Adam Van Arsdale

Van Arsdale side view
(781) 283-2935
B.A., B.S., Emory University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Michigan

Adam Van Arsdale

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Engaged in questions on the evolution of biological variation and its connections to culture through the fossil record.

I am currently involved in three related areas of work. My interest in the early evolution and dispersal of the genus Homo takes me to the country of Georgia regularly where I am involved in a variety of research activities associated with the Paleolithic site of Dmanisi. Relating to the Pleistocene evolution of Homo , I also work on a variety of questions related to the changing demography and ecology of humans over the past 2 million years. Finally, in 2009 I began a new project that grew out of my teaching interests related to the categorization of biological variation, and the concept of race in particular. For this project we are developing methods for the collection of 3D facial scan data that can be used to not only document facial variation across individuals and groups, but also to look at how this variation is perceived and categorized by others.

As the lone biological anthropologist at Wellesley, I try to cover some of the essential ways human biological variation can be understood from an evolutionary perspective and how it intersects and interacts with other aspects of human society. In addition to the introductory course in physical anthropology, I teach courses related to human evolution, human genetics, osteology, and forensic anthropology. I address issues of race and biological categorization, as well as the increasing ubiquity of human genetic information and its significance for how we understand the concept of "being human." I also have begun teaching a first-year seminar intended to introduce students to the field of anthropology through a topic near to my heart—food.

In addition to my work at Wellesley College I try to maintain an active role in the broader anthropology community through my memberships in the American Anthropological Association, American Association of Physical Anthropologists, and the Paleoanthropology Society. Since 2010 I have been the coordinator for the Dmanisi Paleoanthropology Field School, run jointly with the Georgia National Museum.

My personal interests are in many ways a reflection of my professional activities. I enjoy the quantitative and probabilistic environment provided by baseball (and the hot dogs and beer). I enjoy nearly all outdoor activities, but especially if they are shared with members of my family or my dog. And like any good student of evolution, I like food, both in preparation and consumption.