SCIE 639 (WMST)
The Evolution of the Human Female
09/12/2005 - 12/17/2005
Wednesday 06:30 PM - 09:00 PM
Science Tower 139
The evolution of humankind is marked by the appearance of a number of traits that are unique--bipedal locomotion, the largest brain to body size ratio, language and symbolizing behavior, the developmental stage of "childhood," and a nearly life-long period of offspring dependency. Other traits we exhibit that are unique among the primates include very short birth-spacing, concealed fertility in the female, and a long lifespan marked by extended post-menopausal survival in the female. The relationships between these traits form a complex web of biosocial adaptation entwining both sexes, but at whose center is the human female. This course examines the evolution of the human female, and in turn, all humankind, using a life-history approach that emphasizes the life cycle and reproduction.
The underpinnings of our adaptations lay in our mammalian heritage and the core traits defining the primates. We explore this inheritance with readings on the natural history and life histories of several mammalian and non-human primate populations. We then move on to investigate the evolution of our human anatomy and physiology, covering such topics as reproductive costs, attended birth, menopause and osteoporosis, the function of adipose tissue (fat) in female physiology, social intelligence, and the evolution of human sex differences. Moving on to cultural issues, we examine division of labor and various contexts of gender role definition. The "grandmother hypothesis" and "woman the gatherer" (versus "man the hunter") model will be explored in detail.
Reading assignments include The Evolving Female, by Morbeck et. al (1997) and a short list of selected articles from the primary literature.
Students are responsible for participating in discussions, posting online responses to the reading material, and writing a research paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor. The writing process will be supervised in steps, from the formulation of the topic and argument, through the writing of one graded draft, and the final graded paper.
A syllabus for this course is available at:
Jolee West (B.A., M.A., Ph.D. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) is director of academic computing services and digital projects. She has published in the fields of forensic anthropology, archaeology, and human evolution, including the forthcoming article "Differentiating bamboo from stone tool cut marks in the zooarchaeological record, with a discussion on the use of bamboo knives," West, J. A. and Louys, J., Journal of Archaeological Science. Click here for more information about Jolee West.
Consent of Instructor Required: No
|Level: GLSP||Credits: 3||Enrollment Limit: 18|
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