Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Human Past Quiz

One of the things I love about teaching archaeology is that even the simplest piece of information (to me) can transform the way someone else thinks about humanity. The class I taught last quarter was called "The Human Past." It's a 100-level crash course in everything from our split with apes up until the present.

On the first day of class I gave the students slips of paper with important events in the human past and they had to make a timeline around the room. I told them that the point of this exercise was to show them what they DON'T know. Believe me, after nine years of higher eduction, I know that the first step to learning anything is recognizing what it is that you need to learn. The second step of course it to learn it - the point of this class! The third step is inevitably to forget it. BUT, the good thing about the third step is that at least you know what it is you've forgotten and you can look it up on Wikipedia the next time you're at a cocktail party and someone tells you they're quite certain Neanderthals played flutes (which they did not).

So now it's your turn. Below are the events I handed on the first day of class. Go ahead - put them in order and put some dates on them. I won't laugh (well, maybe I will if you're REALLY far off). Leave a comment if you like. I'll post the answers tomorrow. Or the next day.

1. First stone tools
2. First art
3. The first Homo sapiens appear
4. Neanderthals go extinct
5. Earliest agriculture
6. People first arrive in the Americas
7. People first arrive in Australia
8. First evidence for control of fire
9. Our ancestors began walking on two legs
10. First intentional burials
11. The first of our genus (Homo) appears
12. First people leave Africa
13. Denisovans live (another species of humans who lived in Siberia)
14. Earliest evidence for use of boats
15. Humans colonize Europe

1 comment:

  1. I took the 'test' on my own by reading all the questions and realized that the only one I really did not know was who the heck are the Denisovans? It also made me realize that I may not know the answer to that or what the dates are for many of the other questions because they have changed since I went to grad school so long ago! For instance, I've always thought the earliest evidence for boats was the colonization of Australia. But this is indirect evidence. I bet there is newer evidence out there - also for out of africa etc.

    I guess my point is that we never really know absolutely the answers to these questions! Patrick