The goal of this textbook is to introduce undergraduate students, as well as interested members of the public, to the key topics of study within my field of research: evolutionary anthropology. As such it is very broad ranging, and so whatever type of evolutionary anthropology you are interested in, this book will, I hope, be a good place to start. While this breadth can be intimidating, the flipside is that the book doesn't delve too deep into any particular topic. Readers hoping for a deeper treatment of any of the topics covered in this textbook should seek out more specialized sources, and throughout this book I suggest sources for further reading or watching.
The book is arranged around 7 key topics, which form the seven modules of this book, and with each module including around 6 chapters. The first four modules are largely theoretical or background information that cover the development of the tools we use to study human evolution:
- An introduction to evolution: What is evolution? What is Natural Selection? Who is Charles Darwin and what did he do? What did people think about evolution before Darwin?
- An introduction to genetics: What are genes and how do they work? How were genes and DNA discovered? How does evolution work at the level of genes?
- Advanced topics in evolution: What are species and how do they arise? What are evolutionary trees and how can we build them? How can we know the age of fossils?
- An introduction to cultural evolution: Does culture evolve? Is cultural evolution like genetic evolution? Do any animals other than humans have culture?
The next three modules then explore how these elements have played out in our own evolutionary history:
- Primates: What is a primate? When, why and how did primates evolve? What's special about primates?
- Early human evolution: Who were the earliest members of our lineage? How and why did they walk on two legs? What kinds of tools did they make?
- Later human evolution: Why are our brains so big? When did language evolve? What were the agricultural and industrial revolutions?
Whatever your background or motivations for reading this book, I hope you find it engaging, enjoyable and rewarding.