What is Anthropology? What is Archaeology?
Humans are complex and diverse species, and anthropology gives us the tools to better understand who we are, how we used to be, and to shape what we might become.
To do so, the field brings together scholars from multiple subdisciplines. Archaeologists study past people using the material they leave behind. Biological anthropologists show us where biology and culture intersect. Cultural anthropologists explore the customs of people near and far, and linguistic anthropologists consider how and why we use language as we do. Applied anthropologists use knowledge created across the subdisciplines to help solve real-world problems in the present.
At Potsdam, students can explore all of these areas by majoring in Anthropology. Students who wish to specialize in archaeology can declare an Archaeological Studies major, which brings together courses from multiple disciplines.
The Curious Cases of Nasser Malit
Dr. Nasser Malit has volunteered his time with the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Unit out of Ray Brook, N.Y., since 2011. In the role of a forensic anthropologist, he narrows and focuses the almost endless possibilities surrounding a skeleton or a shard of calcium. Malit’s early research prepared him for this work, taking him deep into the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, where in 2004, he excavated a 7,000-year-old human skeleton in partnership with the famed paleoanthropologists in the Leakey family. His forensic anthropology students now benefit from his vast knowledge while examining bones in his lab.
The Man Behind the Lens
If you’ve recently gazed on photos of Jupiter’s murky gases or a panorama showing unprecedented detail on the surface of Mars, chances are, you were seeing Daniel Krysak’s work. Krysak ’08, who graduated from SUNY Potsdam with degrees in both speech communication and archaeology, with a minor in geology, is living the dream of just about every techie and space buff. He's one of the people behind all those stunning panoramas of Mars, for three different NASA missions.
The Destruction Guy
In chaos, destruction and ash, Dr. Jesse Millek '12 finds sweet order.
Sudden invading armies that freeze time in their wake, earthquakes that seal layers of history and flames that throw the past into stark relief — these are Millek’s forte, as he works to pioneer a systematic study of the destructive events of antiquity. A SUNY Potsdam alum with a double major in archaeological studies and art history and a suite of graduate degrees, honors and fellowships, Millek is a visiting scholar with the Department of Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan.
Nicole Weed '20
Nicole Weed ’20, a senior in the Department of Anthropology, is currently working on a Presidential Scholars project looking at how technology has affected language and communication over time. With opportunities to work as a research assistant for Dr. Lydia Rodriguez and as an intern for Dr. Faris Khan, the culmination of her experiences has been paving the way for graduate school and a successful career as a linguistic anthropologist.
Archaeology Students Dig at Camp Union
From June 24 to July 19, SUNY Potsdam Professor Dr. Hadley Kruczek-Aaron led an archaeology field school for 12 of her students at Camp Union in Potsdam—a Civil War training ground once used by soldiers preparing for battle. Students spent four weeks unearthing layers of dirt, digging excavation units, using sifter screens and bagging artifacts. The Meadow East Apartment Complex property in Potsdam became the students’ outdoor classroom for a month as they searched for historic remnants from the Camp Union occupation.
Dr. Faris Khan
Assistant Professor Dr. Faris Khan has spearheaded a number of projects at SUNY Potsdam since he started teaching here in the fall of 2017. Last semester he launched a new digital anthropology studio, started a digital anthropology internship and he created the inaugural anthropology film festival. His implementation of digital technologies, in and out of the classroom, is driven by an effort to make anthropology more accessible to the public.
Testing the Meadowood projectile point
As one of 21 students working on independent research projects through the Presidential Scholars Program this year, Alexis Michael ’18 took aim at an experiment that could change archaeologists’ theories about when Indigenous populations first used the bow and arrow.
Field School on John Brown’s Farm
Sitting in a hole, surrounded on all sides by layers of exposed soil in a 2-meter-long excavation unit, SUNY Potsdam junior Michael Madeiros ’19 uses a trowel to dig for artifacts on abolitionist John Brown’s farm.
Professor Timothy Messner
SUNY Potsdam professor Timothy Messner forges a piece of metal while leading a field trip to Farmhouse Forge in Potsdam as part of his experimental archaeology class.
In March 2017 a group of 20 Anthropology Club members traveled to Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts to attend the Northeastern Anthropological Association meetings.
“I’m really glad for the opportunity to do independent research while still an undergraduate. Not all colleges have these kinds of opportunities."Archaeology major