Since its inception in the late 1960s, anthropology instruction at Purdue has taken a four-field approach to the discipline. This approach provides instruction in each of the standard fields of anthropology in the United States:
- Archaeology (the study of the human past through material culture)
- Biological Anthropology (the study of human evolution and comparative biology)
- Cultural Anthropology (the comparative study of human culture)
- Linguistic Anthropology (the comparative study of language and culture)
Instruction emphasizes the connections and overlaps among these fields, with faculty regularly teaching material outside of their own specialty areas. The program aims to outfit students with a sense of the integration of culture and biology, of diversity and assimilation, of past and present, and of continuity and change in the making of the human experience.