Online course in Nature & Environment

A Question of Time: How We Date Human Evolution

Discover the role that dating human fossils plays in the reconstruction of human evolution: explore examples from around the world

  • Duration 2 weeks
  • Weekly study 3 hours
  • Learn Free
  • Extra benefits From $44 Find out more

Uncover the history of our ancestors by dating human fossils.

Trace your origins and develop your understanding of human evolution, with this course from the world-leading experts at Griffith University.

This course will introduce you to the history of human evolution and discuss the importance of dating human fossils. You’ll learn the basic principles of dating fossils, including the methods used by professionals, and find out why dating is not always reliable.

You’ll study authentic archaeological examples from all over the world, and reflect on discoveries which have challenged our existing knowledge of human evolution.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsWhen we discover an ancient human fossil, we are unearthing a new mystery, a mystery that researchers from all around the world will investigate. There are many questions to answer, many puzzles to decode. Join us in an investigation of one of these questions, the question of time. How do we date the evidence used to piece together the story of human evolution? Welcome to Griffith University, home to ARCHE, the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 secondsOur research team at ARCHE conducts world class studies on human evolution. And now you have the opportunity to be a part of a two-week investigation to answer this question.

Skip to 1 minute and 4 secondsMeet the researchers conducting our investigation. Rainer Grun. Mathieu Duval. Tanya Smith. See the processes that we use to examine the evidence.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 secondsSee the sites where the evidence was uncovered. And join us in a discussion of our findings.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsIt's only a question of time.

What topics will you cover?

  • Introduction to human evolution
  • How dating works (methods available)
  • Principles of radiocarbon, U-series and ESR dating
  • The specific challenges of dating valuable human fossils
  • Dating controversies
  • How dating changed the story of human evolution
  • Explore examples from around the world

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Describe the basic principles of three dating methods
  • Explain why dating is not always reliable
  • Discuss the importance of dating for human evolution
  • Explore the ever-changing reconstruction of human evolution
  • Reflect upon how new discoveries challenge existing knowledge

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone who is interested in human evolution, archaeology or biological science.

Who will you learn with?

Rainer Grün

Rainer Grün

I am Director of the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University. Leader in the field of ESR dating, with extensive experience in U-series, radiocarbon and luminescence dating.

Tanya M Smith

Tanya M Smith

I am a Professor in the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University. My research helps us to understand ancient human development, behaviour and evolution.

Maxime Aubert

Maxime Aubert

I am Maxime Aubert, a Professor in ARCHE at Griffith University. I specialise in the development and application of analytical techniques to key questions in human evolution and rock art.

Mathieu Duval

Mathieu Duval

I am an ARC Research Fellow in ARCHE at Griffith University. I am specialized in Quaternary Geochronology and in the dating of the early human occupations around the Mediterranean.

Who developed the course?

Griffith University was created to be a different kind of university—challenging conventions, responding to trends and pioneering solutions through innovative teaching and research.

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