The goal of this assignment is for you to synthesize the theory and data we’ve covered about modern humans (Homo sapiens),
our hominin ancestors, and our chimpanzee cousins, and explain the
traits that you think make us human. Given the traits you think are most
important, you will lay out the argument for which hominin ancestor was
the first you are willing to call “human”. There isn’t a right or wrong
answer to this question. I just want to know what you think and to see
you use evidence from the class to support your argument.
What are the key traits of Homo sapiens that you think makes us “human”? Which hominin species from the genus Homo do
you think first qualifies as “human”? How do both these species
significantly (or not) differ from Chimpanzees? The hominin species you
select as the first “human” must be a member of the genus Homo (1.5 mya or more recent), and you must focus on a single species to compare to Homo sapiens. (If you think only Homo sapiens can be called human, then compare them to Homo neanderthalensis,
arguing why their traits differ enough that you don’t consider
Neanderthals human yet.) Compare both to Chimpanzees. You will need to
include anatomical, behavioral, and cultural traits in your argument.
Read: Use the information already part of this
class. Review the traits and the species you want to write about. Only
use the Explorations textbook, module pages, and links provided on the
module pages for your argument. Do not use direct quotes, whether cited
or not. Everything must be written in your own words.
Organize: You will want to present information on the following kinds of traits for both Homo sapiens, your one chosen hominin species, and chimpanzees, in a comparative structure. For example, “Homo sapiens do X” and include a description and details about this. “Homo erectus
did X too in mostly similar ways”, and include a description of how it
is similar or different. “Chimpanzees are different because they do Y.”
“Given these similarities, I think Homo erectus can be considered the
first “human” hominin.” Also discuss the selective pressures that
favored these traits, and how selection drove the evolution of “human”
traits we see today.
This worksheet can help you organize things:
undefinedThis is a tool to help you organize and
outline your thinking and the data you want to present. This is not what
you will turn in for the project.
The traits you should discuss include:
- evidence for modern bipedal anatomy (pelvis, femur, foot, etc),
compared to the knuckle-walking anatomy of chimpanzees. Describe each
feature and how it functions.
- skull shape and size, teeth size, and brain size, and how natural
selection has shaped these features in response to diet and behavior
- social lives, and life history features (specifically pay attention
to the ideas covered in the second half of the Week 7 module discussing
life history, and how these have changed due to selective pressures.
- cultural artifacts like tools, clothing, shelters, fire, art, or
other decorative activities. Relate these to diet, anatomy, social
behavior, and life history as relevant.
Have a look at the attached grading rubric to make sure you are covering all the ideas you need to for full points.
Present: Share what you have learned in a clear and organized way. You can do this in a variety of formats.
- 4 short written essays (300-400 words each) one for each of
the four numbered set of traits listed above. Or one longer essay doing
the same (4 – 5 pages).
- PowerPoint presentation (slides only, though be careful it has
all the needed information). You will want to have several slides
covering each of the points above.
- A video of you giving your PowerPoint. You can also play the PowerPoint and record a voice-over.
- A poster or drawing for each species or each of the 4 points
above with species comparisons for each point. Be careful to include
text details so these are rich with information.
- A newspaper or magazine article, tinder profile, or other
written presentation of the information that includes images and a bit
more casual writing style or perspective on the presentation
- A video of a skit or other performance about the species. I love interpretive dance and puppets 🙂
- A quiz show about each species
- A song or poem about each species
- You tell me! I’m open to fun new ideas – message me and let’s discuss
Cite: list all sources of information you used
in your presentation. This can be a single page separate from the
presentation work, or incorporated into the presentation in creative
ways. Let’s talk if you aren’t sure how to do this. Please use APA
Do not use google. No library research. Cite and present only information from my modules and the Explorations textbook. Explain the traits and your comparisons in your own words. No quotes, even if properly cited. No copying someone else’s words.
If you have any questions about how or what to do let’s email or find a time to talk over zoom.
This assignment is due Sunday of Week 7 if you want the
opportunity for feedback and the chance to revise and resubmit. I will
accept this assignment until the end of Sunday of Week 8.
Hints & Tips
Be strategic in selecting the species you consider the first “human”. Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis
are your three options – every other species has some similarities, but
not enough. It is also possible to support the argument that none of
these three are yet fully “human” and only Homo sapiens are “human”. You then need to argue why Neanderthals are close but not close enough to be “human”. Homo heidelbergensis is a valid choice, but also potentially harder since we know less about this species.
Chimpanzees, while close modern relatives are NOT mini-humans. In a
paper like this comparing modern humans to our closest hominin ancestor,
chimps are VERY DIFFERENT in most ways. Don’t overstate how similar
they are. Use them as a contrast to show how much has changed over
Organize your notes on the traits in an outline or chart to make sure
you are comparing all the features for the two species and giving equal
time to the descriptions for both species. Be sure to explain the
comparison – are the traits identical? how do they differ? does this
difference matter in showing the species as “human” or not? Are they
enough like us that you consider them “human” or “people”?
Learning and growth take practice and reflection and I am here to
support your efforts. All assignments will receive an initial grade
based on the provided rubric. If you aren’t happy with the points you
receive or need to improve your submission, everyone will have the
option to review my feedback, revise your work, and resubmit your
assignment by the “available until” date 1 week after the original due
date. If you have questions about how to improve a submission or about
my feedback, please ask me.