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Department of Anthropology

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Anthropology Club

In March 2017 a group of 20 Anthropology Club members traveled to Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts to attend the Northeastern Anthropological Association meetings. 

Learn more about the Anthropology Club

“I’m really glad for the opportunity to do independent research while still an undergraduate. Not all colleges have these kinds of opportunities." 

Alexis Michael Archaeology major

Dr. Timothy Messner talks about SUNY Potsdam's Anthropology Festival featuring an Atlatl battle where students compete by throwing darts at a target with an atlatl, an ancient hunting tool.