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ANT201H5S World Prehistory

Research Assignment Instructions

This assignment calls on you to identify an important development in material culture, and to outline how it provides evidence informing our understanding of changes in one or multiple aspects of prehistoric human behaviour.


The subject(s) you choose can be any aspect of the human past that you find interesting. Potential areas of research could include, but are not limited to:

  • Tool use and cognitive abilities of early humans and other primates
  • Hunting, gathering, social organization and gender
  • Human dispersal(s), interactions and gene flow between archaic Homo species
  • Emergence of symbolic behaviour, abstract ideas and possible developments in language
  • Ritual, religion and different ways of envisioning and being in the world
  • Prehistoric use of mind-altering substances such as alcohol, cannabis or peyote
  • Ecological niche construction, sedentism and domestication of plants and animals
  • Resource accumulation, social inequality, occupational specialization, and urbanization

The following questions may be useful in stimulating your thinking in choosing a subject:

  • What are range of dates and geographic region(s) that are relevant to your subject?
  • What do you hope to demonstrate through your research efforts?
  • What is your hypothesis and / or theoretical framework?
  • What findings from other regions might illuminate findings from your main area of interest?
  • Do you think the development in material culture you have identified was a single trigger, or one of a number of influences in changing human behaviour?
  • Or, is this development in material culture a byproduct of changes already underway?

You can choose either of these two types: an argumentative research paper; or an analytical research paper.

Argumentative Essays and Analytical Papers