Anthropology is a multidimensional study of humankind, integrating cultural, sociological, historical, and evolutionary perspectives of human diversity within a single discipline. Crossing boundaries that have often separated the humanities and sciences, anthropology examines both the organic evolution of our biological family and the variety and unity of peoples, societies, and cultures worldwide and across millennia. The shared goal of anthropology's various subfields is to contribute to a global picture of the human experience and, accordingly, Dartmouth's Department of Anthropology offers a four-field program of study in archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.
Cultural anthropologists study contemporary or recent societies, comparing forms of technology and material culture, social organization, economies, political and legal systems, ideologies, and religions. Archaeologists analyze the material remains of past human societies, adding a time dimension that includes but goes beyond societies with written histories. Biological anthropologists study the organic expression of human evolution. Combining evidence from genetics, primate behavior, and the fossil record, they seek to document and explain our emergence from earlier forms, as well as our on-going evolution and diversity. Linguistic anthropologists study the characteristics of human language use and communication taking place in different social contexts.
Thus anthropology's greatest strength lies in its intrinsic interdisciplinarity, its blending of quantitative and qualitative methods, its concern with simple societies and highly complex ones and the connections between them, and its explorations of the distant past as well as the present. A fresh potential emerges from our growing focus on ecological feedback and on the increasing density and frequency of global interconnections. In seeking ever-more sophisticated understanding of complex systems, we continue to realize the integrative possibilities among otherwise disparate approaches.
All department faculty have engaged in original field research, and through research assistantships and other programs we offer majors and other interested students the possibility of extending their disciplinary interests beyond the classroom.