Module Descriptions for Biological Anthropology

  • As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

  • Compulsory Modules

    Introduction to Biological Anthropology
    A basic module that examines key issues in understanding humans and other primates within the context of biological evolution. It builds an awareness of evolutionary principles and considers the similarities and contrasts between humans and other primates and their significance for human adaptive success.

    Deep History
    This module provides an introduction to the study of the prehistoric past, exploring the key developments which have shaped both our species and our world. We will examine core themes in human evolution and review the archaeological, fossil and palaeoenvironmental evidence for the prehistoric development of human communities. Throughout this module we will explore the interdisciplinary nature of archaeology, investigating the close links between archaeological, geographical and anthropological research.

    Introduction to Social Anthropology
    An introduction to the history and practice of social anthropology as a basis for more advanced study in the field, providing an overview of the key theoretical approaches and concepts created by anthropologists over the last 30 years.

    Introduction to Japanese Society and Culture
    An introduction to the study of modern Japanese society and culture, primarily from an anthropological perspective, but also incorporating overviews of Japan’s history and religions. Topics covered include the cultural basis of Japanese patterns of behaviour; marriage, family and kinship; work and employment; and popular culture.

    Recommended Modules

    Biodiversity (Double Module)
    This module takes an integrated approach to the diversity of life. It looks at the classification of the living world, the theory of evolution that links all biology and interactions between organisms and their environment. The module concentrates on major structures and patterns in plants, animals and fungi, how they vary within each kingdom and the interrelationships of some of the phyla. Structure is related to function throughout, with the ecological context and importance of each group. Populations and communities and the impact of environment on behaviour are addressed. The interactions between primary producers, mainly plants, and animals, both antagonistic and mutualistic and between both and the wider environment will be examined to understand the functioning of ecosystems and the biosphere.

    Foundations of Biological Psychology
    This module will introduce the student to the fundamental concepts and findings of Biological Psychology. It draws on a variety of ideas from Neurophysiology, Psychopharmacology, Neuroanatomy and Perception in relation to human behaviour. The module will introduce the basics of cell anatomy and neural transmission and explain the role of various neurotransmitters in the body. In addition the module will explore how disorders such as mood disorders and drug addiction can be explained at the level of neural activity.

    Top Up Modules

    Foundations of Cognitive Psychology
    This module provides an introduction to some key areas in cognitive psychology. Topics covered include research methods, learning, thinking & problem solving, memory, perception, language, consciousness and intelligence.

    In addition you may choose any available Year 1 modules.

    Anthropology in Action (Acceptable)
    Students will be strongly encouraged to extend their knowledge and understanding of anthropological concerns and debates to consider how and when anthropology can make a significant contribution to a variety of different areas. The module will demonstrate to students the wide range of possible future careers open to anthropology graduates.

    Personhood, Gender and the Body in Contemporary Japan (Alternative Acceptable)
    This module introduces anthropological perspectives on personhood, gender and the body and examines these with reference to ethnographic material from Japan.

    Primates Adaptation and Evolution (Alternative Compulsory)
    Explores the similarities and differences between humans and other primates using a broad comparative approach to examine structure, physiology, molecular biology and evolutionary history. The hallmarks of humanity emerge against a background of detailed knowledge of other species to help trace our history of inheritance and to explore the reasons for our unique specialisations.

    Primate Societies (Acceptable)
    There are some 400 species of primates other than humans, and this module explores the diversity of their social behaviour as a background for a better understanding of our own. This module uses a broad comparative approach to identify patterns of communication and social interaction among primates in relation to ecology, energetics, phylogeny, demography and tradition.

    Human Ecology (Alternative Compulsory)
    Introduces students to the study of human ecology, a core part of Biological Anthropology. Three main areas of human ecology are covered: resources, nutrition and disease.

    Human Evolutionary Biology and Geography (Alternative Compulsory)
    Considers the relationship between the various biological stages in human evolution, changes in society and behaviour as interpreted from the material record. Special emphasis will be given to developing an understanding of the role played by the palaeoenvironmental and palaeogeographical context of human evolution and behavioural change.

    Methods and Analysis in Biological Anthropology (Compulsory)
    Introduces the methods and analysis used across several fields of biological anthropology. In addition to learning the main concepts of the scientific method and hypothesis testing, students will be introduced to the basic methods of several biological anthropological sub-disciplines including: morphometric analyses (including human diversity, forensics, and skeletal analyses), behavioural observation techniques, population genetics, and evolutionary systematics. Analytical techniques will be introduced in ultimate preparation for the dissertation.

    Becoming Independent Researchers (Acceptable)
    Designed to complement U20126 (Methods and Analysis in Biological Anthropology), the aim of this module is to allow students to develop the motivation, skills and discipline needed to become successful independent researchers.

    Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Psychology (Alternative Acceptable)
    Examines the relevance of cross-cultural material to key topics in psychology including emotion, socialization, the self, the development of cognitive skills, the relationship between language and thought, and intercultural communication.

    Environmental Anthropology (Alternative Compulsory)
    This module takes a biosocial approach to understanding how humans inter-relate with their physical and biotic environment and the implications for human populations past, present and future.

    Anthropology of Relatedness (Alternative Acceptable)
    This module introduces students to the anthropology of relatedness; as well as exploring the broader economic and political forces that shape relationships within households and family networks.

    Human Osteology (Acceptable)
    This module is designed to provide the student with an understanding of the analysis of human bones from archaeological sites. Exploring theoretical and practical issues through a combination of lecture and lab-based sessions. Special emphasis will be placed on the study of palaeopathology and its use in studying populations within a comparative framework.

    Current Trends in Biological Anthropology (Acceptable)
    This module is designed for delivery of occasional modules offered by visiting lecturers or by Biological Anthropology Staff for trial runs of new modules.

    Animal Behaviour (Alternative Acceptable)
    An advanced study of the physiological, morphological and evolutionary mechanisms underlying behavioural traits and their variation in animals. The module emphasizes the importance of observation and experimentation to our understanding of behaviour and develops deep reading skills through the study of key primary research papers. Consideration is given to the influences of resource type and quality on animal behaviour, the evolution of behavioural traits and the acquisition of new behaviours. Interactions between behaviour and morphology and the constraints imposed on behaviour by physiology are also emphasised. Case studies examine the importance of animal behaviour in conservation.

    Environmental Decision Making: Theory and Practice (Alternative Acceptable)
    An examination of environmental decision making and the tools available to aid the decision-making process. This module examines the theoretical and historical context of the development of environmental decision-making tools, their regulatory base and their practical application. In particular the module examines the use of Environmental Impact Assessment and its application to major projects; the application of Strategic Environmental Assessment to land use plans; the use of sustainability appraisal techniques; the application of Appropriate Assessment procedures for projects affecting protected habitats; and the use of environmental audits within organisations.

    Quartenary Environmental Change (Acceptable)
    We are in the grip of global warming: sea levels are rising; glaciers are melting, Arctic sea ice is thinning, meteorological events are becoming more extreme. But how do these changes compare with the environmental changes that have occurred in the past? How can they be put into perspective? What can we learn from the past to help us better understand how natural and human factors may interact to change our climate and environment in the future? Quaternary Environmental Change examines environmental changes that have taken place during the Quaternary: the last 2.6 million years of geological history and time during which humans have evolved and spread across the Earth. The module aims to convey the relevance of palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimatic studies to current environmental and climatic concerns. The module examines changes to the physical environment throughout the Quaternary, putting current concerns into perspective; the causes of climatic and environmental change over different timescales and the complex interactions between human impacts and natural processes.

    Biological Anthropology Dissertation (Compulsory Double Honours Component)
    An opportunity for students to explore one topic in order to produce a dissertation demonstrating independent study at an advanced level.

    Dawn of Civilisation (Acceptable Honours Component)
    For 3 million years, early humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers whose prosperity was wholly dependant upon the ebb and flow of the climate. Then, around 10,000 years ago, there was a behavioural revolution that set into motion a series of exponential changes in human technology, subsistence, and organisation. This avalanche of development began in the region known as the Fertile Crescent, which includes the eastern Mediterranean, northern Arabia, and Mesopotamia. This module spans human history from 10,000 until 1,000 BC. We will review archaeological data, geography, the environmental record and mythology from the world’s first civilizations to understand how, where, why, and when they arose.

    People and Other Animals (Acceptable Honours Component)
    Humans and other animals have a long history of interacting with each other. In this module we examine some of the complexities and contradictions evident in people-animal relationships through topics such as animals as food, companion animals and animals as ‘nature’.

    Cognitive Evolution (Acceptable Honours Component)
    Explores the evolution of human intelligence, charting and evaluating the evidence for the development of key cognitive traits such as language, culture, tool use and symbolism. Grounded in the study of the fossil and archaeological records, the module adopts a multidisciplinary approach drawing on evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, philosophy, linguistics and primatology.

    Anthropology Independent Study (Acceptable Honours Component)
    Offers students a flexible opportunity to explore an anthropological topic. Outputs can vary considerably and could include one or more of: an essay, annotated bibliography, ethnographic fieldwork journal, video/film or a long report.

    Culture and Care (Acceptable Honours Component)
    Explores anthropological approaches to the human capacity for various kinds of care, nurturance, and social support.

    Palaeopathology (Acceptable Honours Component)
    This advanced honours module is designed to provide the student with an understanding of the analysis of human bones from archaeological sites. Exploring theoretical and practical issues through a combination of lecture and lab-based sessions. Special emphasis will be placed on the study of palaeopathology and its use in studying populations within a comparative framework. Students will be expected to engage in independent research and analysis of both primary material and the methods of the subject.


    Primate Conservation  (Acceptable Honours Component)
    The living primates, including humans, are currently faced with numerous global threats their conservation. From forest loss, to climate change, to the impacts that occur when non-human primates come face-to-face with humans, ranging from hunting for trade to the complexities of co-existence, our non-human primate relatives are at greater risk of extinction than ever before. In this module, we cover the major challenges facing primates and develop strategies to help conserve our closest relatives. The student will be introduced to the order Primates, with a focus on the most threatened taxa. The student will gain in an understanding in the global process of how species gain their threat status, and how national and international legislation protects them, and the effectiveness of such legislation. For each topic regarding conservation, students will work in focus groups to plan action on what they can do in their daily lives to combat global issues, within the context of conservation biology and anthropological methodology and theory. Students will learn how local traditions have protected primates in many parts of the world and what happens when such practices alter or. Students will also examine the impact of major forest conversion activities, from koltan extraction to oil palm production to monoculture timber forestry.

    Molecular Anthropology (Acceptable Honours Component)
    This course in molecular anthropology covers basic population genetics, phylogenetics and molecular evolution. Contemporary molecular analysis is used to determine evolutionary links between ancient and modern humans, between contemporary human populations, as well as between humans and other (extinct and extant) primates.