Biological Anthropology: An Evolutionary Perspective

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Worth Finishing/Some May Consider Dated Early on I was dubious and when Professor King was talking about migrations out of Africa I looked at the date of the Class, 2002. But it is still an overall good course, perhaps partly because it left me with questions to ponder and a good basic approach.
Date published: 2020-05-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unscientific bias I personally have been an amateur student of this discipline for many years and thud did not learn much from this fairly introductory course. But that is not my basis for a negative review. A novice to this field will learn quite a lot. Professor King is clearly very intelligent and also very articulate...but also clearly socially very awkward. She rarely makes eye contact with the camera. This results in a fairly off-putting visual experience. But the most telling criticism is that she ultimately veers off into a SJW, ideologically driven crusade. She subjugates the commitment of scientists in seeking verifiable facts in pursuit of truth to an explicitly feminist agenda. At that point, she is no longer a scientist. Shameful.
Date published: 2020-04-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Was probably good in 2001 Terribly outdated and wrongly opinionated. Sorry. Worst disappointment in you for actually selling me 20 year old anthropology and disappointment in myself for not noticing it if I saw it at all!
Date published: 2020-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The title was relatively inclusive I was somewhat disappointed in the coverage of Do Human Races Exist. This is a ratther large societal problem and more effort should have been placed on the fact that race is a concept and not a biological reality.. My impression was that Professor King discussed this in a very cursory manner. Perhaps this is because there is some crossover with sociology. Perhaps you can add another course that would better cover the subject.
Date published: 2019-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent courses. These would make it better 1. Make the first lecture of every course free online so we could see if we really want to spend the money. 2. Subtitles 3. Require lecturers to answer a limited number of screened questions by email from each person who purchases their course.
Date published: 2019-08-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid Course and Well Presented I found this course to be one of the better ones to really focus on human evolution. It addressed issues and questions that I had in a very scientific and orderly manner. The presenter know her stuff and was a very effective lecturer. All in all it was time well spent and greatly enhanced what I already knew about anthropology and genetics.
Date published: 2019-07-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 1/2 there Some of the lectures are fair, while others are so heavily tainted by the Professors political biases as to be slightly better than propaganda for her world view. Her voice is also slightly annoying being somewhat high pitched, even with my tinnitus.
Date published: 2019-05-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Perfect Description I have only listened to a few of these lessons and am finding them rather dull and tedious. The narrator does not bring any life to her speaking - the presentation sounds like almost monotone reading of a document. And the most distracting part of her presentation is her constant pacing - back and forth, back and forth. Hopefully as I get farther into the lectures, the subject matter will come to life and get more interesting. I would also like to submit another review once I have completed the course - my observation and response might be very different.
Date published: 2019-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting course I enjoyed this course and the lecturer's presentations were very good and clear. I can recommend it if you are interested in homo sapiens evolved. Professor King was particularly good in her coverage of our primate "cousins".
Date published: 2019-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Might be my favorite course so far! I've really enjoyed this course! I've listened to most of it already ( 2 lectures left to go), given much windshield time lately. Fascinating and intriguing! Professor King presents the subject very well. I've also ordered 3 of the books in the course bibliography and am enjoying the first of those that's arrived so far (Lucy by Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey).
Date published: 2019-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good overview Overall, this was a great course to listen to. It could use some updates to reflect new science in lectures 13+.
Date published: 2019-01-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from lectures are interesting The lecturer delivers well and knows her stuff. But the whole field seems strung together with speculation and gaps in evidence. I used to believe fully in evolution. Not so fully anymore.
Date published: 2018-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging curse taught by an excellent instruc Having graduated in 1965 with a degree in Anthropology from Berkeley, I wanted to be updated on the field which has held my interest. The professor was clear in describing issues which are still being debated. I so enjoyed this lively presentation.
Date published: 2018-11-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Free on youtube and very outdated It would have been great if it were updated to be consistent with new discoveries in the past 5 years and i paid for it when i found it free on youtube!
Date published: 2018-10-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Outdated material Bought this in 2018. Copyright date is 2002. A lot has changed since then.
Date published: 2018-10-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good information though dated This is a good starting point to understand the basic concepts of evolution. I am glad it was on sale as it is dated. I am looking forward to a future update.
Date published: 2018-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Dr. King is such a great speaker! It was a real pleasure just to listen to Dr. King speak. She is articulate and engaging. But we don't buy courses only on the basis of the speaker's superb presentation skills. This course was published in 2002 and is hopelessly out of date. For this reason, it is quite a disappointment and I would have to recommend against buying it now. Whenever an new, up-to-date version comes out, then order that for what should be a fascinating look at the latest science behind our understanding of this topic that is so basic to understanding ourselves.
Date published: 2018-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Biological anthropology: an evolutionary perspecti The lectures are informative and the course is well organized- The course would be great if it were not outdated. Prof. King states in lecture 13 that Neanderthals were a species different from Homo Sapiens . I have read in many scientific journals that there are 3 subspecies of Homo sapiens idaltu : Neanderthalensis, sapiens sapiens and homo Denisovan. My ancestral DNA has 2.4 % of Neanderthal genes. I noticed than many other lectures are equally outaded. Many of the physics lectures barely mentions the Hadron collider and the Higgs boson findings,! We have bought over 100 lectures over the last 15 yrs, I would enjoy them much more if the were kept up to speed with the advances in the field they discuss.
Date published: 2018-04-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good survey of Bio-Anthropolgy. Needs an update Prior to having taken this course I have taken a few others in TGC on paleo anthropology: professor Hawk’s wonderful course “The rise of humans – great scientific debates” and “Human prehistory”. The current course focuses on Biological Anthropology in general of which Paleo Anthropology is one branch – so the scope in this course was quite a bit wider. The whole point of this field of study is to employ different methodologies to learn as much as possible about human evolution. There are really three major approaches – the first is by studying ancient human and humanoid remains or fossils and trying to piece from that a clear story of how humans came to be. The second is by studying other ancient humanoid remains such as tools, burial sites etc… The third, which is Professor King’s field of research, is by studying our relatives (primarily Great Apes, but also other primates and even other less related animals), to see if we can trace some of our human behaviors back to them. If this can be established then we can say that evolutionally, these traits did not start with humans but were probably already in existence in our ancient common ancestor. Contrary to many others, I found Professor King to be a very good presenter. She was clear and structured and provided the material in an interesting manner. She did not make any attempt to make the material entertaining – that was just fine with me. I totally agree that the course is extremely dated and probably needs a revision, but I still found it very worthwhile.
Date published: 2018-01-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Out of date! This course is in urgent need of an update. The reading list comprises of books, many of which, are more almost 20 years old - a lot happens in 20 years. New discoveries are made and old theories are modified in light of more recent findings. The same can be said for the lectures and their notes. I have found this problem in many of TGC series of lectures. A programme for revising and updating these courses is called for.
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great but needs updating and this field has changed dramatically in that time. There was still a lot of timeless valuable content but I would probably not have bought the course
Date published: 2017-12-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from If I had known that this course was 15 years old I would not have purchased it! So many advances have been made in Archeology, it is outdated!
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Science vs Political Correctness: PC wins. I went straight to "Lecture 19, Do Human Races Exist". Dr. King falls all over herself denying that any significant racial differences exist, making many specious, straw-man arguments make her points. I can only conclude that Dr. King, like most PC academics, really doesn't believe in evolution.
Date published: 2017-10-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good one This topic was not our strong suit academically, but the course has enlightened us considerably. We enjoyed it.
Date published: 2017-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Outdated and low level I have bought and viewed a wide range of Great Courses over the years, and as a retired physician, I have a wide range of interests and knowledge. Unfortunately, this course is not up to date. There has been a lot of research done that was not mentioned, especially in dating and Genetics/DNA. This is perhaps understandable in a quickly moving field, but updates are urgently needed. Secondly, this is very much a high school level course. I expected more. Perhaps this is because it is an area I am really interested in, and I found very little that was new to me. I do not recommend this for my friends, many of whom know more about this than I.
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof King is engaging. Biological Anthropology has enlarged my knowledge of this field.
Date published: 2017-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done Dr. King covers the topic with broad perspective of the facts and the controversies. Her delivery is adept and skillful, although I admit her high- toned voice took a little getting use to. But that is more a criticism of me than her.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Well Presented The Professor was very articulate and presented the course in an easily understood form.
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Information The is a good summary of biological anthropology. However, since it was filmed 15 years ago, some of the information is now out of date, such as the genome studies.
Date published: 2017-03-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Biological anthology i found this tape very interesting especially the last 5 or 6 lectures about how this subjject is revelent in the modern era.
Date published: 2017-03-14
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What is Biological Anthropology?
1: 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....

33 min
How Evolution Works
2: 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
3: 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
4: 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
5: 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
6: 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
7: 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?
8: 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
9: 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
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.


University of Oklahoma


The College of William & Mary

About Barbara J. King

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.

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