The Doctor of Philosophy program is characterized by two distinct foci: 1) The Archaeology of Complex Societies, pertaining to the emergence and spread of early civilizations in the Americas; and 2) Biocultural Medical Anthropology, the study of the influence of social relations and culture on psychological and biological dimensions of wellbeing. Our goal is to produce PhD graduates who will have acquired skills that will make them highly marketable for both academic and applied positions. Besides a cutting edge, in-depth knowledge of theory and literature in their specific subject area, students will acquire necessary skills such as teaching and grading experience, statistical competence, familiarity with numerous computer programs, grant writing ability, and foreign language reading facility. Students will have conducted firsthand research in their specific emphasis. For archaeologists this will require knowing excavation and mapping techniques, artifact analysis, GIS (geographic information systems) and other computer mapping capabilities, and familiarity with museum cataloging systems. For biocultural medical anthropology students, the skills learned for their research will include interviewing, participant observation, research design, physical and physiological measurement techniques, as well as SPSS, Anthropac, and programs for qualitative data analysis.

The UA program boasts certain unique qualities that set it apart. One advantage is proximity to Moundville Archaeological Park, a world-class archaeological site. The Moundville site is owned by UA in an arrangement that is virtually unique in the nation; moreover, the site is only 17 miles from the Tuscaloosa campus. Additionally, we offer biocultural perspectives from cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistic anthropology, psychological anthropology, and public health.

The archaeological component of the PhD program focuses on the emergence, spread, and organization of complex societies. From an archaeological perspective, complex societies are the consequence of the transformation from hunting and harvesting to food production, from an economy that moves people to food to one that moves food to people. The social, political, and economic effects of this transformation produced social orders classified by archaeologists as chiefdoms, kingdoms or early states. At the time of contact with Europeans, complex societies were found throughout the Americas. Our archaeology interests center on North America (primarily the Southeastern US), Mesoamerica, and Andean South America, three areas of the New World where ancient complex societies evolved.

The biocultural medical anthropology component of the doctoral program examines the interactions between sociocultural and biological determinants of wellbeing, especially regarding physical and psychological health states. Biocultural medical anthropology, a specific approach within the more general subfield of medical anthropology, strives to understand why people grow and develop as they do and why they may be at risk for health problems. Biocultural anthropologists attempt to use research findings for the benefit of communities, as well as care providers. It is part of the largest and fastest-growing subfield within anthropology and is increasingly relevant to research and training across a number of areas, from applied health sciences and transcultural psychiatry to epidemiology and community health development. The central feature of our approach is an effort to combine the biological and cultural aspects of medical anthropology. This biocultural perspective on health and illness is essential to the study of the topics in which the Department specializes: culture change and lifestyle influences on health, gender and mental health, and fetal and childhood growth and development, among others.