75780 - Paleoanthropology (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Archaeology and Cultures of the Ancient World (cod. 8855)

    Also valid for Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Biodiversity and Evolution (cod. 5824)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student acquires knowledge about human evolution. In particular, the student will be able to know macro and micro evolutionary processes through the study of fossil evidence, genetic variability, cultural manifestations and past and modern human adapation. In particular, the student will be able to: understand the evolutionary and adaptive aspects of human biodiversity; analyze the biodiversity of human remains; use bioindicators for the study of intra-and inter-population variation.

Course contents

The course consists of two modules:

Human evolution and Human biodiversity and Environment.

The module Human evolution (module 1) precedes that of Human biodiversity and Environment (module 2).


The History of human evolution provided by the study of the fossil record taking into account the environmental context of their recovery.

1. The Physical Anthropology and the debating humankind's place in nature;

2. The modern human and its 'anomaly' (many people of a single species) as emergent species of a evolutive process of about 3 million years ago;

3. Modern and fossil human skeletal variability and the concept of species;

4. Origin and evolution of the Primates;

5. Ominines and genus Homo (from the appearence of the early Homo to the emergence of Homo sapiens); bipedalism and increase of the brain;

6. The most important biological and cultural steps of the human evolution in relation to climatic and ecological changes during the transitional periods (Plesitocene and Holocene);

7. The fossil record of the Near East;

8. Evolution and extinction of Neandertals;

9. Evolution of alimentary and funerary behaviours;

10. The fossil record and the open issues related to their study.

News and critical review of the scientific literature in order to understand the continuous process of revision of the landscape of the human evolution.


1. Modern human biodiversity and history of the concept of "race"

2. Molecular anthropology and use of genomic markers (uniparental and autosomal); methods for reconstructing the history and the genetic structure of human populations; biogeographical ancestry

3. Population, the study of isolates, inbreeding and effective population size

4. Origin and spread of Homo sapiens, comparison among the different models

5. Distribution of Early Humans in Africa, Near East, Europe, Asia and Southeast Asia, Australia

6. Analysis of ancient DNA and Paleogenomics- gene introgression from fossils (Neanderthal and Denisova)

7. Human adaptation to environmental stresses - Evidence of positive selection in humans;

8. Examples of morphometric and genetic adaptations

9. The Neolithic transition and the gene-culture coevolution

10. Epigenetics and local adaptations



Slides of the lessons and scientific papers will be provided to the students throughout the distribution listes at the beginning of each week.

Some web sites with updated and reliable information:





PDF papers and chapters from the following texts will be provided to the students:

  • Sara Stinson • Barry Bogin • Dennis O’Rourke • "Human Biology: an evolutionary and biocultural perspective (second edition)”
  • Toomas Kivisild • Chris Tyler-Smith • Matthew Hurles • Edward Hollox • Mark A. Jobling • “Human Evolutionary Genetics (II edition)”.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons

Assessment methods

The exam consists of a written test with open questions and a multiple answer.

The exam consists of a joint written test for both the modules (MODULE 1 and MODULE 2) with multiple choice questions and open questions.

The time available to the student for the written test is 60 minutes. During the test it is not allowed to use support material such as: textbooks, notes, computer supports.

The maximum score, providing all correct and complete answers, is 30 cum laude.

The test is passed with a minimum score of 18/30.

Teaching tools

PC and video projector

Office hours

See the website of Maria Giovanna Belcastro


Good health and well-being Sustainable cities Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.