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Mysteries of Prehistory: What is a Human?

The human story begins 3 million years ago, but written history dates back a mere few thousand years. This course will take us to the brink of what we know and what we don’t. The evolution of physiology, technology, and culture are frames for examining prehistory to ponder who we are, where we've come from, and where we need to go. 

Mysteries of Prehistory
What is a Human

Taught by Peter Michael Bauer


Tuesdays, Oct 4 - 25 || 7:00-8:30 pm
Tabor Space || 5441 SE Belmont
Four weeks, $95 || Space is limited to 20 students

The human story begins 3 million years ago, but written history dates back a mere few thousand years. Only within the last several decades have we begun to decode the origin of our species. By carefully examining archaeological sites and performing anthropological studies of contemporary indigenous people, we begin to see the picture taking shape.

Yet, with each new breakthrough comes even more questions. When did we discover fire? What drove us to make tools? Why did we paint the walls of caves? The timeline that is taking shape is changing everything we thought we knew about what it means to be a human. This course will take us to the brink of what we know and what we don’t. This examination of prehistory offers us a window into who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we need to go.


Week 1: What are humans and when did we become human?

  • Evolution Timeline
  • Physiological Changes

Week 2: Material Culture in Prehistory

  • Stone Age
  • Perishable Material Culture

Week 3: Non-Material Culture in Prehistory

  • Language
  • Art
  • Music
  • Science
  • Sex
  • Death

Week 4: Human Impacts in Prehistory

  • Megafauna, Migrations, and Invasion Ecology
  • Controlling Fire
  • Population Growth

Peter Michael Bauer is an environmental educator, author of the book Rewild or Die and executive director of Rewild Portland.

Photo by Patrick Gruban