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UMaine Anthropology Department celebrates its 50th anniversary

Last month, the University of Maine’s Department of Anthropology, a division within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, celebrated its now 50-year history by hosting a department-wide reception and ceremony in the Collins Center’s Hudson Museum. The celebration, which was held from 1:30-4:30 p.m. on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 24, was attended by nearly 75 students, alumni and faculty members of the UMaine anthropology community, as well as President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

Throughout the ceremony, members of the Anthropology Department were given the opportunity to meet and converse with one another, and to view a photographic presentation of the department’s history. The photos showed the early years after the department was founded in 1969 leading up to recent events. President Ferrini-Mundy and department chair Gregory Zaro, together with Professor of Anthropology and Quaternary Studies Emeritus David Sanger, spoke in turn on its history and progression during the last half-century. Sanger has been a member of the UMaine Anthropology Department since its founding in ‘69. Sanger’s fellow professor emeritus and original department faculty member, James Acheson, was unable to make the ceremony in person. His remarks, which had been prepared earlier, were presented by Zaro.

UMaine’s Department of Anthropology is comprised of nearly 12 faculty members, seven faculty associates and another three cooperating members. The department serves a fluctuating amount of approximately 100 undergraduate students and 20 graduate students. Many of the Anthropology Department’s faculty are currently engaged in research or administrative collaboration with other entities and academic programs at the university, including close collaborative efforts with the Climate Change Institute and the Maine Folklife Center. 

Anthropology Department faculty members have also been regularly recognized by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for their excellence in service, research and creative achievement in the last five years. Alice Kelley, a cooperating assistant professor in the department and an assistant research professor with the Climate Change Institute, was profiled by the New York Times for her work while monitoring the erosion of shell middens along Maine’s coast in 2017. Last year, she joined Professor of Anthropology and Climate Sciences Daniel Sandweiss, a three-time recipient of the Society for American Archeology’s Presidential Recognition Award, on a research expedition to the Ostra Collecting Station in Peru. The data Sandweiss’ team collected on a number of sling-stone piles is now being analyzed and could constitute the oldest yet evidence of warfare in the Western Hemisphere.

“From my perspective as an archaeologist, the Anthropology Department has grown substantially over the last 50 years,” Bonnie Newsom, an assistant professor of anthropology and UMaine Anthropology Department alumnus, explained. “We have been a leader in interdisciplinary research at UMaine, beginning with a multi-year project at the Hirundo Wildlife Refuge in the 1970’s, which was one of the first projects designed to bring together archaeologists, geologists, ecologists, and historians to explore the past. Additionally, our focus has expanded well beyond Maine. The archaeology program at UMaine is now global in scope with three archaeologists and research and classes on past human lifeways in places such as Croatia, Belize, and Peru.”

UMaine’s Department of Anthropology encompasses the academic disciplines of anthropology, geography and archeology. The department offers an anthropology bachelor’s program, as well as minors in geography and archaeology. Additional bachelor’s degrees in both international affairs and human dimensions of climate change are offered by the department. The department also offers a Master of Arts degree in quaternary and climate studies. Students may earn a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology by completing 36 credit hours of such courses, including ANT 101 and 102 — two introductory-level courses that introduce human behavior and culture — as well as ANT 317, ANT 400 and the senior seminar. Anthropology students are likewise allowed the opportunity to apply for summer courses of archeological fieldwork, which have been offered at the Machias Bay in Maine, and the city of Zadar on Croatia’s Adriatic coast.

Emily Haddad, the dean of UMaine’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, shared some of her thoughts on the program: “In the five years I have served as dean, it has been a pleasure to work with the Anthropology Department. [The] anthropology faculty members are excellent teachers who have an outstanding record of scholarly accomplishment.” 

“We are a small but powerful department doing amazing things in areas of teaching, research, and service,” Newsom said. “I look forward to seeing continued growth in the department and the many great accomplishments of our faculty and students in the years ahead.”

More information on the University’s Department of Anthropology can be found by visiting its website at, or by calling its South Stevens Hall office at 207.581.1894.


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