Evolutionary Anthropology Approach
Evolutionary anthropology focuses on understanding human biology and behavior within the framework of evolution and examines the interface between biology and culture.
Research in this area addresses such questions as: What were the evolutionary, environmental and cultural forces that have made humans an outlier in the natural world? How did distinctive modes of locomotion and life history evolve in the human lineage? Why is culture so much more important for humans than other primates? Why are humans so cooperative, especially on large scales? How do humans adapt biologically and culturally to the diverse environments in which they live? How have various diseases coevolved with humans and other primates? How do cultural changes and biological relationships among people affect patterns of disease transmission?
At ASU, 15 faculty members and over 40 graduate students are actively engaged in examining these questions.
ASU faculty are at the vanguard internationally for research in evolutionary anthropology. Our research intersects with other disciplines and spans a broad range of topics. Among these, three major research foci are human origins, the evolution of human uniqueness and biocultural studies of human biology. Our interdisciplinary approach includes research in the laboratory and in the field, engaging students in a variety of learning environments.
Because much of our research is field based, we also link to communities around the globe and work to develop conservation policies, understanding of disease, and training with these indigenous peoples. In addition, at ASU, we have extensive collections of primate and hominin fossil casts, modern human skeletal remains, the largest extant collection of dental casts, and the Ragsdale Pathology Collection.
Primary Research Foci
Human Origins – A synthetic approach to human evolution that includes phylogenetic systematics, paleoecology, primate and human functional morphology and behavior, developmental biology and life history, human and primate genetics, archaeology, other biological sciences and geology to provide biobehavioral integration of the study of our ancestors. The Institute of Human Origins (IHO) and the Human Origins, Evolution and Diversity theme have their major emphasis in this arena.
The Evolution of Human Uniqueness – Humans are outliers in the natural world. We live in an unprecedented range of environments, have more biomass than all wild mammals combined, rely on a wide range of tools, and cooperate in large groups. Understanding how humans became outliers involves the comparative study of the behavior of humans and other primates, the use of genetic data to reconstruct evolutionary history, the study of cultural evolution and paleoanthropological research. Faculty in the Adaptation, Behavior, Culture and Society (ABCS) research group focus on these questions.
Biocultural Studies of Human Biology – The biological and biocultural bases for understanding health and disease in the past and present include bioarchaeology, paleopathology, epidemiology, field ethnography and demography. Genetics and functional morphology are also associated with this research area. The Center for Evolutionary Medicine (CEM) provides a research focus in this area.
Current Regional Strengths
Evolutionary Anthropology Curriculum
- ASB 591 Professionalism
- ASM 579 Proposal Writing
Students will choose the courses that best fit their needs in consultation with their committee.