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Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective

Take a glimpse into our selected primate heritage to understand the forces that continue to shape us.
Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 129.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nicely done! This course offers a lot of solid information-- all of it well organized, clearly presented, and, above all, fascinating. But so much has transpired in the field since this class was first put together, I really wish Wondrium or Great Courses would create an update. I'd sign up for it immediately!
Date published: 2023-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable Lecture Series This is a very good introduction to this subject. The lecturer has a very well organized format that clearly deals with all of the major topics in biological anthropology in a survey course. She defines terms clearly and does not assume prior exposure to anthropology. While one may not agree with all of her viewpoints, she does present them logically and consistently. You can walk away from this course with a solid understanding of this topic.
Date published: 2023-08-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Informative but old Like all of the courses I have purchased and watched, Biological Anthro was very informative. I would have rated it higher except for the fact that it was developed in 2002. I failed to realize that before purchasing it which was my fault. In a field such as anthropology where advances are continually being made, I don't believe a course that is 20 years old should be an offering.
Date published: 2023-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What it involves to be human What it involves to be human Professor Barbara King's course is superb, in content in delivery, in style. For one whose experience of University Education is principally English and French, [with some German and Irish] the style of the lecturer was familiar, there are no gimmicks, no exaggerated gestures, none of the flourishes to which some lecturers resort, but beyond that the content, the intellectual approach, the scrupulous recognition of other authorities and opinions and emphases made this course not only memorable in content but for intellectual integrity One cannot emerge from this course without a deeper understanding of the human at the individual level, at the level of populations and the interactions with environment that must have profoundly influenced the direction of human evolution. It is not incidental that in the course of her lectures we come to know her tastes and opinions as well as her intellect and that aids learning and response. In the wide array of splendid courses that are available in this enterprise I would rate this as one of the best, and one that should inform public opinion, should be imbibed by every ideology, should be understood and appreciated by all policy makers and politicians. I cannot recommend it to highly BaruchXXV
Date published: 2022-06-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from An Out-of-Date Course Biological Anthropology The most recent dates used in this set of lectures are of 2002 and I'm writing this review in 2022. I don't fault the presenter on her presentations since they were based on what was known and reported then, but I seriously think that The The Great Courses should retire this course or replace it with one that reflects the massive changes that have occurred in genetics, chemistry, physics, medicine, and anthropology since 2002.
Date published: 2022-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth the investment and time. This is a little outdated, however, in my opinion it was worth the time. Everyone has their own unique perspective and I rather enjoyed how this Professor was sure in herself -whether or not she might be discredited later - so that she just outright states that she rejected some theories and ideas and after consideration used her own mind and sound reasoning to decide what worked for own unique perspective of the world and in particular the field of Biological Anthropology. I respect and admire this completely, which enabled me to learn new things and discover a perspective that was both interesting and educational. It doesn't much matter to me whether I agree with all she taught, or whether anyone else does either - I believe in the kindness of blowing the chaff away - in other words - just let it go - eat the wheat that nourishes and let the rest go. You will never find a utopian person nor world that any human could possibly survive. She is a good teacher in my opinion - she was organized, thoughtful, intelligent and obviously loves her chosen field. This was an enjoyable learning experience. Thank you.
Date published: 2022-04-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Useful to the novice; depends on your background As others have noted this class is dated. There is more, newer, information available on evolution of humans. However, read the title carefully. An Evolution Perspective presented though the discipline of Biological Anthropology. This is about biological anthropology being used to add to our understanding of evolution. Having taken many TGC, for me, this course is not up to some of the real 5-star courses when compared to the total presentation of other professors. No disrespect meant for Dr. King. The professor's prestation is good but the total package just isn't up to the very best.
Date published: 2022-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course The course is very interesting though a bit dated (concerning the Neanderthals that we now know left us some of their genes). The rest is ok and the professor explains well
Date published: 2022-01-31
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Biological anthropology is far more than studying old bones. The history of humanity and its future as provided by Professor Barbara J. King considers evolution as a vital, active force. Join this noted scholar, teacher, and researcher as she explores more than a century of scientific scholarship to examine human history from this evolutionary perspective.


Barbara J. King

Scientific creationism, however, and even the newer doctrine of intelligent design, are fundamentally at odds with the bedrock principles of biological anthropology, and of science itself.


The College of William & Mary

Dr. Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist and Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology from Douglass College, Rutgers University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Professor King's research interests concern the social communication of the great apes, the closest living relatives to humans. She has studied ape and monkey behavior in Gabon, Kenya, and at the Language Research Center at Georgia State University. The recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, she has published three books on anthropology, including The Information Continuum: Social Information Transfer in Monkeys, Apes, and Hominids. At William and Mary, Professor King has won four teaching awards: The William and Mary Alumni Association Teaching Award, the college's Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, the Virginia State Council of Higher Education for Virginia's Outstanding Faculty Award, and the designation of University Professor for Teaching Excellence, 1999-2002.

By This Professor

What is Biological Anthropology?

01: What is Biological Anthropology?

Whether studying primates in the field, gene sequences in a lab, fossils from the Earth, or modern human populations across the globe, biological anthropologists employ an evolutionary perspective to understand the history of our species, and perhaps its future....

32 min
How Evolution Works

02: How Evolution Works

Evolution, or systematic change in a gene pool over time, is driven by the mechanisms of natural selection, mutation, gene flow, and genetic drift. Understanding the role played by "differential productive success" helps us to see that evolution still plays an important role in our lives today....

30 min
The Debate Over Evolution

03: The Debate Over Evolution

Americans continue to reject the theory of evolution in large numbers, perhaps because of a perceived incompatibility between belief in evolution and religious faith. In fact, some evolutionary scientists are deeply religious. Scientific creationism, however, and even the newer doctrine of intelligent design, are fundamentally at odds with the bedrock principles of biological anthropology, and of ...

30 min
Matter Arising-New Species

04: Matter Arising-New Species

As different animal populations become isolated from each other, differing selection pressures cause them to adapt to their ecological niche, until a variety of forms emerge which cannot interbreed. About 65 million years ago, ancestral rodent-like populations underwent such pressures, resulting in the emergence of primates....

30 min
Prosimians, Monkeys, and Apes

05: Prosimians, Monkeys, and Apes

The obvious anatomical and behavioral differences among these three subgroups of non-human primates led early anthropologists to focus on their static measurement and classification. In 1951, Sherwood Washburn focused on how the dynamic processes of evolutionary change had produced different yet fundamentally related species....

30 min
Monkey and Ape Social Behavior

06: Monkey and Ape Social Behavior

The rhesus monkeys of Cayo Santiago, an island off Puerto Rico, organize their society around groups of differently ranked females, while chimpanzee communities are male-dominated, organized around communal male hunting and border patrols. As Washburn would have predicted, a common trend of hierarchical grouping and intense social bonding emerges, across diverse primates....

30 min
The Mind of the Great Ape

07: The Mind of the Great Ape

Is there a watershed difference in cognitive abilities between great apes and other non-human primates? Advocates of this viewpoint point to two phenomena: the great ape's "theory of mind," or its ability to comprehend another being's mental state, and the great ape's ability to communicate through gestures and human-devised symbol systems....

30 min
Models for Human Ancestors?

08: Models for Human Ancestors?

Some anthropologists create models for the evolution of human behavior by studying primates whose behaviors most closely resemble our own. Others say we should only study behavior shared universally by all great apes. Some stress that the process by which a behavior emerged in a primate group can best indicate how our own behaviors evolved....

30 min
Introducing the Hominids

09: Introducing the Hominids

The hominids are the first human ancestors, diverging from a common ancestor with the great apes some six or seven million years ago. Despite fossil evidence and the contributions of molecular science, the precise speciation date is still elusive. Climate change and dietary pressures are examined as possible explanations for the hominids' key anatomical adaptation, bipedality....

31 min
Lucy and Company

10: Lucy and Company

When the 40 percent complete Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) skeleton was found in 1974, she upset researchers' expectations by being bipedal, yet possessing an ape-sized brain. Subsequent studies of other species show us that a variety of bipedal hominid forms had evolved even earlier than Lucy, and that they co-existed. Rather than a straight line, evolution more resembled a many-branched bush...

29 min
Stones and Bones

11: Stones and Bones

Homo habilis, who first appeared 2.4 million years ago, was not the first gracile, light-boned hominid, but it was the first to leave evidence of its lifestyle. It manufactured rudimentary stone tools, probably used to forage and to process animal carcasses. Different cultural practices have been inferred from this tool use, but the technological leap it represents is certain....

30 min
Out of Africa

12: Out of Africa

With Homo erectus, some hominid populations migrated from their African homes and into Asia. Anatomical advantages of this species included a larger brain, and in the case of an African specimen, a tropically adapted body frame. Its more advanced toolkit allowed more efficient animal processing, while its probable control of fire aided hunting, cooking, defense, and temperature control....

30 min
Who Were the Neandertals?

13: Who Were the Neandertals?

In 1911, a French anatomist fashioned a reconstruction of a Neandertal based on a skeleton afflicted with arthritis, and the stooped, shambling, primitive figure that resulted has lived on in the popular imagination. In truth, Neandertals were large-brained, upright bipeds, effective hunters, and sophisticated toolmakers. Their practice of deliberately burying their dead hints at a possible symbol...

30 min
Did Hunting Make Us Human?

14: Did Hunting Make Us Human?

Intelligence and the ability to cooperate are essential to success in hunting. Could these qualities have been naturally selected, and acted as prime evolutionary movers in the evolution of human intelligence? Critics note that there is little evidence for hunting in many of the early hominids, while others stress that social coordination and problem solving are equally required in female gatherin...

28 min
The Prehistory of Gender

15: The Prehistory of Gender

The prehistoric landscape of behavioral gender differences is a veritable minefield, where an anthropologist's inferences may always fall prey to ideology. From the 1960s until today, we have seen models that promote the male as the protector and provider, making no allowances for behavioral flexibility. Alternatives that posit the primacy of female-centered networks in place of the nuclear family...

30 min
Modern Human Anatomy and Behavior

16: Modern Human Anatomy and Behavior

Unlike bones, modern human behavior cannot easily be dated. The famous Lascaux cave paintings, together with other artifacts from Western Europe, were once thought to be firsts. New excavations of rock art and finely worked tools in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, and Namibia are challenging this view, and showcase Africa once more as the likely crucible of progress....

31 min
On the Origins of Homo sapiens

17: On the Origins of Homo sapiens

Did modern Homo sapiens evolve entirely on the African continent, then fan out into Asia and Europe, replacing other hominid forms as they went? Or would it be more accurate to see evolution from intermediate hominid forms occurring simultaneously, and in the same direction, on all three continents? Fossils, knowledge of evolution, and genetic testing all contribute to theories, but no single answ...

30 min

18: Language

With its immense vocabulary and complex syntax, modern language is often seen as a mysterious development, lying on the far side of some mist-shrouded Rubicon from which the point of origin is barely visible. This need not be so. Anthropologist Robbins Burling has proposed a scenario that includes the step-by-step evolutionary shifts necessary to get us from ape communication to human language....

30 min
Do Human Races Exist?

19: Do Human Races Exist?

To quote anthropologist Michael Blakey, the idea that people can be grouped into races may seem as obvious to us as the sun rising in the east. Blakey's point, however, was that our eyes can mislead us, and common sense can be inadequate to deal with scientific questions. This lecture confronts the question of whether skin color or other attributes can be used to sort people into biologically mean...

30 min
Modern Human Variation

20: Modern Human Variation

If race is a flawed prism through which to view human diversity, how ought we to understand it? A population that undergoes pronounced selection pressures may experience significant evolutionary changes. This lecture considers the anatomical adaptations that occur in response to extreme climates, as well as the process of acclimatization, a non-genetic type of human adaptation....

30 min
Body Fat, Diet, and Obesity

21: Body Fat, Diet, and Obesity

Humans developed the ability to convert calories into fat deposits to combat the periodic food shortages endemic to early hominid life. Consequently, we are not well adapted to process large portions of salt, sugar, and fat. Anthropologists propose various ways of coping with this adaptation to the past....

31 min
The Body and Mind Evolving

22: The Body and Mind Evolving

Recent research suggests that morning sickness in pregnant women, and hypertension in African-Americans, can be explained in evolutionary terms. By considering psychology and even moral action as similarly influenced by evolutionary pressures, are we at risk of endorsing biological determinism?...

31 min
Tyranny of the Gene?

23: Tyranny of the Gene?

The disappointing results of animal cloning confirm that environment plays as great a role as genes do in an organism's biological destiny. Understanding how genes affect human health may produce promising treatments, but we affirm the fundamental truth that genetic material acts, and is acted upon, in complex and unpredictable ways....

30 min
Evolution and Our Future

24: Evolution and Our Future

Even though Homo sapiens is now the planet's dominant species and prime evolutionary mover, the selection pressures we generate and are subject to will have consequences that we cannot predict. The intimate connection we share with our primate relatives and all other animal species should inspire a sense of common responsibility as we meet the challenges of the future....

33 min