What does it mean to be human? This question lies at the center of anthropology and can be explored using a holistic approach which draws on multiple subfields of anthropology including : archaeological, biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology. In block 1, this course will examine “the body” with emphasis on biological and cultural explorations of the body. Using lecture, discussions, laboratory and field exercises, we will investigate the body through studies of: 1) the evolution of the body, 2) key adaptations that distinguish the human body from bodies of other primates, 3) the role of biocultural evolution in shaping the body including the influence of culture on long-term genetic changes and temporary body modifications, 4) how bodies have been classified, categorized, and displayed as well as 5) ethical concerns surrounding the study of bodies.
The second block of the course will investigate how humans meet the challenges of living in different environments. Humans are one of the most widely-distributed terrestrial animal species, occupying a range of environments from tropical rainforests to Arctic tundra. We are able to survive in these different environments through a variety of cultural and biological adaptations. Building on our exploration of the body in Block 1, we will examine human ecology in-depth with a particular focus on the challenges faced by humans in the southwestern US. Such challenges include hypoxic stress associated with high altitude, temperature extremes, and aridity. Lectures and discussion will emphasize human ecology in the southwestern US, the region in which Colorado College is situated, and also contextualize regional adapatations through comparisons to human ecology in other parts of the world. Laboratory and field exercises completed as part of a fieldtrip to the San Luis valley will enhance student understanding of local human ecology and the methods anthropologists use to investigate this topic.