• 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, Zoology, Evolution and Ecology, Biology

This course will provide a detailed look at the fossil record of extinct hominids (i.e. the ancestors of living humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans) in the context of the behaviour and morphology of humans and great apes living today. In the first part of the course we will review the hominid fossil record and will cover some of the key theoretical concepts relevant to understanding the biology of these extinct species. We will then turn our attention to sexual dimorphism and size variation in our fossil ancestors and ask questions about whether we can reliably reconstruct aspects of their social behaviour. We will then cover further isolated topics in depth such as diet, locomotion, tool use and cognition and will consider what genetic evidence can tell us about the behaviour of our more recent hominin relatives. 

Learning Outcomes

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

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1. Identify and recognise the key morphological features of the major extinct hominid fossil groups.
2. Explain the principles of palaeobiology and how different lines of anatomical evidence can be used to make inferences about the behaviour of extinct species
3. Critically assess the utility and limitations of the fossil record in making behavioural inferences.
4. Evaluate the concept of sexual dimorphism and explain how observed morphological sex differences can be used to reconstruct aspects of extinct hominid social behaviour.
5. Assess how genetic evidence can complement fossil and archaeological evidence in reconstructing the behaviour and dispersal patterns of our recent hominin ancestors.

Other Information

Although there are no prerequisites to enroll on this course, students will ideally have some prior knowledge of the hominin fossil record and/or the basics of human evolution.

Indicative Assessment

One page problem statement and annotated bibliography relevant to proposed essay, 1500 words (15%) [Learning Outcomes 2-5]
A major essay, 3500 words (50%) [Learning Outcomes 2-5]
One take-home exam, 1000 words (20%) [Learning Outcomes 1-3]
One tutorial presentation, 30 minutes (10%) [Learning Outcomes 1-3]
Tutorial participation (5%) [Learning Outcomes 1-5]

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact: 18 hours of lectures (1.5 hours lectures per week) and 18 hours of tutorials, labs and online activities (1.5 hours of tutorials, labs or online learning per week).
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing

Preliminary Reading

Conroy, G. C., & Pontzer, H. (2012). Reconstructing Human Origins: A Modern Synthesis. 3rd Edition. WW Norton. Chapters 5-13.


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. Tuition fees are indexed annually. 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
2019 $3360
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2019 $5160
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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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
4018 24 Feb 2020 02 Mar 2020 08 May 2020 05 Jun 2020 In Person N/A

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