, participation in sanctioned university events, extreme weather that would endanger you. If at all possible, please send me an e-mail or phone if you know you won’t be attending.

Other Matters

General Comments

Within reason, I will do everything I can to facilitate your learning, but I can only do so much. Ultimately, learning the course material is your responsibility. Please feel free to contact me if you have concerns or issues, but try to remember that I can only bend so far without depriving others students of equal opportunities.  My response to missed classes, exams, or assignments is covered under Other Matters above, but I understand that family emergencies can be out of the ordinary. However, if you do ask for special treatment, it will normally come at some additional cost to you in terms of expected amounts of work.

As well, this class will study issues that are socially controversial, such as the debates over evolution vs. creation. Expect that! Sometimes I even play "devil's advocate" to generate responses. If something angers you or disturbs you, raise the issue immediately, and hopefully, in class for discussion. The worst thing to do is to internalize your anger to the level that it prevents you from learning. If you need help with this issue, please see me about it.

The Really Difficult Issue

Regarding the social issues surrounding evolution, please be aware that I consider evolution to be a fact and approach the class that way. We will talk about the issues in class, but the class is not a debate about science vs. religion (except for the scheduled debate!). This class is science-based, and as such, we will not be addressing questions of faith, which science cannot answer. My task is to help you to learn what anthropology says about the origins and development of our species, not what the Bible or some other faith-based system of knowing says. Thus, except for the class period allotted, save debates over such issues for times outside the classroom. There is plenty to debate within biological anthropology and prehistory. If you don't believe in evolution, that's fine, but I would point out that it might be good to learn what evolution actually says about our species so that you can more accurately debate when the time and place are appropriate outside this class. Here's the deal: Students who say something like, "I refuse to answer or do this because I don't believe in it," on their assignments and exams will fail. I'm not asking you to believe anything; I'm asking you to learn and know it. If you feel you can't work within these approaches, this class is not for you, and I urge you to change sections or drop the class. If you have questions about my approach, feel free to talk with me about it outside the classroom.

Academic Misconduct


All work in the course is conducted in accordance with the University’s academic misconduct policy. Cheating includes dishonesty of any kind with respect to exams or assignments. Plagiarism is the offering of someone else’s work as your own: this includes taking material from books, web pages, or other students, turning in the same or substantially similar work as other students, or failing to properly cite other research. Please consult the University Bulletin’s academic misconduct policy if you have any questions about what constitutes academic dishonesty. If academic misconduct is discovered, you will lose all credit for that Activity.


Administrative Withdrawal 


The School of Liberal Arts supports the administrative withdrawal policy. You may find detailed descriptions of standards and policies for administrative withdrawal at  Contact the Anthropology Department Chairperson with questions about Anthropology Department policies


Need Special Assistance?


If you have learning problems that might require special accommodation for completion of class assignments, please notify me of these matters within the first two or three class periods. I’ll make every effort to make things work for you. You may wish to contact Adaptive Educational Services (AES), Cavanaugh Hall, Suite 001E , 425 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202–5140, Tel: (317) 274–3241, TDD/TTY: (317) 278–2050, Fax: (317) 278–2051, Email: Staff there can provide a range of assistance.


Student Advocate Office


Do you have a problem you don't know how to solve? Is there information you cannot find? Do you have a question that needs an answer or a problem that is affecting your class attendance? The Student Advocate Office is here to help! I will answer your questions, direct you to the appropriate departments and people, familiarize you with university policies and procedures, and give you guidance as you look at ways to solve problems and make choices. The Student Advocate Office is located in UC002 and can be contacted by phone at 278-7594 or email at For more information, see the Student Advocate website at: