Anthropology and Archaeology

Program Requirements and Courses

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Additional Program Information

Why study anthropology or archaeology?

Anthropology studies all of the human experience across a range of perspectives, while archaeology examines our past through material remains such as objects, artifacts, sites and monuments. Together, they encompass the study of humankind.

Anthropology students examine how human biology sets the stage for human experience, how language works in social contexts, how people lived in the past and how those lives changed or how people in different places and in different parts of society organize and experience their current world.

Anthropologists may probe how environmental changes have been linked to social and cultural change, how gender, ethnicity or national identities shape human experiences, or how people think about love and romance in conditions of market liberalization and globalization.

Students of archaeology take courses in the method, theory and practice of the discipline, including studies in statistical analysis, geological landscapes and geographic information systems. Students deepen their curiosity and broaden their interests by exploring the history of the human world. Although archaeology is a narrower field, there is overlap between the two.

Why anthropology or archaeology at Sweet Briar?

Claire Zak '18
Claire Zak ’18 interns in Kazakhstan in the summer of 2016.

The anthropology major at Sweet Briar asks students to go beyond the idea that “cultures are different” to look at what those differences mean within specific historical, political and social contexts. Students learn how common processes and connections help us understand different cultures. Majors gain an understanding of anthropology practices, from the field’s emergence as a 19th-century discipline to its part in the contemporary global movement.

Students take courses that are regionally focused — on Africa, the Mediterranean or the Middle East — and courses that conceptually and ethnographically explore a topic. Such topics could include family and kinship, forms of exchange and the meaning of commodities, or rituals and beliefs.

Students pursue their own research projects and learn to write purposefully in different styles. Some develop their majors while studying abroad though Sweet Briar’s JYF program or completing internships in countries such as Greece, Croatia, South Africa, Japan, Ireland and Turkey.

As seniors, majors undertake a culminating research project resulting in a substantial paper that is presented to the community.

Studying archaeology at Sweet Briar is a distinctive experience in which students and faculty can take advantage of our campus — a historical landscape of reflecting antebellum and postbellum life of a plantation and its occupants. Our 3,250 acres include a plantation house, a slave dwelling, historic cemeteries and early 20th-century trash pits. The campus is a natural laboratory for field, lab and archival studies.

Each student majoring in archaeology is required to complete a field and/or laboratory internship. Students have worked and studied in North America, Greece, Italy, Japan and Kazakhstan. An international component addresses crucial issues such as cultural heritage and patrimony. Our program articulates with arts management, art history, history and classics.

What can you do with an anthropology or archaeology major?

Anthropology and archaeology are part humanities, part science, part social science. As much as any other fields, these disciplines develop skills — such as effective writing and speaking, critical thinking and analysis — that can be applied in any endeavor.

Our anthropology graduates become lawyers, teachers, urban planners, social workers and entrepreneurs. They work in public health, social services, investment banking, marketing and media, international NGOs, museums and heritage sites, and in the arts and publishing.

Many archaeology graduates pursue similar paths, or continue their studies in graduate programs in the U.S. and internationally in anthropological archaeology, classical studies and historic preservation. Recent graduates have obtained jobs in cultural resource management and historical museums.