A-to-Z Index

We encourage students to take courses that reflect the breadth of anthropology as a discipline.  The general anthropology option, in which students do not declare a concentration, is the foundation program for students taking the major.  It provides a strong theoretical, topical and methodological introduction to the the field as represented by the sub-disciplines of cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology and cultural linguistics.  It is designed to provide a base for students wishing to pursue graduate training in Anthropology, or use the anthopological perspective in other endeavors.

Alternatively, students majoring in anthropology may choose to concentrate in one of the three sub-disciplines of anthropology taught at JMU, allowing students to design a curriculum most appropriate to their interests. Each concentration consists of four or more courses from anthropology and other disciplines which share a common focus. Because of the range of opportunities within each concentration, it is important that students consult with their advisers to choose courses that suit their particular needs and interests.

For more information on the course requirements for each of the concentrations described below and the general anthropology option, click here.

The anthropology concentrations are:

Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology is at the core of anthropology. It provides students with in-depth experience in the interpretation and comparison of cultures. It is closely linked to the humanities and to other social sciences. Students learn what culture is, how different cultural systems and forms of social organization work, how language both reflects and constitutes culture, and methodological and theoretical frameworks for interpreting cultural differences and similarities. Students work closely with cultural anthropology faculty to choose a series of electives from both within and outside of the department to refine their own research interests. Students are encouraged (but not required) to become proficient in a foreign language beyond the level required for the B.A. and to develop a regional area of specialization through course work or a minor (e.g. Latin American studies, Africana studies, Middle Eastern studies, Asian studies). Outside upper-level electives are recommended in history, sociology, economics, religion, modern foreign languages and political science. Students are encouraged to pursue study abroad, ethnographic field school and internship opportunities.


Archaeology is the study of the development and change of human societies from the prehistoric past to the present through the identification, gathering and interpretation of material remains and/or artifacts. While a major contributor to biological anthropology and forensics, archaeology is most closely tied to cultural anthropology and has been described as cultural anthropology in the past tense. As a major contributor to the emerging discipline of historical archaeology, the field has strong ties to the practice of history. Students planning a career in archaeology should enroll in an archaeological field school. Those interested in historical archaeology should consider the interdisciplinary historical archaeology minor. Archaeology students are also encouraged to take ANTH 435, Ethnographic Genres and Methods. This sub-discipline shares strong methodological and thematic ties with history, geology, geography, biology and art history, and upper-level course electives from these areas are encouraged. Students are encouraged to consider co-majoring or minoring in these fields as a complement to their education.

Biological Anthropology

The focus of biological anthropology is the study of human biology from an evolutionary perspective.  Biological anthropologists are interested in understanding how and why the human species became what it is today. Thus, it involves the study of human evolution, human biology and its variation, human ecology (how humans interrelate with their environment), and primate behavior and biology (to place humans in the proper comparative context). Biological anthropologists also recognize that human culture, and learned behavior in general, are fundamentally important to understanding the human condition which leads them to emphasize a bio-cultural approach in which both biology and culture are integrated into a holistic understanding of humanity. Students work closely with biological anthropology faculty to choose electives from both within and outside of the department to refine their own research and scholarly interests. Upper-level electives in biology, psychology, and geography are recommended depending on the student's particular goals. Students might consider taking a minor or second major in biology, psychology, or geographic science.