Becoming Human is a fast-paced, irreverent introduction to evolutionary theory, especially human origins. The book is based on the Open2Study MOOC, 'Becoming Human,' created by Dr. Greg Downey and Open Universities Australia. The book discusses traces of evolution in our bodies, basic evolutionary theory from Darwin to the genomic revolution, sexual selection and reproduction, and how human brain development affects our evolution, including into the future. Copiously illustrated, with some interactive diagrams, videos of Dr. Downey presenting the material are also available through Open2Study.
How this course is intended to be used: This course is set up to be used as either fully online, face-to-face (f2f), or hybrid. Note that the course outcomes and some assessments have variations available for each type of course (e.g., Public Awareness Campaign, Dancing Skeletons Essay & Discussion)
Resources for this course:
OER resources: The majority of materials used in this course are OER and can be found via this page (under Course Modules).
Paid resources: Only one small textbook is suggested for the course, the ethnography Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa by Katharine Dettwyler (ISBN-10: 088133748X). It's approximately $13.00 new and can be found for approximately $5.00 used. It's used for the Unit 3 assessment, Dancing Skeletons Essay & Discussion. We think that it's an integral part of the course, due to its focus on human biology and biocultural/environmental interactions. It also provides an excellent portrayal of an anthropologist's experience in the field. If you require additional or alternate textbooks, we have put together a list of texts available for around $30.
Explanation of approach: As you peruse the reading material in the course module pages you might find that they contain less detail than what you would see in a "normal" textbook. This is intentional. One thing we find incredible about higher education is that the student often reads the textbook only to go into class and have the professor lecture for two hours on the exact same material. Because of this repetition of the material, students often become exasperated and either stop reading the material or stop paying attention in class. We've also found that students in the introductory anthropology courses frequently struggle with picking out the basic concepts from among the myriad of material from the textbook. We think that students in introductory anthropology courses such as this one, most of whom are not going to be anthropology majors, should read the basic information outside of class. This allows the instructor to focus on providing more explanatory details and help students work through critical thinking about the material in class. Therefore, the readings in the course modules have the basic information. Through in-class activities, discussions, and homework assignments, the job of the instructor is to help students move deeper into and synthesize the material.
Biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, is a scientific discipline concerned with the biological and behavioral aspects of human beings, their related non-human primates and their extinct hominin ancestors. It is a subfield of anthropology that provides a biological perspective to the systematic study of human beings. This textbook explores evolutionary theory, including the core concepts of basic genetics and the modern synthesis of evolution. Students will examine, critically evaluate and explain scientific claims about the origins of humankind and modern human variation as well as biocultural evolution. Students will develop critical thinking and communication skills through the application of essential anthropological approaches, theories, and methods.
Anthropology is the study of humanity, in all its biological and cultural aspects, past and present. It is a four-field discipline comprised of biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. The focus of this book is biological anthropology, which explores who we are from biological, evolutionary, and adaptive perspectives.
Where did we come from? What were our ancestors like? Why do we differ from other animals? How do scientists trace and construct our evolutionary history? The History of Our Tribe: Hominini provides answers to these questions and more. The book explores the field of paleoanthropology past and present. Beginning over 65 million years ago, Welker traces the evolution of our species, the environments and selective forces that shaped our ancestors, their physical and cultural adaptations, and the people and places involved with their discovery and study. It is designed as a textbook for a course on Human Evolution but can also serve as an introductory text for relevant sections of courses in Biological or General Anthropology or general interest. It is both a comprehensive technical reference for relevant terms, theories, methods, and species and an overview of the people, places, and discoveries that have imbued paleoanthropology with such fascination, romance, and mystery.
Designed to meet the scope and sequence of your course, OpenStax Introduction to Anthropology is a four-field text integrating diverse voices, engaging field activities, and meaningful themes like Indigenous experiences and social inequality to engage students and enrich learning. The text showcases the historical context of the discipline, with a strong focus on anthropology as a living and evolving field. There is significant discussion of recent efforts to make the field more diverse—in its practitioners, in the questions it asks, and in the applications of anthropological research to address contemporary challenges. In addressing social inequality, the text drives readers to consider the rise and impact of social inequalities based on forms of identity and difference (such as gender, ethnicity, race, and class) as well as oppression and discrimination. The contributors to and dangers of socioeconomic inequality are fully addressed, and the role of inequality in social dysfunction, disruption, and change is noted.
The high cost of textbooks prevents many students from succeeding. Textbook prices have gone up 3 times the rate of inflation in the past 30 years. New textbook editions are a scam. Textbooks have become a way to shift the cost of teacher salaries onto the student. The change in Jurmain's Introduction to Biological Anthropology from 2009 to 2011 was to search and replace the word “hominid” for the word “hominin”, and raise the price 20%. Many students will not buy their textbooks (Kingkade 2013), and struggle through class, reading at the library. Other students will order cheap copies online but get the wrong edition, or discounted shipping where it arrives halfway through the semester. Textbooks have become a barrier to student success.
Assigning free online textbooks is one solution. Much of the high cost of textbooks comes from color printing, but black-and-white and text-heavy books are poor options for our predominantly visual learners. Online textbooks allow for unlimited, large, color graphics. For the price of a new textbook, a student can buy a text reader (kindle, ipad, tablet, surface, etc.) or a used laptop. There may still be problems with students' access to high speed internet. The monthly fee for a cable modem service is expensive, but free WiFi is becoming more and more widely available. The new downtown San Diego library is a good example.
Unfortunately, in 2011 when I started this, there were no free online textbook available for Introduction to Physical Anthropology. Probably the closest were Dennis O'Neil's Biological Anthropology Tutorials from Palomar College, Wikipedia's Biological Anthropology and Introduction to Paleoanthropology textbooks, and Augustín Fuentes primatology class notes (no longer available), and I borrowed from these, especially O'Neil. I found most of these sources written in the style of an encyclopedia, and tried to make the textbook more approachable by including my own voice whenever possible.
Some students may lack the necessary computer skills to use an online textbook. Hopefully, the recent increases in funding for basic skills will help. Gone are the good old days whence we scribed our homework on tablets of wet clay. Students must learn computer skills to survive academically and professionally, and the printed textbook is becoming a relic of a bygone age. Information Communication and Technology Literacy is a component of most institutional goals. The more students practice current electronic research techniques, the better prepared they will be for the rest of their academic and professional life.
I previously encouraged students to use their textbook as the main source for my take-home tests, but I found that many students start with the internet as their first source of answers, and then fall-back on the textbook if the info doesn't show up immediately in a search engine. I've come to realize that this is not always bad, as they often discover more current information than the textbook. For rapidly changing issues, such as how many genes are in the human genome, how closely we are related to Neandertals, Homo naledi, or the Cerruti Mastadon eaters, the information available on sites such as Wikipedia is often more accurate than the typical textbook written three to ten years ago.