Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024

Module ANTH2061: Evolution, Variation and Adaptation

Department: Anthropology

ANTH2061: Evolution, Variation and Adaptation

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • Human Evolution and Diversity (ANTH1091) OR Being Human (ANTH1111) OR [Organisms and Environment (BIOL1161) AND Genetics (BIOL1171)]


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To develop awareness and understanding of the patterns and processes of morphological variation and diversity in humans and non-human primates, with specific reference to skeletal and dental remains.
  • To introduce concepts and methods in skeletal biology and morphological research.
  • To become familiar with hominin species: their time ranges, environments, morphological adaptations and behaviour.


  • Topics include:
  • Human and non-human primate growth.
  • Pattern and process in morphological variation, with specific reference to hard tissues.
  • Fundamentals of skeletal biology.
  • Functional systems in primate and human evolution.
  • Hominin origins, features and behaviour.
  • Hominin evolution: temporal and environmental contexts.
  • The hominin radiations of the late Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Factual material:
  • Theoretical and methodological foundations: understanding of concepts of variation and diversity, how variation arises through evolution, functional adaptation, growth and plasticity, with particular reference to humans and non-human primates.
  • Methodological foundations: knowledge of techniques used in skeletal biology and morphological research.
  • The ability to link morphological variation and diversity in humans and primates ('pattern') to the processes that created such diversity.
  • A thorough knowledge of dental, cranial and postcranial skeletal anatomy.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Familiarity with the key methods and concepts of morphological diversity and variation, and how they arise through evolution, adaptation, growth and plasticity.
  • Understanding of the technical vocabularies of human evolution, morphology, growth and skeletal biology as these apply to anthropology.
  • Practical skills in the analysis of human and hominin morphological variation.
  • Ability to critically analyse and evaluate palaeoanthropological research, growth and morphological literature and arguments and concepts therein.
Key Skills:
  • Critical thinking.
  • Ability to extract and integrate key concepts from primary research material.
  • Written and oral communication of difficult concepts.
  • Developing and pitching a research proposal.
  • Proficiency in identifying key material in the scientific literature.
  • Ability to undertake scientific project work independently.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures cover subject-specific knowledge
  • Practicals cover subject-specific knowledge and skills, and develop key analytical skills.
  • Coursework assesses subject-specific knowledge and key analytical skills.
  • Summative assessment comprises a 2500 word research project and ‘project pitch’ taking the form of a 500 word written proposal and accompanying 3 minute video. The project and project pitch enable students to research a topic of their own choice within the subject areas of the module, showing how they can apply practical knowledge and skills to a carefully formulated hypothesis. Projects comprise a small original research project and analysis using data that may be collected by the student (for example, by measuring bones in the lab), or collated from published literature (for example, using a morphometric dataset(s) provided in a peer-reviewed publication or textbook).
  • Formative assessment will be a project proposal,with additional formative feedback provided during ongoing class discussions, and a pre-arranged face-to-face project development meeting with a module tutor.
  • The module will have its own Learn Ultra site which will ensure that students have access at all times to the course information they require.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 1 per week 1 hour 20
Practicals/Classes (compulsory) 6 3 per term in Michaelmas and Epiphany 2 hours 12
Preparation and Reading 168
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Project pitch proposal 500 words 20%
Project pitch video 3 minutes 10%
Individual project 2500 70%

Formative Assessment:

Formative feedback on project proposal.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University