Dickinson’s Anthropology curriculum provides students with a comparative perspective for examining and understanding human diversity and addressing challenges people face in our changing world. Anthropology is relatively unique because it connects the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, concerning all aspects of humanity, globally and throughout the time defined by human evolution. Biological Anthropology examines human evolution, biological variation in human and nonhuman primates, and biocultural aspects of nutrition, health, and adaptation. Cultural Anthropology focuses on culture and society and interactions with broad forces such as politics, economics, and environment. Archaeology delves into how past societies throughout the world developed and changed. Students in Anthropology compare people’s experiences in different societies and cultures and over great spans of time, thereby gaining important perspectives on the world.
How Anthropology works can be illustrated by the example of a student interested in health, although health is only one interest of Anthropology. Through Biological Anthropology the student can study the evolution of human biological adaptations, how physiological traits intersect with health, and learn to identify health conditions in human skeletal remains. In Archaeology the student could examine past societies’ foodways and living conditions that could have shaped overall health and potential spread of disease. Cultural Anthropology courses address cultural and social aspects of well-being, affliction, and healing and the political, economic, and social shaping of care. The student can design senior thesis fieldwork or laboratory work to research some aspect of health—such as maternal health in Tanzania. Examples of actual student research in Anthropology—in areas as diverse as changes in Hawai'i Japanese American identity; economic development in Kenya; pre-Colonial Native America occupation and use of nearby South Mountain; and race and gender in historical re-enactments in the United States—are listed in the Student Honors Research link on the Anthropology Department web page.
Uniqueness of our program: The Anthropology major emphasizes student fieldwork and laboratory work. In a selection of methods courses designated as "Research in Anthropology" students learn to design ethnographic fieldwork and collect and analyze quantitative data. In the Keck Biological Anthropology Laboratory students learn skills in human evolution, human biological variation, and human skeletal identification. The Dickinson Environmental Archaeology Laboratory offers students experiences in archaeobotanical analysis and Geographic Information Systems. Students also study diverse theoretical perspectives, from the social sciences and humanities to critical perspectives on human biological variation, race and racism, and health. These skills and the comparative perspective prepare students to conduct research culminating in the senior thesis and to pursue a range of post-graduation career options.
Potential majors and advisors of first-year students should note the interdisciplinary nature of Anthropology. Department courses contribute to and are cross-listed with many other departments and programs, including Archaeology; Africana Studies; East Asian Studies; Health Studies; Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; Environmental Studies; and Sociology. Courses in other fields and cross-listed courses help students pursue their unique interests and, at the same time, expand their comparative perspective in anthropology.
Courses appropriate for prospective majors
In Anthropology you do not have to start with the 100-level courses. Most 100- and 200-level courses may be taken as a “first course” in the department, without a prerequisite course. Here are some examples:
ANTH 100, Introduction to Biological Anthropology (Fall semester)
ANTH 101, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory (Spring semester)
ANTH 216, Medical Anthropology
ANTH 229, Principles of Human Variation and Adaptation
ANTH 230, Ethnography of Postcolonial Africa
ANTH 245, Special Topics in Anthropology
ANTH 260, Environmental Archaeology
For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Anthropology.
Courses that fulfill distribution requirements
Social Sciences (Division II):
All of our courses, except for ANTH 100 (Introduction to Biological Anthropology), fulfill the Social Sciences (Division II) distribution requirement.
Lab Sciences (Division III):
ANTH 100 Introduction to Biological Anthropology
ANTH 101, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory
ANTH 216, Medical Anthropololgy
and many other courses in the department
ANTH 101, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (SCON)
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory (SCON)
ANTH 100 Introduction to Biological Anthropology (SCON)
ARCH 260, Environmental Archaeology (SINV)
Suggested curricular flow through the major
These guidelines suggest courses to take each year rather than specifying a required sequence; the exception is Senior Colloquium, which is taken in the fall semester of the senior year. Students can tailor these guidelines to their circumstances in discussions with an Anthropology faculty member. We recommend completing the "Research in Anthropology" course prior to study abroad, in case the student has a fieldwork opportunity while there. Many students who study abroad complete the Anthropology major and a second major, and some complete three majors.
Begin 100-level courswork:
ANTH 100, Introduction to Biological Anthropology (Fall only)
ANTH 101, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Fall and Spring)
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory (Spring only)
Recommend at least two of the three in First Year
Consider taking a 200-level elective: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology
Complete 100-level coursework
Research in Anthropology course: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology
ANTH general electives 200 and 300-level: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology
If planning full year study abroad, plan to take a WiD course.
ANTH 300-level electives: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology
Study Abroad – Full year or semester where Anthropology electives are available
If interested in Senior Honors Thesis consider fieldwork opportunities while abroad
ANTH 400, Senior Colloquium (register in Fall semester only)
Finish any remaining ANTH requirements or electives
If pursuing Department Honors, ANTH 495 (Spring semester only)
Eligibility for honors candidacy requires a minimum overall GPA of 3.6. By the beginning of their senior year, students wanting to be considered for honors in anthropology must identify themselves to the department faculty and submit a two-page proposal for an honors project to the department chair. In the senior year, the prospective honors student participates in the senior colloquium (ANTH 400) in the Fall and will continue with ANTH 495 in the Spring. The quality of the senior thesis project, judged "exceptional" by the anthropology faculty, is the primary basis for awarding honors to graduating seniors at the end of the spring semester.
We strongly recommend that students consult with their advisor in the Junior year if they are considering the thesis option, as preparation for the project may start prior to the beginning of the Senior year. The strongest projects emerge from field or laboratory projects initiated in prior coursework, study abroad, or field experiences.
The Anthropology Club has weekly meetings that involve activities such as watching a film/TV series related to topics in Anthropology, museum visits, and more. The club also plans trips to see exhibits in nearby cities (Philadelphia, DC). They also plan events of campus related to Anthropology Day and helping to plan exhibits and events that help share anthropological perspectives across campus.
Human Cultures House
The department helps to support a Special Interest House for Anthropology and Archaeology Majors. Students living in the house study together and bring classroom and campus discussions about human cultures to their living spaces. The house also hosts BBQs and events with students and faculty.
Opportunities for off-campus study
Most students majoring in anthropology study abroad at some point during their time at Dickinson. Others pursue opportunities for off-campus study in the United States. Students gain unique, hands-on experience in anthropology by participating in field schools in cultural anthropology or archaeology, or through internships at museums and other sites. Opportunities for such experience exist with the Summer Field School in Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 396), for the six-week summer ethnographic field school in Tanzania, East Africa, or for other field schools.
Careers: Graduates with the Anthropology major have pursued higher degrees in anthropology, archaeology, education, law, linguistics, medicine, public health, and academic administration. Others have gone directly into work in these and other fields. Department faculty are glad to discuss with students their possible career opportunities.