at ANTHROPOLOGY Dr. Sarah Surface-Evans is an archaeologist, whose research focuses on the relationship between human societies and landscape. Shes uses computer modeling techniques to explore how societies respond to climate change and modify their environment. Sarah's research provides a window into processes of culture change and the development of social complexity. In this photo she is collecting pollen samples near an Archaic shell midden in the Ohio River Valley to examine how these hunter-gatherers dealt with a period of global warming more than 6,000 years ago. Dr. Laura Cochrane is a cultural anthropologist, whose research concerns religious beliefs and the arts in Senegal, in context of the current economic crises that have roots in both global and local arenas. Senegal has a majority Muslim population, with Catholic and Protestant minorities, and a heritage of indigenous religions. Dr. Tracy Brown is an ethnohistorian who specializes in the study of 17th and 18th century Pueblo communities in New Mexico. She teaches courses on the history & contemporary life of Native Americans in the United States. The Anthropology Faculty at CMU are engaged in diverse research projects, which have extensive relevance to social, political, economic and cultural issues affecting our lives at local and global-scales. Our research also provides significant opportunities for you, our students, to participate in hands-on experiences and allows us to bring real-world examples into the classroom and beyond. To better understand demographic changes in the fossil record, Dr. Caspari’s research uses high resolution computed tomography to assess age-related histological changes in dental tissues. The new methods she is developing will allow researchers to more accurately assess age at death of human remains in archaeological and forensic settings. Dr. Rachel Caspari is a paleoanthropologist who studies Neanderthals and early modern humans who lived during the last Ice Age. She has worked on fossil human remains from Europe, Africa and Asia, and is especially interested in the evolution of longevity, its relationship to the development of human culture, and the development of menopause and diseases of senescence. Dr. Surface-Evans has conducted research in academic, CRM and governmental settings to support public education and the preservation of cultural heritage throughout the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. Dr. Tara Hefferan is a cultural anthropologist whose primary research interests include international development, globalization, and faith-based organizations in the US and Caribbean. With a focus on links between churches in Haiti and Michigan, she examines how economic development motivated by religious faith differs from that designed and deployed by professional developers. Dr. Hefferan also explores out-of-hospital birth, midwifery, and social movements in the US. She seeks to understand how the framing of “normal” birth inspires political movements both for and against the licensure of midwives at the state level.
Both research areas reflect Hefferan’s theoretical interest in the construction and contestation of “expert” knowledge. Dr. Cathy Willermet studies current and past human biological variation in Mexico. Her dataset includes dental morphological traits, observable on living and skeletal collections. Since dental traits are genetically controlled and don’t change quickly over time, they can be used to estimate genetic relationships among and between populations. Using dental traits, Dr. Willermet is tracing past population migrations in pre-European contact Mexico. She is studying the admixture and biological distance between groups such as the Aztec, Toltec, and Maya. These groups were in contact through trade, intermarriage, and warfare. Dr. Charles Hastings is an anthropological archaeologist whose primary research is the complex transition between the Central Andean and Upper Amazonian regions of Peru. Dr. Hastings combines archaeology, ethnohistory, and cultural anthropology to study the shifting boundary zone that has separated these regions for many centuries. The eastern flanks of the Andes are an elaborate mosaic of many closely spaced ecozones, each with a distinct mix of highly valued natural resources. A complex intermingling of cultural, ethnic, and political territories make this a fascinating area to learn how people of different backgrounds have interacted with each other through the ages. Dr. Hastings' research in the Andean-Amazonian transition of eastern Peru has been concentrated within the so-called “cloud forest,” a tangle of ferns, palms, and stunted trees draped with lichens, orchids, and vines above a thick, spongy mat of brightly colored mosses. Few archaeological projects have ventured into this land of deep canyons, towering cliffs, and thundering waterfalls, obscured by mist and fog much of the time and shrouded in mystery and legend. His Cloud Forest Investigations seek to shed light on the archaeological past of this region while collaborating with local NGO’s that seek a sustainable present and future for those now living within this surprisingly fragile environment. Dr. Athena McLean is an anthropologist who studies how people use and percieve their space and create landscape. She spends time with elderly people in their homes and communities to learn how they use technologies, to help them remain in their homes. She discovers some surprises, such at the ability of older persons to navigate difficult environments even using walkers, if those environments are very familiar to them, even if those environments may appear hazardous to outsiders. Dr. McLean's research demonstrates that in spite of the potential hazards of narrow, curved halls, with steps and gaps, and long staircases, this woman beautifully maneuvered with her home of over 60 years. This project involved six anthropologists as part of a 60-person research team that included physicians, engineers, neuroscientisits, and others, and involving 3 major Irish universitites and the Intel Corporation of Ireland. Archaeologist Cameron Griffith studies the use of caves by the ancient Maya in western Belize. He is interested in identifying the difference in the ritual and mundane uses of caves and the interrelationship between these activities and similar practices in neighboring ancient Maya cities. One of the many aspects of cave use that Professor Griffith is investigating is rock art. The ancient Maya created a wide variety of different types of art in the subterranean realm, including petroglyphs, sculptures, and paintings. Dr. Cochrane focuses on two themes: everyday ways people express their beliefs through the arts and ways people use their religious beliefs as motivation for local economic development projects. Through these two themes, she connects global religious networks with local expressions of faith, and global economic crises with local means of addressing economic challenges. Dr. Sergio Chavez is an anthropologist/archaeologist who has conducted excavations in Michigan, Connecticut, Peru, and Bolivia. His current research project is centered in the Lake Titicaca Basin of Peru and Bolivia, with an interdisciplinary team of well-known scholars from the US, Peru, and Bolivia in the fields of Geology, Paleobotany, Paleozoology, Human Biology, Ethnohistory, Ethnography/Ethnoarchaeology, and Archaeology. Dr. Chavez's diachronic and interdisciplinary research in the Titicaca Basin is aimed at documenting and understanding the bio-cultural adaptation of human populations over the last 8,000 years, at altitudes ranging from 12,000 to 14,000 ft above sea level. Over the years, Dr. Chavez has incorporated in his research students from Central Michigan University, Yale University, University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota, University of Cuzco in Peru, and the University of San Andres in Bolivia.
Dr. Chavez's project also includes diverse aspects of Applied Anthropology, including a bi-lingual adult education program in rural areas of Bolivia, which are financed and supported through his own NGO. Dr. Brown is also the NAGPRA consultant for the Museum of Cultural and Natural History at CMU, where she has assisted with efforts to repatriate human remains and funerary objects to tribes.See the full transcript