Research, Development, and Hot Topic

Research

Research of anthropology here at Michigan State University not only takes place in the Great Lakes region, but worldwide in places like Australia, Belize, South Africa, Greece, and Israel. One of the leading researchers here is Gabriel Wrobel, who also leads study abroad programs in Belize, has focused his research on studying ancient Mayan culture and daily life. One of his papers, entitled “Ancient Maya Stone Tools and Ritual Use of Deep Valley Rockshelter, Belize” focuses on the Mayans use of stone tools in their religious endeavors, such as sacrificing(human, animal, spiritual, etc.) as well as the different rock formations in Belize that were utilized by them.

Interview

Why did you decide to focus your research on Belize?

I did a field school there as a student and fell in love with the country and the people, including the archaeological community working there

I read that you help lead study abroad programs in Belize for anthropology students, what kind of work do these students do while there?

Each student is rotated through a series of sub-projects on which they assist project leaders with various tasks and in the process acquire skills related to basic archaeological methods, such as survey, lab analysis, bioarchaeology, speleo archaeology, etc

What was your goal in publishing this paper about the ancient Mayan tools and the Deep Valley Rockshelter?

We were trying to understand how the Maya were using these rockshelter sites. Was it just a shelter that they camped at occasionally? Were they religious sites used as shrines or the focus of ritual? If so, what kind of ritual? So, we took the data from one of these sites (DVR) and tried to see which of these the stone tools were most consistent with.

Officials_at_Marmes_Rockshelter
Example of an ancient Mayan Rockshelter

Hot Topics

  • Linguistic anthropologists were able to use technology to better understand the migrations made into the Americas, while also understanding Isolates(languages with no connection to any others) better. This article can be found here.
  • New research shows how heavy rainfall in East Asia, specifically China, was more than 400 km more north in the past then in present times, and how this rainfall altered the culture of China today. This article can be found here.
  • In the Baltic Region, it has been discovered that the Baltic hunter-gatherers were not taught agriculture from peoples from the Middle East as with the rest of Western and Central Europe, but acquired this knowledge through the interactions between them and other communities, not through the sharing of genes as it was thought before. This article can be found here.
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Undergraduate Experiences and Professional Goals

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Undergraduate Experiences

My interest in anthropology was sparked at an early age as I have always been interested in learning about different cultures, societies, and what really makes us who we are. Do we learn more from our biology or through our environment. In Anthropology we study the environmental aspect of this topic, but also how the environments came to be.

At Michigan State University, where I am currently a freshman, the degree program is more generalized, so that when we leave we have many different options to look at in relation to our future goals. The curriculum here has us study not just cultural anthropology, but also physical anthropology, as well as introducing us to archeology, as many people with degrees in anthropology work as archaeologists, doing field work, later on.

Most Undergraduate students will take courses in their first year dealing with introducing basic topics in anthropology, archaeology, culture and human behavior. With the second year comes a more broad learning experience where students can choose what region of the world  to focus their degrees on, such as Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia. During the third and fourth years, most students will begin to take courses in method and theory, as well as seminar courses.

 

Professional Goals

One of the first job prospectives that anthropology majors think of is in the archeology field, where the median pay is around $61,000. This field is growing more every year, and it is estimated to grow 4% over the course of 2014-2024. Not only do anthropologists work in archeology fields though, but many will work for governments, in academia, for non-profit organizations, as well as in the business world.

One of the largest employer fields for anthropologists today is through the government. Anthropologists help with researching the effects on many government funded policies, and the effects, they help with forensics through police departments, as well as with the defense department helping to analyze data. Anthropologists also help in the business world, as their ability to do research helps them to take a business, or product, and they are able to help target the prime group of people to market a product or service towards.

The largest employer of anthropologists however, remains in the academic field, with many finding work as professors, researchers, as well as publishing papers, and applying for grants. I was able to interview Gabriel Worbel, a professor at MSU, and ask him about his reasonings for studying anthropology and his choice to become a professor.

Interview

What made you decide to study anthropology when you went to college?

An interest in understanding all the diversity I was being exposed to in college. People from different cultures, different parts of the world. And then seeing how that had been happening throughout human history.

What led you to become a professor? Any tips for students who someday want to become a professor?

I liked the idea of staying in college forever! Plus getting to do research for a living. The path is really difficult. Most people who begin it don’t finish. So, make sure you understand what you are getting into.

What type of research are you currently apart of here at MSU? Have you completed research at other institutions as well?

I taught at Ole Miss for 10 years before I came here. I run an archaeological project in belize during the summers focusing on mortuary cave ritual of the Maya. I am also beginning a project studying the history of Papua New Guinea with colleagues from Australia.

For more information about job perspectives for people with an anthropology degree, you can find out more here, and for a more detailed look at information there is a mass amount of information through the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which can be found here.