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Human Evolution: Past and Future

Video presentations and interviews with experts from the field, many at the fossil or archaeological sites where they have made discoveries.

Human Evolution: Past and Future
Photo by Johannes Plenio / Unsplash

In 2014 I presented a massive open online course to more than 40,000 learners worldwide. This course was supported by the University of Wisconsin–Madison and hosted on the Coursera platform.

I have been doing online education for many years. My core philosophy is that if we take the classroom away from students, we should give them something equally or more valuable in return. For this course, I knew we could do something extraordinary if we brought students with me virtually to the field.

With the extraordinary collaboration of scientists around the world, I was able to visit and film at many fossil and archaeological sites where my friends and colleagues have uncovered evidence of human origins. I interviewed experts in primatology, paleoanthropology, archaeology, and genetics about some of their most current work. I also brought students virtually into the laboratory to guide them through the fossil record and interpretations from DNA. And UW–Madison graduate students—led by Sarah Traynor and Alia Gurtov—shared their own experiences with fieldwork.

The course brought together learners from six continents and more than 100 countries. It was inspiring to see how people from many walks of life were eager to interact with each other as they explored the science.

Since 2014, I have shared many of the course videos freely on YouTube. I've now brought those together here. Of course this has been a fast decade in human origins research, and some of the segments filmed in 2013 and 2014 are now less timely or out of date. I've selected the videos that show a unique perspective on sites, many of them discussing historic discoveries shortly after they were made.

I hope you enjoy them!

In this course

Members Public

Presentation on species concepts and the hominin fossil record

On a visit to Charles Darwin's home, I share some perspectives on how paleoanthropologists think about species.

John Hawks seen talking in front of a wooded background with a sandy pathway
Members Public

Describing the Great Rift Valley

I share some geological and geographical knowledge from the Omo River valley, one part of the African Rift system.

John Hawks in front of a wooded river with badlands in the distance
Members Public

An interview with Clive Finlayson about Neandertal lifeways

This is a part of the course, Human Evolution: Past and Future, which I presented in 2014.

John Hawks and Clive Finlayson inside a cave
Members Public

Becoming human: Presentation on Mount Carmel sites and cultural origins

A visit to Israel occasions reflections on the cultural evolution of humans and Neandertals.

John Hawks in front of a wadi with a limestone massif and caves in the distance.
Members Public

Interview with Dr. Jill Pruetz about chimpanzees in a savanna habitat

I speak with Dr. Pruetz about her fieldwork with chimpanzees at Fongoli, Senegal.

Jill Pruetz with dark background and photo of chimpanzee in pool of water