Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module ANTH3317: Technological Primates

Department: Anthropology

ANTH3317: Technological Primates

Type Open Level 3 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • ANTH2061 Evolution, Variation and Adaptation OR ANTH2071 Our Place in Nature


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To appreciate the significance of technological behaviour in primates and humans, within the wider context of animal tool behaviour.
  • To explore the potential for technological primates to contribute to the comparative understanding of human cognitive and cultural advancement.
  • To discuss current hypotheses and ongoing debates in the field of technological and cultural evolution.
  • To practice communicating science to general audiences.


  • The distribution and diversity of tool use and associated cognition across the primate lineage
  • Methodological advances in the study of primate tool behaviour
  • Current debates surrounding the emergence and evolution of tool use and associated cognition in the primate lineage.
  • Outstanding hypotheses surrounding the adaptive significance and evolutionary consequences of tool use on human cognition
  • Science writing and peer review.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • At the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • Explain the range of tool behaviour across the primate lineage and their significance for understanding the evolution of technology, cognition, and culture.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Evaluate hypotheses surrounding the evolutionary origins and consequences of tool use, integrating evidence from primatology, psychology, and palaeoanthropology.
Key Skills:
  • Accessing and assimilating specialised research literature of an advanced nature.
  • Translating complex issues, questions, debates, methods, data, interpretation and arguments for diverse audiences.

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

  • Classes will comprise seminars and workshops, these will be supported by asynchronous discussion, directed reading, and other self-study activities.
  • Seminars integrate lecture and discussion elements to provide students with an outline of key knowledge and debates in the topic area, discuss the literature that students should explore, and provide relevant examples and case studies.
  • Workshops will focus on scaffolding students towards completing their summative assessments.
  • Student preparation and reading time will allow engagement with specific references in advance of classes and general and particular reading related to the assessment.
  • Summative assessment will comprise a Science Writing Portfolio (90%) containing 2 Research Digests and 1 Commentary article, and peer reviews (10%). Research Digests are short plain-language summaries of target articles, while a Commentary is a science communication article that highlights a piece of new research and explains its importance to the field. Research Digests will be posted to the class blog over the term (1 formative and 2 summative) and students will be guided through the process of providing written peer reviews on each other’s posts.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars and workshops 13 1-2 per week 1 hour 13
Asynchronous discussion 2
Preparation and Reading 85
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Science writing portfolio (2 Research Digests - 500 words each, 1 Commentary - 1000 words) 2000 words 90% y
Peer reviews 500 words 10% y

Formative Assessment:

Drafts of Research Digests, outline of Commentary.

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