This course provides an overview of human biological and cultural evolution in
Africa. The roots of humankind go back almost 6 million years on the continent. The
earliest materials will be discussed briefly so that we can focus on the last 200,000 years
when modern humans developed and diversified in the modern communities of today.
This is still an enormous task when one considers that human history in the New world
only began around 17,000 years ago and that the African continent is more than three
times the size of the continental United States! Today there are more than a thousand
different languages spoken in Africa and cultural, as well as ecological, diversity is great.
Apart from Egypt, Ethiopia, the Swahili coast and North Africa, however, written sources
only document the last few centuries of this long history, and most were written from
Because Africa is so large and diverse, and much of it only cursorily explored
from an archaeological perspective, the main archaeological text for the course will focus
on Africa south of the Kunene/Okavango/Zambezi watershed where the most extensive
archaeological work has so far been conducted. The lectures will expand on this
background to bring material up to date and include discussion of other areas of East,
Central, West and North Africa when pertinent. Students are encouraged to raise
questions during the lectures in order to ensure that topics of interest to you are
discussed—it is your class after all. No prior knowledge of Africa or of archaeology is
The course carries the Global Cultures flag. Global Cultures courses are designed
to increase your familiarity with cultural groups outside the United States. Therefore a
substantial portion of your grade will come from assignments covering the practices,
beliefs, and histories of non-U.S. cultural groups, past and present.