Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective

Course No. 1573
Professor Barbara J. King, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
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Course No. 1573
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Course Overview

When we consider ourselves, not as static beings fixed in time but as dynamic, ever-changing creatures, our viewpoint of human history becomes different and captivating.

The crucial element of "time depth" has revolutionized the very questions we ask about ourselves. "Who are we?" has turned into What have we become? What are we becoming?"

What makes this viewpoint possible is the evolutionary perspective offered by biological anthropology through the study of the evolution, genetics, anatomy, and modern variation within the human species.

A Discipline of Far-Ranging Questions
  • Are the great apes a unique break point from the past—and toward the human—because they can understand other beings' mental states?
  • Did we destroy the Neandertals?
  • Did modern Homo sapiens evolve entirely on the African continent, replacing other hominid forms as they fanned out into Asia and Europe? Or did they evolve simultaneously and in the same direction on all three continents?
  • Did hunting and its requirements for cooperation and intelligence make us human?
  • What is the role of our evolution in determining social hierarchy? gender roles? obesity? morning sickness in pregnancy?
  • How is evolution active in human development today?

As Dr. King addresses these and other questions in this scientific story, you will come to see evolution as not simply a textbook theory but a vital force.

Understand the Forces that Continue to Shape Us

In this course, award-winning teacher and scholar Barbara J. King—a William and Mary University Professor of Teaching Excellence from 1999-2002—delves into the story of how, why, where, and when we became human.

These lectures will help you understand the forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, our species.

"An evolutionary perspective on human behavior," notes Dr. King, "results in more than just knowledge about dates and sites—when and where specific evolutionary milestones likely occurred.

"It is also a window on the past and future of our species. An entirely new way of thinking comes into focus when we consider the human species within an evolutionary perspective."

Enjoy the Fruits of a Century of Scholarship

While covering these subjects in this 24-lecture series, Dr. King synthesizes the best that more than a century of scientific scholarship has to offer across a variety of disciplines.

Biological anthropologists study primate anatomy and behavior both to understand evolution and to learn more about our common ancestor.

Biological anthropologists are joined by molecular anthropologists to better understand hominids by studying fossils, ancient skeletal remains, and lifestyle information such as cave art and stone tools.

Case Studies that Clarify Evolution and Its Power

Dr. King begins by explaining key mechanisms through which evolution functions, citing famous and definitive case studies that demonstrate these forces.

In one such landmark study, for example, biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant returned to the Galapagos Islands more than 100 years after Darwin's first voyage to conduct research on island finches.

In 1977, a drought-induced scarcity of soft, edible seeds brought forth in the very next generation a population of finches with larger, stronger beaks capable of crushing larger, tougher seeds.

Extraordinarily, in 1985, heavy rains produced a surplus of softer seeds, and natural selection produced a succeeding generation of the smaller-beaked variety.

Evolution had occurred in two different directions within a decade. This "natural selection" is the theoretical tool of evolution, which helps us make sense of these facts.

Learn Why Evolution Remains Important to Us Today

Perhaps the greatest measure of this theory's power is its relevance to our lives today.

  • Did you know that the gene which causes sickle cell anemia must be inherited from both parents to cause the disease but the disease does not occur when only a single gene is inherited?
  • Or that the single gene, in fact, affords protection from malaria?
  • Or that race, a category so securely ingrained in our consciousness, is practically meaningless in biological terms?
  • Or how to evaluate the claim that a gene can be responsible for a certain personality trait?

Take a Glimpse Into Our Selected Primate Heritage

With an understanding of the basic mechanisms of evolutionary change in hand, the course looks at how our ancient primate ancestors adapted.

Consider the anatomical features we share with monkeys, great apes, and other primates. Our large brains, grasping hands, and forward-facing eyes allowing us to perceive depth are critical to the way we function in the world.

Yet the fossil record tells us that some 70 million years ago these distinctive primate features did not exist.

What caused the first primates to emerge from existing mammalian populations?

One proposed solution was that the appearance of insects living in the lower canopies of trees offered a plentiful food resource to those species adapted to procure it. Could depth perception and grasping ability have provided an advantage here, and hence been naturally selected?

This is the function of biological anthropology: confronting the facts, then suggesting and testing possibilities.

A Course as Much About the Present as the Past

With so much of evolutionary history taken up with the past, the insights gained in these lectures may tempt you to add questions of your own:

  • Is human evolution still a force in today's world?
  • Hasn't our modern, mobile culture rendered evolution irrelevant?

In fact, human evolution is a stronger force than ever, interacting with human culture in complex ways.

Issues such as obesity, AIDS, and genetics are all discussed. And you may well find these lectures opening your eyes to the extraordinary ways in which the biological power of natural selection is still at work in the world today.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    What is Biological Anthropology?
    Whether studying primates in the field, gene sequences in a lab, fossils from the Earth, or modern human populations across the globe, biological anthropologists employ an evolutionary perspective to understand the history of our species, and perhaps its future. x
  • 2
    How Evolution Works
    Evolution, or systematic change in a gene pool over time, is driven by the mechanisms of natural selection, mutation, gene flow, and genetic drift. Understanding the role played by "differential productive success" helps us to see that evolution still plays an important role in our lives today. x
  • 3
    The Debate Over Evolution
    Americans continue to reject the theory of evolution in large numbers, perhaps because of a perceived incompatibility between belief in evolution and religious faith. In fact, some evolutionary scientists are deeply religious. Scientific creationism, however, and even the newer doctrine of intelligent design, are fundamentally at odds with the bedrock principles of biological anthropology, and of science itself. x
  • 4
    Matter Arising—New Species
    As different animal populations become isolated from each other, differing selection pressures cause them to adapt to their ecological niche, until a variety of forms emerge which cannot interbreed. About 65 million years ago, ancestral rodent-like populations underwent such pressures, resulting in the emergence of primates. x
  • 5
    Prosimians, Monkeys, and Apes
    The obvious anatomical and behavioral differences among these three subgroups of non-human primates led early anthropologists to focus on their static measurement and classification. In 1951, Sherwood Washburn focused on how the dynamic processes of evolutionary change had produced different yet fundamentally related species. x
  • 6
    Monkey and Ape Social Behavior
    The rhesus monkeys of Cayo Santiago, an island off Puerto Rico, organize their society around groups of differently ranked females, while chimpanzee communities are male-dominated, organized around communal male hunting and border patrols. As Washburn would have predicted, a common trend of hierarchical grouping and intense social bonding emerges, across diverse primates. x
  • 7
    The Mind of the Great Ape
    Is there a watershed difference in cognitive abilities between great apes and other non-human primates? Advocates of this viewpoint point to two phenomena: the great ape's "theory of mind," or its ability to comprehend another being's mental state, and the great ape's ability to communicate through gestures and human-devised symbol systems. x
  • 8
    Models for Human Ancestors?
    Some anthropologists create models for the evolution of human behavior by studying primates whose behaviors most closely resemble our own. Others say we should only study behavior shared universally by all great apes. Some stress that the process by which a behavior emerged in a primate group can best indicate how our own behaviors evolved. x
  • 9
    Introducing the Hominids
    The hominids are the first human ancestors, diverging from a common ancestor with the great apes some six or seven million years ago. Despite fossil evidence and the contributions of molecular science, the precise speciation date is still elusive. Climate change and dietary pressures are examined as possible explanations for the hominids' key anatomical adaptation, bipedality. x
  • 10
    Lucy and Company
    When the 40 percent complete Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) skeleton was found in 1974, she upset researchers' expectations by being bipedal, yet possessing an ape-sized brain. Subsequent studies of other species show us that a variety of bipedal hominid forms had evolved even earlier than Lucy, and that they co-existed. Rather than a straight line, evolution more resembled a many-branched bush. x
  • 11
    Stones and Bones
    Homo habilis, who first appeared 2.4 million years ago, was not the first gracile, light-boned hominid, but it was the first to leave evidence of its lifestyle. It manufactured rudimentary stone tools, probably used to forage and to process animal carcasses. Different cultural practices have been inferred from this tool use, but the technological leap it represents is certain. x
  • 12
    Out of Africa
    With Homo erectus, some hominid populations migrated from their African homes and into Asia. Anatomical advantages of this species included a larger brain, and in the case of an African specimen, a tropically adapted body frame. Its more advanced toolkit allowed more efficient animal processing, while its probable control of fire aided hunting, cooking, defense, and temperature control. x
  • 13
    Who Were the Neandertals?
    In 1911, a French anatomist fashioned a reconstruction of a Neandertal based on a skeleton afflicted with arthritis, and the stooped, shambling, primitive figure that resulted has lived on in the popular imagination. In truth, Neandertals were large-brained, upright bipeds, effective hunters, and sophisticated toolmakers. Their practice of deliberately burying their dead hints at a possible symbolic dimension. x
  • 14
    Did Hunting Make Us Human?
    Intelligence and the ability to cooperate are essential to success in hunting. Could these qualities have been naturally selected, and acted as prime evolutionary movers in the evolution of human intelligence? Critics note that there is little evidence for hunting in many of the early hominids, while others stress that social coordination and problem solving are equally required in female gathering activities. x
  • 15
    The Prehistory of Gender
    The prehistoric landscape of behavioral gender differences is a veritable minefield, where an anthropologist's inferences may always fall prey to ideology. From the 1960s until today, we have seen models that promote the male as the protector and provider, making no allowances for behavioral flexibility. Alternatives that posit the primacy of female-centered networks in place of the nuclear family are no less constraining. x
  • 16
    Modern Human Anatomy and Behavior
    Unlike bones, modern human behavior cannot easily be dated. The famous Lascaux cave paintings, together with other artifacts from Western Europe, were once thought to be firsts. New excavations of rock art and finely worked tools in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Namibia are challenging this view, and showcase Africa once more as the likely crucible of progress. x
  • 17
    On the Origins of Homo sapiens
    Did modern Homo sapiens evolve entirely on the African continent, then fan out into Asia and Europe, replacing other hominid forms as they went? Or would it be more accurate to see evolution from intermediate hominid forms occurring simultaneously, and in the same direction, on all three continents? Fossils, knowledge of evolution, and genetic testing all contribute to theories, but no single answer has yet been reached. x
  • 18
    Language
    With its immense vocabulary and complex syntax, modern language is often seen as a mysterious development, lying on the far side of some mist-shrouded Rubicon from which the point of origin is barely visible. This need not be so. Anthropologist Robbins Burling has proposed a scenario that includes the step-by-step evolutionary shifts necessary to get us from ape communication to human language. x
  • 19
    Do Human Races Exist?
    To quote anthropologist Michael Blakey, the idea that people can be grouped into races may seem as obvious to us as the sun rising in the east. Blakey's point, however, was that our eyes can mislead us, and common sense can be inadequate to deal with scientific questions. This lecture confronts the question of whether skin color or other attributes can be used to sort people into biologically meaningful categories. x
  • 20
    Modern Human Variation
    If race is a flawed prism through which to view human diversity, how ought we to understand it? A population that undergoes pronounced selection pressures may experience significant evolutionary changes. This lecture considers the anatomical adaptations that occur in response to extreme climates, as well as the process of acclimatization, a non-genetic type of human adaptation. x
  • 21
    Body Fat, Diet, and Obesity
    Humans developed the ability to convert calories into fat deposits to combat the periodic food shortages endemic to early hominid life. Consequently, we are not well adapted to process large portions of salt, sugar, and fat. Anthropologists propose various ways of coping with this adaptation to the past. x
  • 22
    The Body and Mind Evolving
    Recent research suggests that morning sickness in pregnant women, and hypertension in African-Americans, can be explained in evolutionary terms. By considering psychology and even moral action as similarly influenced by evolutionary pressures, are we at risk of endorsing biological determinism? x
  • 23
    Tyranny of the Gene?
    The disappointing results of animal cloning confirm that environment plays as great a role as genes do in an organism's biological destiny. Understanding how genes affect human health may produce promising treatments, but we affirm the fundamental truth that genetic material acts, and is acted upon, in complex and unpredictable ways. x
  • 24
    Evolution and Our Future
    Even though Homo sapiens is now the planet's dominant species and prime evolutionary mover, the selection pressures we generate and are subject to will have consequences that we cannot predict. The intimate connection we share with our primate relatives and all other animal species should inspire a sense of common responsibility as we meet the challenges of the future. x

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Your professor

Barbara J. King

About Your Professor

Barbara J. King, Ph.D.
The College of William and Mary
Dr. Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Douglass College, Rutgers University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Professor King's research interests concern the social communication of the great apes, the closest living relatives to humans. She has studied ape and...
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Reviews

Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 99.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging curse taught by an excellent instruc Having graduated in 1965 with a degree in Anthropology from Berkeley, I wanted to be updated on the field which has held my interest. The professor was clear in describing issues which are still being debated. I so enjoyed this lively presentation.
Date published: 2018-11-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Free on youtube and very outdated It would have been great if it were updated to be consistent with new discoveries in the past 5 years and i paid for it when i found it free on youtube!
Date published: 2018-10-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Outdated material Bought this in 2018. Copyright date is 2002. A lot has changed since then.
Date published: 2018-10-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good information though dated This is a good starting point to understand the basic concepts of evolution. I am glad it was on sale as it is dated. I am looking forward to a future update.
Date published: 2018-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dr. King is such a great speaker! It was a real pleasure just to listen to Dr. King speak. She is articulate and engaging. But we don't buy courses only on the basis of the speaker's superb presentation skills. This course was published in 2002 and is hopelessly out of date. For this reason, it is quite a disappointment and I would have to recommend against buying it now. Whenever an new, up-to-date version comes out, then order that for what should be a fascinating look at the latest science behind our understanding of this topic that is so basic to understanding ourselves.
Date published: 2018-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Biological anthropology: an evolutionary perspecti The lectures are informative and the course is well organized- The course would be great if it were not outdated. Prof. King states in lecture 13 that Neanderthals were a species different from Homo Sapiens . I have read in many scientific journals that there are 3 subspecies of Homo sapiens idaltu : Neanderthalensis, sapiens sapiens and homo Denisovan. My ancestral DNA has 2.4 % of Neanderthal genes. I noticed than many other lectures are equally outaded. Many of the physics lectures barely mentions the Hadron collider and the Higgs boson findings,! We have bought over 100 lectures over the last 15 yrs, I would enjoy them much more if the were kept up to speed with the advances in the field they discuss.
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good survey of Bio-Anthropolgy. Needs an update Prior to having taken this course I have taken a few others in TGC on paleo anthropology: professor Hawk’s wonderful course “The rise of humans – great scientific debates” and “Human prehistory”. The current course focuses on Biological Anthropology in general of which Paleo Anthropology is one branch – so the scope in this course was quite a bit wider. The whole point of this field of study is to employ different methodologies to learn as much as possible about human evolution. There are really three major approaches – the first is by studying ancient human and humanoid remains or fossils and trying to piece from that a clear story of how humans came to be. The second is by studying other ancient humanoid remains such as tools, burial sites etc… The third, which is Professor King’s field of research, is by studying our relatives (primarily Great Apes, but also other primates and even other less related animals), to see if we can trace some of our human behaviors back to them. If this can be established then we can say that evolutionally, these traits did not start with humans but were probably already in existence in our ancient common ancestor. Contrary to many others, I found Professor King to be a very good presenter. She was clear and structured and provided the material in an interesting manner. She did not make any attempt to make the material entertaining – that was just fine with me. I totally agree that the course is extremely dated and probably needs a revision, but I still found it very worthwhile.
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Out of date! This course is in urgent need of an update. The reading list comprises of books, many of which, are more almost 20 years old - a lot happens in 20 years. New discoveries are made and old theories are modified in light of more recent findings. The same can be said for the lectures and their notes. I have found this problem in many of TGC series of lectures. A programme for revising and updating these courses is called for.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great but needs updating and this field has changed dramatically in that time. There was still a lot of timeless valuable content but I would probably not have bought the course
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from If I had known that this course was 15 years old I would not have purchased it! So many advances have been made in Archeology, it is outdated!
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Science vs Political Correctness: PC wins. I went straight to "Lecture 19, Do Human Races Exist". Dr. King falls all over herself denying that any significant racial differences exist, making many specious, straw-man arguments make her points. I can only conclude that Dr. King, like most PC academics, really doesn't believe in evolution.
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good one This topic was not our strong suit academically, but the course has enlightened us considerably. We enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Outdated and low level I have bought and viewed a wide range of Great Courses over the years, and as a retired physician, I have a wide range of interests and knowledge. Unfortunately, this course is not up to date. There has been a lot of research done that was not mentioned, especially in dating and Genetics/DNA. This is perhaps understandable in a quickly moving field, but updates are urgently needed. Secondly, this is very much a high school level course. I expected more. Perhaps this is because it is an area I am really interested in, and I found very little that was new to me. I do not recommend this for my friends, many of whom know more about this than I.
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof King is engaging. Biological Anthropology has enlarged my knowledge of this field.
Date published: 2017-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done Dr. King covers the topic with broad perspective of the facts and the controversies. Her delivery is adept and skillful, although I admit her high- toned voice took a little getting use to. But that is more a criticism of me than her.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Well Presented The Professor was very articulate and presented the course in an easily understood form.
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Information The is a good summary of biological anthropology. However, since it was filmed 15 years ago, some of the information is now out of date, such as the genome studies.
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Biological anthology i found this tape very interesting especially the last 5 or 6 lectures about how this subjject is revelent in the modern era.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Presentation of material is awful. Professor King shows very little enthusiasm for this material as she lectures in an inflectionless, staccato styled monotone. My interest in anthropology, which is usually quite high, waned substantially as the course continued to the point where I could not finish the course. Professor King needs to consult the lecture stylings of J. Rufus Fears, Timothy Taylor or John Hawks, all highly engaging instructors who have lectured on topics for the Great Courses.
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Five Stars but with a complaint I expanded my knowledge in this area of the social sciences. And I enjoyed the Professor's presentations. So for one like myself who was uninitiated into this arena, this is a good course and I recommend it. But my complaint must be voiced - not to the professor - but to the Teaching Company. Early into the lecture series it became obvious that no data could be presented past the year 2002 because that is the year the lecture series was video taped. I found that fact was a distraction as the course progressed. I don't know how much more has been learned in the anthropology field in the last 15 years but the potential for such is high based on advances made in other areas. This course needs a second edition with updates, or a new course altogether with this one being retired, or at least a caution to the buyer that the data on advancements and knowledge does not go past 2002. Had the last of these been in place at the time of my purchase, I would have probably not bought the course.
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Evolution from an anthropology point of view. As a biology major in college, I learned evolution based on biology/ genetics. This course gives a much broader view. I feel i have a much better understanding of evolution now. Dr King is very passionate about the subject which makes the course interesting. She is also very clear in her presentation.
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course but I have a suggestion The course and Dr. Hill are great, but I am bothered by anyone, but especially scientists, who state Darwin, as the person who discovered Evolution. He especially popularized it and although Charles Darwin was not the first person to consider that life on this planet evolved, he was the first to come up with a viable working mechanism on how it happened. Around 520 BC - Anaximander The Greek philosopher, Anaximander of Miletus, wrote a text called "On Nature" in which he introduced an idea of evolution, stating that life started as slime in the oceans and eventually moved to drier places. He also brought up the idea that species evolved over time. Around 500 BC - Xenophanes Xenophanes studied fossils and put forth various theories on the evolution of life. Around 350 BC - Aristotle The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, studied marine animals and developed an epigenetic model of evolution. He also developed a classification system for all animals. 1794 - Erasmus Darwin Erasmus Darwin, English physician, poet and naturalist, developed one of the first theories of evolution in his book, "Zoonomia." Erasmus thought that all life had evolved from one common ancestor which over time branched off into all the species we see today. He thought the transmutation of species was driven by competition and reproductive selection, but he had no facts to support his theories. Erasmus Darwin was Charles Darwin's grandfather.
Date published: 2016-10-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too much catering to science skeptics Dr. King has been teaching too many science and evolution skeptics and starts from that level, totally turning me of from what could have been a stimulating course.
Date published: 2016-08-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting, but needs updating Whilst I really enjoyed the course and I thought it was a good overall summary, some of the information, especially about genetics, was out of date. It really needs to be updated and brought in line with the latest research. However, still worthwhile as a general summary of biological anthropology.
Date published: 2016-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from so many insights Professor Barbara King's course is enjoyable, deep, and thought-provoking. I have reviewed the audio CDs four times since purchasing them less than three years ago. Each time I learn something new. She provides an understandable explanation of how evolution works, and counters the claims of "Intelligent Design" in a logical and respectful manner. From this course I now have a far better understanding of our hominid ancestors, and have learned that there were many branches that simply died out. Professor King brings up some of the current controversies in her field, and is quick to point out that ..."we just don't know; all we can do at this time is speculate." She offers her own opinion on some of those, but emphasizes that it's just her opinion. She tells fascinating stories of many of the main figures in this field, and what they accomplished. I felt that she treats the listener with respect, as an intelligent student, and her own passion and interest is evident.
Date published: 2016-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Our Precious, Wondrous Lineage While some events since the original recording of this course in 2002 have added to the content, so ably presented by Professor King, to my knowledge they have only reinforced the themes she so clearly conveys in this learned course. In our own fractious times, when the ideas behind scientific theories of anything -- evolution, global warming, etc. -- seem to be so easily challenged by so many, it is very helpful to ingest Dr. King's clear explanation of how science works, including its dependance upon factual evidence and reliance upon open and vigorous examination and critiques of all theories that evolve from such study, whether or not such theories are considered popular or correct. I appreciated, too, her clear explanation of how scientific "theories" are not the same as what may pass for "theories" among laypersons (which often represent our best "guestimate" as to why something did or did not occur). This rigorous basis of scientific theories is a lesson we need to relearn if we are to intelligently confront the great challenges facing all of us today, including that of global warming. And I personally found new respect for all of the hominids that preceded us, in the nature of the trials they endured, challenges they faced -- and often managed to overcome, and in their real linkages to us as near-humans. After all, we carry very real "memories" of their lives and experiences in our own DNA, and so much of our vaunted accomplishments rest very firmly upon their shoulders. This is an enriching -- and humbling -- course that I heartily recommend to others, whether they be of a scientific bent or not.
Date published: 2016-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good for it's time, but crying out for an update Biological Anthropology was my major in college, and I graduated right around when this course was first released, back in 2002. I remember listening to it as a refresher before a departmental exam, and being quite impressed for the most part; it definitely gives a good overview of the "best thought" in the field at that time. I felt she was a bit over-confident of her own position in some of the big debates in the field, without enough explanation of WHY she sided with a particular position, but in all fairness that probably only bothered me because her position aligned pretty closely with the majority position at the time and my own views were much more "maverick" on such subjects as whether the Neandertals were a completely separate species or could interbreed with homo sapiens. I listened again a month or so ago, admittedly at least partially so I could gloat a little over how things have changed. DNA evidence since that time has vindicated my position and undercut the then-conventional thinking. As I listened again, I was reminded that this was, in fact, an excellent overview for it's day. And the portions that covered material that was more solidly tested at the time still hold up pretty well. Most of the primatology material is still pretty solid, though it does give short shrift to the bonobo, which just weren't as well studied at the time. Most of the Australopithecine and early hominid material is still solid. However since this course was created there have been further discoveries that now seem strange by their absence. At the time this course was created, Ardipithecus ramidus was still a fairly new discovery without much released information yet. Sahelanthropus tchadensis was discovered right about the time of release, apparently not in time to garner a mention. Ardipithecus kadabba was still a year or two away from discovery, as was Homo floresiensis. There have been multiple other key discoveries since then, all the way up to the headline-making discovery just this last year of Homo naledi. Our fossil evidence is becoming more and more plentiful, with the result that our knowledge is growing by leaps and bounds, but so much of it happened too recently to be included here. Furthermore, as I mentioned before, several key debates in the field have been resolved, often in unexpected ways. I have not actually re-listened to the last part of the series, where Dr. King leaves behind the Paleoanthropology and gets into the more general Biological Anthropology and modern human variation. I do remember not being quite as impressed with that section the first time I listened to the course, finding it a little more full of sweeping pronouncements that I didn't feel were very supported. But memory is faulty, so I won't mark the course down for that. In fact, I'm still recommending the course overall, since it is the only offering The Great Courses has on something I consider a very important subject. Just remember, if you listen to this one, that it is only a beginning, and there is a lot more out there to learn on the subject. And if an updated version is created, I will be the first one in line to buy it.
Date published: 2015-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent summary of human evolution I found this an excellent course, delivered by a very capable and engaging lecturer (audio version). Prof. King starts with a basic and informative review of evolution, Darwinian natural selection, and speciation. She then goes into what we know of the evolution from the earliest primates through the hominids up to Homo sapiens sapiens. It's all presented in a very interesting way, and I learned a lot. The last part of the course discusses topics such as diseases in the modern world that stem in some sense from rapid changes in economic life thanks to civilization, that are a mismatch with what the human body has evolved to need. And throughout the course Prof King is quite aware that we will learn more from future fossil discoveries and better analytic techniques, such that our understanding will change.
Date published: 2015-10-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great content, serious presentation Professor King provides excellent valuable content in a very serious manner. So far I'm on lecture 7 and have yet to see a smile of hear real humor. She reminds me of a professor I had in college who was very knowledgeable and won a teaching award but, in my opinion, paled in comparison with a science professor I had who lectured in a manner that both taught the subject and had communication with the students. I mostly feel Professor King is lecturing at me. Great content, mediocre presentation.
Date published: 2015-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AN EVOLUTIONARY PRESPECTIVE Anthropology and Archeology are my retirement hobbies. Barbara King is a well spoken professor of anthropology and I have enjoyed listened her lecture. Her course is well presented. I was totally taken in and listened to 7 lectures a day. I have learned more from these lessons than I ever learned in school. I have taken several courses with this company, and she is the best so far. Looking forward to more of Dr. King's lectures.
Date published: 2015-03-23
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