Document how humans live - examine their artifacts, beliefs, and values.

Anthropology's goal is to document the diversity of ways humans live and have lived throughout the world. Anthropologists go “off road,” working directly with people and their artifacts, to examine their beliefs and values, how they make a living, how they express themselves, how they interact, and how they affect and are affected by the natural world. 

Why is this important?  An increasingly globalized and multi-cultural world requires anthropological knowledge and insight.  Anthropology is essential to students interested in working in both the US and overseas on contemporary issues in areas such as social policy work, international development, public health, community-based advocacy, environmental and social justice, and cultural preservation.

Students in the JMU Anthropology program get to develop their interests by taking a wide range of classes in cultural, linguistic and biological anthropology and archaeology.  At JMU, Anthropology majors can also do individually-driven practical and hands-on research in internships, anthropology labs, excavations and field-schools, and on study-abroad programs.  Join us:  learn what is going on in the world and help to make it a better place.

Majors and Minors

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.

The minor is designed to complement existing majors in anthropology and history, and it may also be of interest to students in art history and public administration. While guided by the theoretical underpinnings of history and anthropology, the minor in historical archaeology is field- and research-oriented. Students enrolling in the program should anticipate courses that require significant effort outside of the classroom. More information

Students majoring in anthropology also have the opportunity to choose a concentration in one of the three sub-disciplines of anthropology, 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.

Anthropology majors can elect to concentrate in one of these three sub-disciplines:

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 geography.


We offer a great diversity of courses, research, and field possibilities that cover all four anthropology subfields (cultural, linguistics, archaeology, and biological).  Learn more.

Independent Study
We encourage our majors to conduct independent research projects (ANTH 486) with one of our faculty.  Contact an anthropology professor with who you might want to work with.

Internships and Assistantships

As an anthropology major, you can also serve as a course assistant (ANTH 485), helping a faculty member to organize and teach one of their courses.

Speak with an Anthropology faculty member with whom you might be interested in working, to learn more!

Field Programs:
Several of our faculty manage field schools and programs to give our majors and other students a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience in anthropology outside of the classroom. Learn more.

Back to Top