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Anthropology and Museum Studies

Student Handbook

Welcome to Anthropology and to our Department of Anthropology. Your studies will encompass all the world's continents and peoples including those in the distant past. Together we can seek to understand how, when and why human beings evolved and developed diverse social behaviors.

While completing an Anthropology Major at CWU you will be expected to develop two broad areas of study: biological anthropology, or the study of humans as biological organisms, and cultural anthropology, the study of humans as cultural organisms.

Biological anthropologists hope to explain the evolutionary histories of our species and the many species of primates to which we are related. Together we will trace the origins of early primate species, and critically think about the forces that have shaped biological and behavioral diversity within the Primate Order, and the physical diversity within modern human populations.

Cultural anthropologists aim to understand the nature and organization of peoples' experiences in different societies, including our own. Together we will explore both the similarities and differences among past and present cultures, and seek answers to our questions about why societies and institutions vary.

Most anthropologists specialize in a subfield, and so anthropology becomes as diverse as the characteristics and activities of human beings. As an undergraduate student you should develop basic knowledge in several subfields. You will find that all of these fields are vital to anthropology's holistic approach. You will improve your research skills by engaging yourself in the comparative methods and field research of two or more of the subfields.

Some of the subfields to which you will be introduced here at CWU are:

  • paleoanthropology and archaeology, which emphasize study of past human populations
  • human osteology (forensics) and human genetics
  • descriptive linguistics and sociolinguistics involving the study of human languages
  • primatology, emphasizing the study of primates and human-primate relationships
  • ethnography and ethnology, the study and analysis of the psychological, political, economic, social structure, medical, religious or ecological aspects of human adaptations
  • applied anthropology which involves practical approaches to solving human problems


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