Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Human Origins


This course will be a survey of the anatomical and behavioral evidence for human evolution and of the increasingly important information derived from molecular genetics. Emphasis will be on the split between the human and chimpanzee lines 6-7 million years ago, the appearance of the australopiths 4.1 million years ago, the emergence of the genus Homo about 2.5 million years ago, the spread of Homo from Africa 1.7-1.6 million years ago, the subsequent divergence of Homo into different species on different continents, and the expansion of fully modern humans (Homo sapiens) from Africa about 50,000 years ago to replace the Neanderthals and other nonmodern Eurasians.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Richard Klein

"I first became interested in human evolution as a child when I saw dioramas of the Neanderthals and other prehistoric people at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. An undergraduate course at the University of Michigan rekindled my interest, and the instructor encouraged me to study human evolution in graduate school at the University of Chicago, which was the leading place at the time. I was dubious, because I didn't know whether I could make a living at it, but I went anyway, and when I got my Ph.D. in 1966, there were actually lots of teaching positions. My first was at the University of Wisconsin, and I later taught at Northwestern, the University of Washington, and the University of Chicago. I came to Stanford from Chicago in 1993, and I have lectured here on the structure, function, and evolution of the human body ever since. In this seminar, I plan to outline how the human form and human behavior evolved together from the time that humans in broad sense first appeared, 6-7 million years ago, through the expansion of fully modern humans from Africa to the rest of world, starting about 50,000 years ago."