Hourglass sitting in a desert
Take some time to review the week.

The week in review

Congratulations on making it this far into the course. Let’s take a time-out for a quick review.

This week we explored the tools of our investigation into the question of time.

Tanya gave us an overview of current perspectives on human evolution and offered us the structure of the ‘Three-Act play’ as way of arranging all that information.

We then took a look at the importance of dating in identifying the sequence of human development and the patterns of migration of our early ancestors. We also considered the scientific method and that fact that we are always challenging our theories and unearthing new challenges with our research and methods.

Remember the analogy of the archer striving for accuracy and precision? That was next – and may have given you some new perspectives on the nature of our work.

We showed you a timeline of some significant human species, and discussed the classification of early humans – and the debate surrounding that classification.

We introduced you to some important principles of dating, such as

  • indirect and direct dating
  • stratigraphy
  • relative and numerical dating.

We then turned out attention to the dating methods themselves, explaining some of the limitations of dating (and using yet another analogy).

Then we looked at some rock art! We took a quick detour into the fascinating work being done by Maxime on the dating of rock art in Sulawesi – just to give you a feel for the broader application of dating methods and the effect that they can have upon our perspectives of human evolution.

Finally, we delved into some of the science and processes of C-14, U-series and ESR dating – giving you a glimpse into our laboratories and the work that we do here.

Next week we are going to take a look at the application of all of this theory – when we investigate three significant sites from Africa, Indonesia and Australia. Join us next week to answer the challenges presented by these sites and the human fossils that were discovered there. We are also going to look at what happens when two sets of findings from one site return very different dates.

Your task

We’ve covered a lot of material this week.

Thinking back over the week, what has been the most interesting, enjoyable or significant moment in your learning?

Please select the comments link and post your thoughts on our week so far.

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This article is from the free online course:

A Question of Time: How We Date Human Evolution

Griffith University