June 11 - July 20, 2012

(Class begins Monday morning, June 11 and ends Friday, July 20. Students are expected to arrive either June 9 or June 10 and depart on Friday, July 20)


With the participation of French and American physical anthropologists and archaeologists, this program has as its principal academic focus the examination of the major evolutionary developments that have resulted in the appearance of modern peoples, their unique behaviors and adaptations.

The classroom part of the program, the first four weeks, is held at the University of Bordeaux, in a part of France where many of the most important fossil and archaeological sites documenting modern human biological and cultural origins have been found. The Neandertal fossil skull illustrated to the left, from the La Chapelle-aux-Saints site in the southwest of France, is one of specimens that we will be examining and attempting to place within the overall context of human evolution


Just to the east of Bordeaux are the Departments of the Dordogne and Charente, locales where discoveries, such as those at Cro-Magnon and Lascaux, as well as sites where numerous neandertals have been discovered, have provided us with much of our knowledge of the initial beginnings of modern humankind.

Field trips to these and other sites will be an important part of the course, and will provide an essential background to classroom discussions.

Program participants will have a chance to explore the actual sites where the neandertal and early modern human fossils examined in class have been discovered.

Visits to cave sites such as Rouffignac, Lascaux II, Cap Blanc and Font-de-Gaume, where cave art of great beauty has been preserved, will enable students to capture the ambiance of the caves and the mysteries of the art work.

The last two weeks of the course will find us in the Charente, a department about 100 km to the north and east of Bordeaux, at the Middle Paleolithic site of Les Pradelles, located in the small village of Marillac-le-Franc. Here, we will undertake archaeological excavations in sedimentary layers that have already yielded numerous Neandertal fossil bones. Work at the site will provide an important perspective to our understanding of the accumulation and interpretation of the archaeological and fossil evidence documenting modern human origins.

In this way, students will be able to more fully appreciate the context in which these works of art were produced, a feeling no published reproduction can convey.

An equally crucial aspect of the course is making the students aware of life in another culture. France is a society similar in many ways to that of the U.S., yet different enough to provide students with important insights into the wide variation of human cultures. And, of course, France represents one of great civilizations of the world. Learning how French culture functions and learning how to successfully live in this society is an important and enjoyable part of the student's maturation as a member of the emerging global world.

Princeton University requires all students who participate in study abroad programs to follow a planning and approval process as explained in Princeton University's Undergraduate Student Travel website:


IMPORTANT: Undergraduate students are responsible for reading and following the information on the website, completing all travel forms and registering the trip on the University Travel Database as a part of the approval process. During the program, weekend travel outside group-organized activities must also be updated on the Travel Database. Students are expected to complete all relevant Undergraduate Student Travel requirements as stated in the website.

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