Department of Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of people - through all time and space - as both biological and cultural animals. The four subdisciplines traditionally distinguished are represented by our faculty and curriculum: Biological, including Forensic, Anthropology; Linguistic Anthropology; Archaeology; and Socio-cultural Anthropology.
A common interest in culture and human biology unites these various subdisciplines into a unified study of Homo sapiens.
Biological anthropologists approach the question "Where did we come from?" in terms of biological evolution. Guided by Darwinism, they examine how and why existing human types have come into being. The fossil record of humanity, the significance of race, the relationship of human beings to other animals, and the evolutionary future of our species are among the topics of concern. Biological anthropologists specializing in forensic anthropology help law enforcement officials investigate crimes involving human remains.
Linguistic anthropologists are interested in language and communication. They investigate spoken languages, articulated speech being one of the most striking characteristics of human language and many groups in the world maintaining their culture through oral tradition rather than relying on written languages.
Within the field of linguistic anthropology, ethnolinguists study the influence of culture on linguistic systems and language use. Others concentrate on the social aspects of human interactions. All linguistic anthropologists adopt linguistic concepts and methods to understand language structure and to compare languages in time and space.
Archaeology is the part of anthropology that examines the lives and cultures of former societies. Archaeologists face a major challenge, for they are unable to interact directly with the people about whom they are seeking information.
The data archaeologists collect are but a small portion of a total culture. The artifacts found relate mainly to the material culture of a society, which encompasses only a fraction of the total make-up of a culture. From this evidence, which has survived the tests of time, archaeologists must reconstruct as much of the culture as is possible. Their aids to reconstruction of the social and cultural life of a society are found in the other subdisciplines of anthropology, and in certain of the natural sciences.
Socio-cultural anthropologists study the great diversity of lifestyles, past and present, exhibited by people living in all parts of the world. They record, compare, and analyze variation in social and cultural systems with the aim of documenting and explaining cross-cultural regularities as well as variability. The intellectual allies of the socio-cultural anthropologist are to be found in the humanities and the social sciences.
Besides preparing students for graduate work in anthropology, an undergraduate program prepares students for careers in museums, government work, social work and public school teaching.
Knowledge of anthropology also proves beneficial to adults in the community who desire to enlarge the horizon of their general education.