Photo overlooking the totem pole in the Pitt Rivers Museum


During the Final Honour School, students delve more deeply into the subject areas which have been introduced to them in the first year. They will also decide on which three options they would like to take from the following list of 30 subjects. One option is studied in the second year, two are studied in the third year.

Archaeology of Modern Human Origins

This course will focus on cultural changes that saw the emergence of our own species: Homo sapiens.  Traditionally, it has been accepted that major cultural innovations appeared suddenly during the European Upper Palaeolithic and were initiated by the first anatomically modern humans to arrive in this region.  However, such a view has increasingly come under challenge in the light of evidence that Neanderthals may already have had the capacity for modern culture before the appearance of the Upper Palaeolithic, and similarly it has been argued that examples of cognitively complex behaviour can be recognised in the earlier African archaeological record, implying a longer and more gradual development overall. 

A combination of seminars and lectures will focus on recent debates on ‘modern behaviour’: how and where did it arise and what were the potential mechanisms for change and innovation that led to more sophisticated tool use, language, self-awareness and group identity in modern humans.  Amongst the topics covered will be: Pleistocene human dispersals; the study of Palaeolithic technologies and the use of stone artefacts, human diet and subsistence, the origins of language and the rise of symbolic and artistic expression.  Eight tutorials/classes will also be offered in support of these topics. Classes held in the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museums will provide opportunities for the practical study of lithic and bone artefacts.

Last update on 09/12/16 by Robyn Mason.

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