Subfields of Anthropology

Because the scholarly and research interests of most students are readily identifiable as centering in one of the four conventionally recognized subfields of anthropology – archaeology, linguistic anthropology, physical anthropology, and sociocultural anthropology – the Department formulates guidelines for study within each of these subfields. It is recognized, however, that the boundaries of these subfields are to some degree conventional and do overlap and fluctuate, and that significant scholarly and scientific work often requires that they be transcended.


Archaeology and prehistory are represented by a core group of full-time faculty within Anthropology and by supporting faculty in other departments such as Classics, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, History of Art, and Geology and Geophysics. Specialties include areal foci on Mesoamerica and South America, the Near East, China, and Africa; the origins of agriculture; the development of complex societies; and ethnoarchaeology. The Department has laboratory facilities for archaeological research, as well as access to major collections held by the Peabody Museum. Training is available also in methods of faunal analysis, ceramic analysis, archaeometallurgy, satellite image analysis and GIS (Geographic Information Systems). 

Biological Anthropology

The focus on the biological anthropology program is the evolution of humans and other primates, including the study of morphology, ecology and behavior. It draws additional strength from the other subfields of anthropology, especially archaeology and ecological anthropology. Outside anthropology, the program has close and long-standing links to the Departments of Genetics, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Geology, Surgery, and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The Department has also collaborated with the Departments of Mechanical Engineering, Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, Psychology, and Neurobiology. Facilities include computers, a dry lab with diverse fossil cast collections, and a dissection lab. Please visit the Yale Biological Anthropology Laboratories (YBAL)Yale Molecular Anthropology Laboratory,Yale Mammalian Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory, and the Yale Reproductive Ecology Laboratory websites for further information. The Peabody Museum of Natural History also offers extensive collections and resources.  

Sociocultural Anthropology

Many of the Department’s faculty offer course work and research supervision on topics in sociocultural anthropology, as do several other members of the University faculty located in other departments and schools. Areas especially well represented include East Asia (China and Japan), Southeast Asia, Latin America (including the Caribbean), Sub-Saharan Africa, Insular Pacific, and Afro-American cultures. Several members of the faculty are especially conversant with and sympathetic to political-economic-historical perspectives and approaches, and to analyses of social change and relations between cultural and political economy. Complementing that, several others share a common interest in symbolic and semiotic analyses. The former have many formal and informal relations with other segments of the social sciences, the latter with other segments of the humanities, at Yale. Gender is also another common interest shared by many faculty members.

Linguistic anthropology has also been a major component of the Department since its inception, and some degree of sophistication in the subject is, we hold, essential to most work in most other subfields of anthropology. Therefore, students in general, and especially those concentrating in sociocultural anthropology, are strongly urged to take advantage of the resources that this branch of the Department has to offer. Specialties of faculty members in the Department focusing on linguistic anthropology include areal foci on South and Southeast Asia; the relevance of language and linguistics to sociocultural description; the ethnographic study of conversation, literacy, gender, and affect; ethnoscience; semiotics; sociolinguistic change; and bilingualism. Faculty in the Departments of Linguistics, East Asian Languages and Literatures, Southeast Asian Studies, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, African Studies, and in the University’s various other language and literature departments and programs teach and supervise research in related topics. The Anthropology Department has its own language laboratory for teaching and research.