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Course Times & Enrolment

Thursdays from 18th January 2024 (Code AC093-201) Thursdays from
18th January 2024 2:10pm - 4:00pm • (10 classes)
LG49 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Kristian L. R. Pedersen BIS FSA Scot
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

In the past decade, there have been tremendous advances in the study of Neanderthals. Genetic studies suggest that this species contributed to our genetic composition through inter-breeding. New research has focused on the cultural similarities and the nature of cultural relations between modern humans and Neanderthals.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

1. Why Are Neanderthals Important? Neanderthal studies and their many permutations; why Neanderthals are important to evolutionary and cultural studies.

2. What Is a Neanderthal? Defining Neanderthals anatomically, genetically and culturally and their distribution in time and space.

3. Emergence of Neanderthals: the theories concerning the appearance of Neanderthals and the processes that may have resulted in Neanderthals diversifying from other species such as Homo erectus.

4. Early Neanderthals: early sites affording remains of Neanderthal show that Neanderthals also evolved and adapted; their early cultural achievements must be understood to judicially assess later developments.

5. Culture in the Middle Palaeolithic: an overview of the diversity in Neanderthal culture.

6. Tools and Economy: some of the most important evidence for culture is afforded by tools and economic adaptation.

7. Language and Cognition: much recent research has concerned the ability of Neanderthals to manipulate language and also their cognitive abilities.

8. Neanderthal Religion and Symbolism: evidence for Neanderthal ritual, religious and symbolic behaviour.

9. The Last Neanderthals: were their populations in decline? Was there evidence for inter-breeding with modern humans?

10. Relationship with Modern Humans: the relationship of Neanderthals and modern humans, from a genetic perspective, but also from a cultural and demographic position. How did modern humans communicate and coexist with Neanderthals? Why did Neanderthals disappear?

Teaching method(s)

The course will consist of lectures and discussions, with occasional use of DVD and online resources to illustrate points;

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the history of Neanderthal research in the study of human evolution;

  • Become familiar with the main sites in the study of Neanderthals;

  • Appreciate the impact of current research concerning the relationship between Neanderthals, Homo erectus and modern humans;

  • Become familiar with the main controversies regarding the emergence of Neanderthals and their extinction;


Core Readings


  • Finalyson, C., 2010. The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Mithen, S., 2006. The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body. London: Phoenix Books.

  • Papagiannis, D. & Morse, M., 2013. The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science is Rewriting Their Story. London: Thames & Hudson.

Class Handouts

Class handouts will be provided weekly.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.