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What is a Primary Source in Anthropology?

A primary source in anthropology can be:

  • Anthropological Field Work or Notes
  • Interviews
  • Data
  • Audio Recording
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Legal Documents
  • Oral Histories 
  • Material Culture Artifact
  • Archival Documents
  • Newspapers 

Primary Source Databases

Use the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF)

The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF and eHRAF), in various formats, are a major resource in anthropology and cultural studies. The HRAF Project, headquartered at Yale University, is a cooperative project of a large group of universities and museums. The HRAF has organized millions of pages of ethnographic information into over 300 cultural groupings. A complete list of cultures currently included is available. Published and unpublished research on many social and cultural groups has been minutely analyzed and indexed by topic, to facilitate cross-cultural comparisons, and is added to each year. The HRAF files are a full-text resource containing mostly primary source material that would otherwise be difficult to obtain without time-consuming research.

Formats include the web version, eHRAF, for 1991 to the present, and microfiche files prior to 1991 located in cabinets in the Honnold/Mudd microforms area, first floor, Mudd Library.

There are two vital tools included in the eHRAF web site needed to navigate the HRAF: The Outline of cultural materials (OCM), provides category numbers for subjects. (Kinship: 601-609, for example) and the Outline of world cultures (OWC) provides an alpha-numeric identifier for each cultural group. (The Dogon: FA16, for example.)

By using the two Outlines in combination, you can quickly and easily compare material on two or more cultures on the same topic. The tools are built into the advanced search features with pull down menus.


***Additional resources for both students and instructors can be found here.

***And for more information on the HRAF Project, consult the HRAF web site.

Find Museums

In many areas of anthropology, museums are important resources. Their collections allow the researcher to see fossils, artifacts, musical instruments, actual archaeological digs, and more. 

These guides in the Honnold/Mudd reference collection can help you locate museums.

California museum directory HON SPCL ARCHIVE XZC3.7 .C324 1991
Museum companion to Los Angeles. HON SPCL AM13 .L67 S73 1996
The Official museum directory. Latest edition: HON REF DESK AM11 .M8 (National coverage)

Local collections of interest to students of anthropology, archaeology, and ethnomusicology: