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University of Utah Department of Anthropology

Anthropology is the comparative, evolutionary and historical study of humankind. Our department takes a theoretically driven, empirically-informed approach to this study, and has special expertise in archaeology, genetics, behavioral ecology, demography. Our regional expertise is strongest in Africa, Australia, New Guinea, Latin America and western North America. We have a small but influential faculty, four of whom (Harpending, Hawkes, O'Connell, Wiessner) are members of the National Academy of Sciences. Many faculty members do research that crosses disciplinary and sub-disciplinary lines, and we encourage students to do the same.

 
Faculty in the News

Professor Polly Wiessner Elected to Prestigious National Academy of Sciences

wiessnerOn April 29th, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) announced the election of 84 new members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.  Professor Polly Wiessner from our own Department of Anthropology was among this newest group of members.
 
Professor Wiessner is well known for her research on exchange networks in Africa's Kalahari Desert and in Papua New Guinea and for her study of warfare and aggression, particularly among the Enga in Papua New Guinea .  Professor Wiessner is a frequent public speaker, giving invited talks at Universities and Conferences around the world.  She is also a popular instructor at the U of U, where students enjoy her courses on (The Cultures of Africa” and “The Anthropology of Food.”Professor Wiessner’s nomination and election to the Anthropology sub-section of the NAS places her among 83 fellow members (2014).  The election of Professor Wiessner brings the total number of NAS members currently in the Department of Anthropology to four.  Professor Henry Harpending was elected in 1996, Professor Kristen Hawkes and Professor James O’Connell were elected in 2002 and 2006, respectively.  Former NAS members from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah include the late Jesse Jennings, the late Julian Steward and Jeremy Sabloff (Santa Fe Institute).The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to furthering science and using science for the general welfare of society.  It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

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Professor Dennis O’Rourke publishes a perspective on the Bering land bridge and the peopling of the Americas in Science

dOrourkeGenetic and environmental evidence indicates that after the ancestors of Native Americans left Asia, once linked Siberia and Alaska. Archaeological evidence is lacking because it drowned beneath the Bering Sea when sea levels rose.

University of Utah anthropologist Dennis O’Rourke and two colleagues make that argument in the Friday, Feb. 28, issue of the journal Science. They seek to reconcile existing genetic and paleoenvironmental evidence for human habitation on the Bering land bridge – also called Beringia – with an absence of archaeological evidence.

Read more... [Faculty in the News]