Anthropology is the study of humankind from a cross-cultural perspective. Because anthropology views humankind as both a biological and cultural organism, it combines the biological and social sciences. The broad scope of anthropological studies has resulted in most scholars specializing in one of the following four major sub-areas. Ethnologists involve themselves in the comparative study of extant cultures. Archaeologists use scientific excavation techniques to define and expand our picture of cultures of the past-particularly those cultures for which no written records exist. Biological anthropologists study both the evolution of humankind and the variation and physical adaptations of modern peoples. Linguists study the nature and development of language and the relationship of language to culture.
The anthropology curriculum at Montana State University emphasizes a solid grounding in each of the sub-fields of the discipline, with field and lab research opportunities in archaeology, ethnography, and comparative ethnology. The content and organization of courses provide motivated students with a well-rounded knowledge of the theory and practice of anthropology, including particular skills which are useful in interpreting pre-historic social practices as well as the social and cultural constructions of historic and current-day social groups. With these aims in mind, the course offerings include subjects such as human prehistory, social and cultural anthropology, language and culture, and so forth.
Given its comprehensive approach to the study of social action, anthropology provides its graduates with the opportunity to obtain an array of conceptual skills that are applicable to a wide selection of occupations. Among the array of career opportunities, graduates with a sincere interest in the discipline often continue their course of study at other universities with respected graduate programs and find work as college and university teachers, researchers, or as affiliates of state and federal museums. Undergraduates with an associated teaching certificate may find employment in secondary schools. Recent interest and awareness of our national and state heritage has prompted many governmental agencies and private organizations to employ anthropologists in cultural resource management capacities. Furthermore, many businesses are beginning to appreciate the ways in which the unique anthropological perspective can contribute to their particular enterprise. An anthropology background provides students with the ability to understand small scale social organizations of all types; it is also particularly useful for those who may find themselves interacting with members of other social groups, either foreign or domestic.
In terms of course requirements, the anthropology option requires all students to fulfill a core group of classes, including at least one course in each of the four sub-fields of the discipline. Students then select additional courses within anthropology that help them pursue their own particular interests within the discipline. Independent research projects, conducted under the tutelage of an anthropology faculty member, either solely within the discipline or conducted in association with the Undergraduate Scholar's Program or the University Honors Program, provide further avenues of opportunity for students in anthropology.
The Anthropology Faculty is actively engaged in research on a variety of issues of current concern. Laurence M. Carucci emphasizes sociolinguistics, history of anthropological theory, ethnohistory and approaches to social change, symbolic approaches to cultural analysis, ritual analysis and religious belief, and the ethnology and historical study of contemporary Pacific societies. John W. Fisher, Jr. has focused his attention on archaeology of prehistoric peoples of the Northwestern Plains, ethnoarchaeology among forager societies of Africa, and zooarchaeology. Tom E. Roll (emeritus) is an archaeologist with special interest in the archaeology of the Northwestern Plains and Columbia Plateau, replicative studies and experimental archaeology. Michael Neeley conducts archaeological research in Jordan, and the American Southwest and Great Plains, and specializes in the study of stone artifacts. Leslie B. Davis, curator of archaeology and ethnology at the Museum of the Rockies, conducts Paleo-Indian archaeological research in Montana.