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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

4,739 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    2 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

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 seconds When 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 seconds Our 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 seconds Meet 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 seconds See the sites where the evidence was uncovered. And join us in a discussion of our findings.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds It’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

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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

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

  • Established

  • Location

    Queensland, Australia
  • World ranking

    Top 210Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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