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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 in 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 a Graduate Certificate in Museum Practices.

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 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.

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.