Course Description, Credit and Costs


Human Origins

The course has three major components:

Classroom lectures, labs and discussions will comprise three weeks of the course and will involve students in interactions with French and American archaeologists and physical anthropologists as they examine and discuss the fossil and other evidence documenting modern human origins.

One week of the course will have us travel to the Dordogne Department where some of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world have been discovered. We will visit painted caves and sites where Neandertals and Cro-Magnons lived, cooked their meals and buried their dead.

The last two weeks of the course will involve the excavation of a Middle Paleolithic site in the small village of Marillac-le-Franc, Charente Department of the southwest of France. The site of Les Pradelles is a collapsed cave with deep and rich archaeological deposits. Students will participate in field excavations, learning the techniques of modern scientific archaeology as well as develop an understanding of stone tool technology, the examination, identification and analysis of animal bones and various aspects of the geological investigation of the site. While working at the site, students will live in the priory of the village's 12th Century church. Our interactions with the townspeople have been close and students will be involved with the goings on in the village.

The evidence documenting the latter phases of human evolution and the various theories that have been proposed to account for the origins of modern humankind will be explored by the program's participants (all lectures are in English). Lectures will be augmented with the examination of artifacts and fossils crucial to the understanding of human origins. Prehistorians will demonstrate the making of the stone tools that were made and used by the Neandertals and the early modern humans who came after them.  Visits to important archaeological sites and paleolithic painted caves in the Dordogne region, such as Cro-Magnon, Rouffignac, La Ferrassie, Le Moustier, Font-de-Gaume, and Abri-Pataud, among others, will provide an essential background to classroom discussions and presentations. During our field season at Marillac, we will also take trips to visit local archaeological sites in the Charente region.

The overall focus of the course is the investigation of the evolutionary origins of modern humans, their unique cultural abilities, and their relationships to more archaic beings like the neandertals. Emphasis will be directed at issues such as what makes us human and how did this quality evolve. What is the place of language and artistic expression in this development? The goal of the course is to provide students with greater insight into our common evolutionary heritage as well as those 'human' traits that make us unique beings. An equally important aspect of the course is student exposure to French culture and society in a way that is distinctly non-touristy.



ANT 315 satisfies the science and technology with laboratory (STL) distribution area requirement.

Student Costs and Expenses

Princeton costs paid by student*


Student weekend excursions

depends on destination

incidental expenses

depends on student interests and travel

R/T airfare to Bordeaux

depends on origin point in U.S.

* This amount covers tuition and all room and board expenses during the course, including field trip expenses (hotels, meals and transport) as well as all expenses at the excavation site at Marillac. Students are responsible for their own transport from Bordeaux to Marillac at the beginning of the field season, about $30 USD.

For information on financial aid, please visit the Office of International Programs website.

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