The Department of Anthropology


Anthropology's central aims are to describe and interpret human behavior both in the present and the past. Through a combination of classroom and field work, BYU’s Anthropology Program trains students in current methods and theory and teaches them the critical analysis skills necessary for many careers, including those in anthropology. 

Department faculty research interests span time and the globe, which provides a variety of opportunities for students to participate i​n mentored research in subjects and regions of their interest. 

The Anthropology Department offers a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in either sociocultural anthropology or archaeology and a master’s degree in archaeology. The Department also offers three minors including Anthropology, African Studies, and Museum Studies (currently in application for Minor status). 

Students focusing on sociocultural anthropology will gain valuable skills that will aid them in their professional careers. During their final year students will have the opportunity to combine all of the skills and knowledge they have gained in the classroom and apply them in their own ethnographic field project. Students will have the chance to travel around the world under the mentored directorship of a BYU professor and conduct research on a topic of personal interest. 

Students on the archaeology track will learn professional research, excavation, and analysis techniques that, in conjunction with their coursework, will prepare them for a future in archaeology. During their final four semesters students will be able to take part in the archaeology fieldschool sequence, which provides students with the opportunity to participate in a research excavation where they will learn proper and current techniques in archaeology. 

Students who are accepted into the Anthropology Department’s master’s program will have the opportunity to learn method, theory, and regional archaeological history in small classes from experts in the field. They are expected to conduct original research on a topic of their choice and produce a thesis describing their work. Aside from the small class sizes students are given the opportunities to participate in excavations, present at conferences, and publish articles. Some funding is available to subsidize first year graduate tuition. 

Students interested in Museum Studies may add courses to their program that train them in all facets of museum work including curating collections, developing exhibitions, maintaining safe museum environments, and public outreach. Hands-on interactions with the collections housed at BYU’s anthropology museum, the Museum of Peoples and Cultures, provide unique supplementary experiences for students interested in any aspect of the anthropology.

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Department Beginnings

On July 1, 1945, Howard S. McDonald became the fifth president of Brigham Young University. One of his first official acts was the founding of a permanent chair of archaeology, and M. Wells Jakeman received the first appointment. Archaeology as a regular academic department came into being late in 1946. 

The conceptual framework upon which the Department’s program was built is further brought out in a statement appearing on October 28, 1960 (Christensen 1960, SEHA Newsletter, 69.1). 

…Archaeology is as comprehensive as the total history of all ancient civilization. What BYU should do, therefore, is to incorporate within its program all the main archaeological areas of the world. The principles and methods of the science should also be emphasized. In a word, this university should devote itself to the whole science of archaeology. These concepts…have, in fact, been those which have guided the development of the BYU Department of Archaeology from the beginning.

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Department Timeline


1946        Curriculum approved for courses for an undergraduate major and a masters degree in archaeology.

26 March: first archaeology class at BYU held.

13 Dec: Department of Archaeology established as a part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

BYU collection of ancient artifacts put in the care of the new Department of Archaeology.

1947        M. Wells Jakeman appointed department chair.

1950’s    Department of Archaeology conducts many expeditions and field method courses in Provo Canyon, around Utah Lake, and in the Four Corners Area.

1954        Department transferred to the college of Humanities and Social Sciences.

1960        Ross T. Christensen appointed department chair.

1961       BYU ancient artifact collection installed as the Museum of Archaeology; the acting repository for the Department of Archaeology.

1965        Department of Sociology and Anthropology split.

1 July: Anthropology program merges with the Department of Archaeology and becomes the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology.

1966        Museum of Archaeology changed to the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

1968        Merlin G. Myers appointed department chair.

1969     BYU Annual Field School in Archaeology instituted under the direc­tion of Dr. Matheny in Montezuma Canyon, southeastern Utah.

1979        John L. Sorenson appointed department chair.

1980        The Department of Anthropology and Archaeology is renamed to the Department of Anthropology.

                   The Office of Public Archaeology is established.

                   Asa S. Nielson is appointed the director of the Office of Public Archaeology.

1981        The Department of Anthropology is moved to the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences.

                   Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology re-located to Allen Hall (current location).

​1982        Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology renamed to the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

1986        Museum of Peoples and Cultures placed under the direction of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences.

1987        Donald W. Forsyth is appointed department chair.

                   Joel C. Janetski is appointed director of Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

1988        James D. Wilde is appointed the director of the Office of Public Archaeology.

1993        John P. Hawkins is appointed department chair.

1996        Richard K. Talbot is appointed the director of the Office of Public Archaeology.

1999        Joel C. Janetski is appointed department chair.

                   Marti L. Allen appointed director of Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

2003        Certificate in Museum Practices program approved.

2006        David P. Crandall is appointed department chair.

2007        Paul Stavast is appointed director of Museum of Peoples and Cultures.