Modules of the updated Paleoanthropology MSc

The Paleoanthropology team includes researchers and instructors with diverse fields of expertise, who can contribute to the supervision of a wide range of topics for your MSc thesis. Examples include bioarchaeology, human skeletal biology and variation, the human fossil record, dental anthropology, biomechanics, and more (see student testimonials). All MSc theses require two supervisors. In addition to Prof. Harvati, most senior instructors in Paleoanthropology can also supervise MSc theses according to their expertise. MSc Paleoanthropology students are expected to take advantage of the Paleoanthropology labs and resources.

In order to specialize in Paleoanthropology, enrolling students should have knowledge in human osteology, bio archaeology and / or human evolution, besides at minimum an attested interest in Archeology (shown for example in a letter of motivation during application).

Introductory Module

Introduction to Paleoanthropology (ASHE-3d)

Structure: Lectures covering key concepts are augmented by seminars and practical lab sessions. 

Content: The lecture part presents current topics and theoretical concepts in bioarchaeology, human variation and human evolution. It teaches conventional and modern methods for analyzing human skeletal remains, including biochemical and isotope studies. In this structure, the advantages and disadvantages of different analytical methods and their applicability will be discussed. The evolutionary mechanisms underlying human variation and human evolution will be discussed, and a deep dive in case studies of iconic human taxa, their discovery, diagnosis and paleobiology, will be presented.

Outcome: The module provides the students with knowledge of current topics and concepts in Paleoanthropology. They learn various osteological, biochemical and population genetic methods for the analysis of skeletal and fossil remains and their advantages and limitations. Knowledge of basic osteology is acquired.

This course is a prerequisite for the rest of the Paleoanthropology specialisation courses. The lab component of the class is limited to ten places.

Principal lecturers:

  • Prof. Dr. K. Harvati – Prof. Harvati is internationally renowned paleoanthropologist, her lectures will give the students a prime initiation into this discipline.
  • Dr. S. El Zaatari – Skeletal and dental anatomy is one part of her professional skills and gives the student the opportunity to learn the essentials from one of the best.

Specialisation Module

Human Evolution – Evolution of Human Biology and Behavior (ASHE-7d)

Structure: Lectures and seminars. 

Content: The lectures and seminars aim to give an overview of the Plio- and Pleistocene hominin fossil record and models of hominin phylogeny. They give a review of ‘systems’ change in human evolution: evolution of bipedalism; evolution of primate and human brain and body size; evolution of cognition and language; life history theory; evolution of primate and human life histories; tool use and technology; primate diets and human subsistence; hunting vs. scavenging; evolution of cooking; primate and human social behaviour, aggression and cooperation. 

Outcome: Successful students of this module gain detailed insights into the biological and cultural evolutionary history of the hominin lineage and expertise of evolutionary models leading to major primate and human biological and behavioural adaptations. They will also gather knowledge of current research and debates surrounding these topics.

Principal lecturers:

  • Dr. Marlen Fröhlich - She is a primatologist focusing on great ape behavior and communication. She has extensive field experience with both chimpanzees and orangutans in the wild.
  • Prof. Dr. K. Harvati  - The human fossil record, human evolution and paleobiolgoy and hominin phylogeny are part of her fields of expertise.
  • Dr. V. Tourloukis - His expertise includes topics in Paleolithic research, the archaeology of early human origins, technology and the evolution of human behavior.

Human Anatomy – Soft Tissue (ASHE-8d)

Structure: A combination of lecture and exercise offer theoretical knowledge and practical basic training. 

Content:  This module provides you with an overview of the anatomy of the different systems of the human body. It gives detailed information on anatomical terminology of anatomical structures. The course is based on a virtual anatomical table available in the Paleoanthropology laboratories, as well as anatomical models, textbooks and relevant software.

Outcome: By the end of this module students should know the anatomy of the different systems of the human body and the anatomical terminology of the different organs and structures within the human body’s systems.

Principal lecturers: Dr. S. El Zaatari – She is an expert in human anatomy and give excellent insight in the complex issue of the different soft tissue systems.

Imaging and Morphometrics (ASHE-6d)

Structure: A combination of lecture and exercise offer theoretical knowledge and practical basic training of available imaging and morphometrics methods.

Content: The module provides an introduction to the methods of "Geometric Morphometrics" in paleoanthropology and the basics of the application of imaging techniques in paleoanthropology. An introduction in the associated software will be provided. The training on hard- and software methods of morphometry lead to carrying out a small independent project. 

Outcome: Successful students of this module can perform basic functions of measuring devices and understand the methods of virtual paleoanthropology. In addition, they are able to generate and edit data sets with imaging methods and they can analyse and interpret virtual data sets using the "Geometric Morphometric" methods. Problem-solving skills in relation to paleoanthropological issues are trained. For the future career of the students, they will learn to work in a team and adopt and adjust teaching content to practical examples. In the end students will present their own project and the methods used for it by an oral presentation.

Principal lecturers:

  • Prof. Dr. K. Harvati – She is an internationally renowned specialist in geometric morphometrics and virtual anthropology.
  • Dr. A. Karakostis – He is expert in virtual 3D imaging techniques and geometric morphometrics.

Special Topics in Paleoanthropology (ASHE-9d)

Structure: Depending on the courses selected, this module offers lectures, seminar, and exercises.

Content:  This module involves a range of different courses (lectures/exercises/seminars) aiming to provide students with a deeper perspective on specialized topics of paleoanthropology. The students can freely choose among the listed six different lectures/labs/seminars listed in the module handbook, in order to collect a minimum total of 6 ECTS. Examples of such courses include: 

  • Osteometrics, Anatomical Variants, and Statistics
  • Paleopathology
  • Primate Evolution
  • Primate / great ape behaviour
  • Dietary Reconstruction of Fossil Hominins
  • Reconstruction of Physical Activities
  • Craniofacial Reconstruction
  • etc.

Outcome: Each selected course aims to familiarize participants with the fundamental concepts, methodologies, and current state of research in the corresponding paleoanthropological specialization.

Principal lecturers:

  • Dr. S. El Zaatari – Her profound knowledge and highly innovative research on dietary reconstructions provides a unique opportunity to gain insight in this topic.
  • Dr. A. Karakostis - He has expertise on anthropological methods for reconstructing physical activity in the past, virtual osteometric techniques, biomechanics and advanced statistics. 
  • Dr. H. Rathmann - He is a bioarchaeologist specialized in population and quantitative genetic analyses for reconstructing past human mobility, in particular from dental remains.
  • Dr. Marlen Fröhlich: She is a primatologist focusing on great ape behavior and communication. She has extensive field experience with both chimpanzees and orangutans in the wild.
  • Dr. Nicole Webb: She is a paleoanthropologist specializing on the evolution of locomotion and human childbirth, as well as on the role of the ‘obstetric dilemma’ in human evolution. 

Associated researchers:

  • Dr. M. Francken – The paleopathology of human remains is one of his skills as paleoanthropologist.