About Program

Coordinated by Professor Linda Van Blerkom (Anthropology), Associate Professor Tammy Windfelder (Biology) and Assistant Professor Jill Rhodes (Anthropology)

Biological anthropology studies humans as the products of biology, culture, environment, and organism (developmental history).  It takes a comparative and evolutionary approach to understanding humans and their closest primate relatives.  It deals with important questions about human existence:  Where did we come from?  How did we get here?  What is our relationship to the rest of nature?  These and other concerns of the discipline go to the very core of what it means to be human and inform such debates as the biological validity of race or to what extent humans are innately violent.  This interdisciplinary major combines coursework in anthropology, biology, and chemistry in an attempt to deepen students’ understanding of human biology and behavior, of what it means to be human.  We teach and engage in field and laboratory research in primate and human behavioral ecology, osteology, paleontology, evolutionary genetics, infectious disease, and other areas designed to prepare students for graduate study or employment in biological and forensic anthropology as well as in human biology, primatology, human genetics, and the health professions.

Chimpanzee
Homo floresiensis skull compared with human
‘Lucy’ – Australopithecus afarensis

Students completing the major in biological anthropology are expected to fulfill the following learning objectives:

  • Basic understanding of human biology, from the molecular/cellular level up through organismic and populations levels (genetics, anatomy, morphogenesis, evolution, ecology).
  • Understanding of the core perspectives of anthropology (comparative, holistic, and evolutionary) and the four subdisciplines (cultural, linguistics, archaeology, and biological).
  • Ability to design a research project in biological anthropology and an understanding of the scientific method.
  • Awareness of the human species’ place in nature, its relationship to the rest of the animal kingdom, and its ecological embeddedness in planetary ecosystems.
  • Knowledge of human evolution and the biological and ecological underpinnings of human and primate behavior; appreciation of the relative contributions of biological and cultural influences on behavior.Ability to apply osteological or archaeological methods to the analysis of human skeletal remains and other evidence of prehistoric human activities.