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AIA1000 - World Prehistory

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Ian McNiven


Clayton Second semester 2007 (Day)


Explores how archaeologists and related scientists have developed an understanding of the long-term evolution of human cultural diversity. Students will gain an appreciation of how archaeologists have documented the spread of humans across the globe over the last 2 million years. Numerous case studies will reveal how archaeologists use physical evidence from the earth to understand the evolution of past cultures. Areas of investigation will range from the dawn of humanity in Africa and the Ice Age peoples of Europe and the Americas, through to the ancestors of the Polynesians and Aboriginal Australians. Themes include the origins of spiritual beliefs, art, and burial practices.


The overarching aims are to provide students with a broad understanding of how archaeologists have constructed a long-term picture of the evolution of human cultural diversity across the globe. On successful completion of this subject, students will be able to:

  1. Understand key periods in the evolution of humanity in terms of changes in culture and patterns of global colonisation.
  2. Appreciate why humans in different parts of the globe differ culturally.
  3. Appreciate the origins of art and spiritual beliefs and question what it means to be human.
  4. Appreciate the broad range of techniques used by archaeologists to infer behaviour from prehistoric remains excavated from the earth.
  5. Develop basic skills in critically evaluating archaeological findings and theories.
  6. Appreciate major scientific debates in understanding human origins and long-term cultural developments.


Minor essay (1000 words): 20%
Major essay (2000 words): 40%
Examination (1.5 hrs, 1500 words): 30%
Tutorial participation: 10%

Contact hours

3 hours (2 x 1 hour lectures and 1 x 1 hour tutorial/video viewing) per week