• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Biological Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Anthropology, Biological Anthropology

Our species has a capacity for flexible biological response to environmental conditions within a lifetime, as well as specific adaptations acquired over the long span of evolution. Pre-industrial human populations, sharing a similar range of physiological capacities, succeeded in occupying much of the globe and a wide diversity of environments. This course examines this adaptability and its limits in an anthropological context, with particular attention to nutrition, the physical environment, and disease. The main sections of the course will be: on nutritional ecology, discussing the adequacy of the diet (especially in energy and protein) for health and growth, and environmental and social influences on nutrition; on environmental physiology, especially responses to physical factors (e.g. climate), also psychosocial factors (e.g. stress); on disease ecology, contrasting patterns of disease occurrence in traditional and developing societies with those in developed societies, and considering the processes involved in selected cases; and finally on the critical assessment of arguments that interpret aspects of culture as adaptations to biological variables, such as protein needs, population pressure or nutrient flows in the ecosystem. Throughout, examples for study will be selected on a cross-cultural basis, with a focus on indigenous, traditional and developing societies, but with some attention also to developed societies.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course students will be able to:

  1. Master the essentials of the factual groundwork presented in the course, especially in the lectures and the required readings; and demonstrate awareness of key facts and the contributions of pivotal authors in the literature on human population nutrition, population health, and environmental stress and adaptability, viewed cross-culturally;
  2. Demonstrate a secure grasp of fundamental concepts in nutrition, epidemiology and general human adaptability, especially at social, cultural and population levels;
  3. Master basic epidemiological measures sufficiently to be able to draw correct inferences from population health information, including simple quantitative information, with which they may be presented;
  4. Use a selective case study approach to explain a topic or argument in the field orally to their peers, in a clear, concise, analytical and evidence-based manner, couched so as to elicit discussion; and respond thoughtfully to the substance of peers' similar contributions;
  5. Draw together material from a range of scholarly sources relevant to a topic or proposition in the field, to form a unified text which sets out an independent and, where appropriate, critical assessment of that material, balancing general argument and supporting evidence.

Indicative Assessment

One 2,500 word essay (45%); an option to re-submit may be offered [Learning Outcomes 2 & 5].

One mid-semester and one final examination (totalling 45%), covering respectively the first and second parts of the course [Learning Outcomes 1-3].

One short tutorial presentation (10%) [Learning Outcome 4].

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


This course is normally offered in even-numbered years

Normally there will be two hours of lectures, one hour of tutorial, and in some weeks one hour of film/videos weekly; plus private study to bring the total weekly commitment to ten hours per week.

Requisite and Incompatibility

12 units of 1000-level ANTH, ARCH or BIOL courses

Preliminary Reading

Harrison, G., Tanner, J., Pilbeam, D. and Baker, P. Human Biology, Part IV, 3rd edn, Oxford UP, 1988.
Ashcroft, F. Life at the Extremes, Harper Collins, 2000.
McMichael, T. Human Frontiers, Environments and Disease, Cambridge UP, 2001.




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Students continuing in their current program of study will have their tuition fees indexed annually from the year in which you commenced your program. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee Description
1994-2003 $1230
2014 $2478
2013 $2472
2012 $2472
2011 $2424
2010 $2358
2009 $2286
2008 $2286
2007 $2286
2006 $2286
2005 $2286
2004 $1926
International fee paying students
Year Fee
1994-2003 $2574
2014 $3246
2013 $3240
2012 $3240
2011 $3240
2010 $3240
2009 $3240
2008 $3240
2007 $3132
2006 $3132
2005 $3132
2004 $2916
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

First Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
3291 16 Feb 2015 06 Mar 2015 31 Mar 2015 29 May 2015 In Person N/A

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