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Origins: People and Planet Earth

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.

Available Dates:

This course is currently not being offered in the academic year 2015 - 2016.

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Course Description

How did people come to populate the planet?  Beginning with the early genesis of our species we will take a walk through time to develop our understanding of our origins.  Along the way, we will investigate who the Neanderthals were, where animals were first domesticated, what is the ethical context of current and past theories, what does Ancient DNA tell us about the past and lots more!

We will study what the DNA of our closest living primate relatives tells us about ourselves and in particular what telomere biology can tell us about our early origins.  What Ancient DNA and other biomolecules suggest about the life ways of Neanderthals and our relationship to them.  We will also examine what these techniques tell us of the explosion of human culture; for example changes during the Stone Ages; peopling the New World and the agricultural revolution.

Who owns the past? The social context of People and the Planet Earth.  Starting with our personal motivations for studying this module; we will also examine how viewing scientific theories can be influenced by both cultural and historical context.  As a case study we will investigate racism in Phrenology and the Eugenics movement and the resultant harm and inhumanity.  We will also explore the repatriation of artefacts and treatment of human remains at the current time.

We will explore, compare and contrast the ‘Out of Africa’ and ‘multi regionalism’ theories of human population expansion.  We will briefly review modern migrations including forced migration (Slave trade, Irish potatoes famine, Highland clearance, Post 2nd world war evacuees to Australia) Imperialism/Colonialism and Economic migration.  How do these recent and dramatic population movements influence, confuse or confound our understanding of the human planet.

We will investigate the use of Ancient DNA in analysis the remains found at the scene of natural disasters such as Pompeii; and how they are used in victim identification and Forensic Archaeology.

Who is this course for?

Anyone who is interested in discovering more about the origin and development of our species.

Learning and Teaching

There will be a mixture of taught sessions and discussions, a short field trip to the National Museum of Wales, and on-line resources to support and assist private study.

Coursework and Assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Assessment will be based on your continuous work in sessions and at home, and you will be asked to submit a portfolio of your work at the end of the course.

Reading suggestions

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on

(029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site or in Choices.  This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.