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One role of anthropology is the explanation of cultural similarities and differences. An important goal of anthropological archaeology is to explain the similarities and differences in ancient societies. Archaeology is our only source of information about societies and cultures that existed before written history.  

Over the years, our archaeological faculty has uncovered many of the differences that made each ancient society unique, as well as widespread regularities in the way societies grow, develop, and change. These discoveries have made it possible to generate hypotheses about ancient cultural and social behavior.

Our Museum has investigated the behavioral differences between Neanderthals and archaic modern humans; the social and economic strategies of hunters and gatherers; the transition from foraging to agriculture and animal domestication; the establishment of village life; the shift from egalitarian societies to those based on hereditary differences in rank; the creation of archaic states and empires; and the impact of Western colonialism on non-Western societies.

One product of our Museum’s research is a series of collections of artifacts, plant and animal remains, geological and radiocarbon samples, and other objects. While we are committed to curating these materials, we do not see them as ends in themselves. Rather, they serve as (1) the forensic evidence of past societies; (2) teaching aids for the education of students and the training of future archaeologists; and (3) sources of data for primary research on issues pertaining to anthropological archaeology.