The Human Animal

human animal

This FIG examines humans as a culture-using animal adapted to a hunting-and-gathering way of life. While other species have evolved anatomical features (e.g., speed, camouflage, keen sensory systems) that aid in their survival, humans depend on their ability to use information and to devise means of acquiring, storing, and sharing it. Storytelling is a case in point: in hunter-gatherer cultures, stories are used to encode information that is critical for survival. For our class project, we will build a website showing how hunter-gatherer peoples around the world use stories to transmit their traditional ecological knowledge and worldview.


Students explore the intersection of topics by taking the following course package*:

*Courses in the FIG package may be subject to change

ANTH 199 College Connections - FIG Seminar, 1-credit

This College Connections seminar is scheduled as remote, but will likely have in-person components in fall.

BI 132 Introduction to Animal Behavior - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

This course will explore behaviors found in a variety of animals, investigate what functions they might serve, and use the concept of natural selection to understand their evolution. Among the topics in animal behavior that we will discuss are  biological clocks, sex, intelligence, communication, and animal consciousness.

ANTH 163 Origins of Storytelling - CoreEd or major satisfying course, 4-credits

Why do humans tell stories? This course addresses this question by exploring the hunter-gatherer context in which storytelling emerged. Drawing on evolutionary theory and related disciplines, this course explores the origins of literature in terms of the information demands of ancestral human environments. The first part of the course outlines the social and ecological conditions under which storytelling emerged, the adaptations that make social learning and storytelling possible, and the foundations of cultural transmission. The second part examines cross-cultural themes in hunter-gatherer oral traditions—e.g., tricksters, monsters, warfare, mating—in relation to recurrent problems of forager life.