Teaching eHRAF

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Teaching eHRAF

Teaching eHRAF is an innovative, interdisciplinary teaching resource for universities, colleges, and high schools aimed at providing faculty with ideas about how to use the eHRAF World Cultures and eHRAF Archaeology online databases in their curricula. Most of the exercises have been written by faculty and HRAF staff, focusing on general anthropology, general archaeology, medical anthropology, and research methods ranging from easy (Level I) to difficult (Level IV). Learn more.

Use the filters below to browse and search our collection of syllabi and lesson plans.




Exercise Contains:



Student Paper Guidelines for Using eHRAF: One Professor's Experience

Useful tips for faculty using eHRAF World Cultures for student assignments.

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: A Syllabus

Guidelines for writing a student paper using eHRAF World Cultures.

Understanding Ethnography: An eHRAF Workbook for Introductory Anthropology Courses

The purpose of the workbook is to give students a feel for ethnographic data, which should help their understanding of anthropological concepts and theories. Includes diverse topics in anthropology such as kinship, cosmology, witchcraft, storytelling, feuding, etc.

Ethnology and Ethnography in Anthropology

This eHRAF assignment contains a group presentation and individual paper.

Overview of Cultures & Ethnic Groups in Culture Summaries

General topics with focus on eHRAF’s Browse Cultures and Culture Summaries.

Short Paper on Basis of Marriage (OCM 581) and Arranging a Marriage (OCM 584)

Exercise for writing a paper that discusses the search results in ethnographic texts for the subjects Basis of Marriage (OCM 581) in one culture and Arranging A Marriage (OCM 584) in another culture.

Short Paper on Sacred Objects & Places (OCM 778) and on Animism (OCM 774)

Exercise for writing a paper that discusses Sacred Objects and Places (OCM 778) in one culture, and Animism (OCM 774) in another culture.

Native Peoples of South America: A Comparative Ethnography 

This project is used in an anthropology course on the Native Peoples of South America. The questions were written to match the topics covered in Betty Meggers’ Amazonia: Man and Culture in a Counterfeit Paradise (Smithsonian Institution, 1996).

A Cross-Cultural Study of Violence

Using the ethnographies from assigned literature and eHRAF World Cultures, this exercises explore violence cross culturally and tries to determine, through careful comparisons, if there are any general explanations for violence.

Explorations in Cross-Cultural Anthropology Part 1: Syllabus

Sociocultural anthropology provides ways of seeing other peoples and cultures in their own terms. In this course, students will learn how anthropologists see the world and how anthropologists analyze and explain cultures.

Basic Cross-Cultural Research Assignment

The purpose of this assignment is to become familiar with the contents and structure of the eHRAF World Cultures by learning to navigate around the database and by performing searches on topics of the students’ choice.

Ecological Function of a Behavioral Institution in a Nomadic Society: A Short Paper

The subject of this exercise is the cultural ecological function of a behavioral institution in a non-Western nomadic society.

Ecological Function of a Behavioral Institution in a Pastoral or Horticultural Society: A Short Paper

The subject of this exercise is the cultural ecological function of a behavioral institution in a pastoral or horticultural society.

Political Function of a Religious Institution: A Short Paper

The subject of this exercise is the political function of any religious institution in a non-western society of the student’s choosing.

Ritual Kinship: A Short Paper

The subject of this exercise is the function of ritual kinship in a non-western society.

Cross-Cultural Correlation Study

For this assignment, students create a 5-7 page paper investigating some aspect of cultural anthropology.

Library Assignment: Finding Anthropological Resources

This exercise gives students a choice between an ethnographic (focusing on a single culture) or ethnological (cross-cultural) approach to research using eHRAF World Cultures.

Culture and Aging: A Research Project in Completed Fertility & Subsistence Practices, Productivity & Aging, and Social Networks & Aging

The challenge in this study of the cultural context of aging is to develop an understanding of how different ecological and social conditions are related to variation in the pattern and process of aging and passage through the lifecourse.

Eating Salt and Symbols: Exploring the Relationship of Biology and Culture with eHRAF

The intention of this assignment is to illustrate principles of scientific method by using the eHRAF World Cultures database to explore the relationship between diet and attitudes toward salt.

Bizarre Foods

Through in-class activities, group work, and illustrated lectures (including segments from hit TV shows ‘Bizarre Foods’ and ‘Without Reservation’) this course examines “bizarre foods” and the cultural links they involve.

Exercises Using eHRAF World Cultures

Broadly, these exercises are designed to give you not only a feeling for the range of cultural variation, but also to get a feeling for different methodological approaches in anthropology. Some of the exercises are designed to replicate cross-cultural generalizations; others to explore one or more cultures.

Marriage & Choice In-Class Activity

In this exercise, students will read and analyze the concept of marital choice among a variety of societies across the globe.

Hunter Gatherers & Agriculturalists In-Class Activity

In this exercise, students will compare and contrast social and political dimensions of life between a Native American hunter-gatherer group and an agricultural group.

Sexuality In-Class Activity

In this activity, students will conduct basic research on the diversity of social attitudes towards premarital sexual relations across the globe.

Hunter-Gatherers (Explaining Human Culture)

These exercises are designed to accompany the Explaining Human Culture: Hunter-Gatherers module which gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research on hunter-gatherers, or more precisely, what we think we know, and to point out some of the things we do not yet know.

Hunter-Gatherers In-Class Activity

In this exercise, students will break into groups and compare social factors correlated with hunter gatherer subsistence systems.

Dwellings (Explaining Human Culture)

These eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the Dwellings Module: Explaining Human Culture which gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about predictors of dwellings from their shape, size and building materials. Such predictors are expected to be most useful to archaeologists wishing to find cultural indicators of cultural and social life from remains of dwellings.

Dwellings In-Class Activity

In this exercise, students will explore the differences in dwelling size between matrilocal and patrilocal households.

Kinship and Egalitarian Principles Using the eHRAF World Cultures Database and the HRAF Homepage

Among the Hopi, clan membership is very important for a number of reasons. For this assignment, students will be using a specific textual description available in the eHRAF World Cultures database that describes Hopi kinship and clan life. They will also encounter a discussion about egalitarianism that they will need to assess.

Kinship and Land Use

In the Marshall Islands, plots of land are shared by kin group members.This assignment uses a specific textual description available in the eHRAF World Cultures database about taro plots and how they are distributed to kin group members.

Altered States of Consciousness (Explaining Human Culture)

These eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the module Altered States of Consciousness in Explaining Human Culture. After reviewing evidence for practices involving altered states of consciousness (ASC) in prehistory, the module gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about ASCs, from trances and their frequency, predictors of variation in types of trances, vision quests, and dreaming and out-of-body experiences.

Trance In-Class Activity

This exercise allows students to read, compare, and contrast ethnographic work on Middle America and Caribbean trance practices. A downloadable PDF activity sheet is available.

Altered States Compared In-Class Activity

In this exercise, students will gain experience interpreting ethnographic case reports addressing altered states of consciousness in two societies, and situating these within ethnographic trance typologies.

Childhood (Explaining Human Culture)

These exercises are designed to accompany the module Childhood in Explaining Human Culture. The module gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about childhood, including kin relations, socialization practices, and gender differences in child behavior.

Adolescence (Explaining Human Culture)

girls crafting

These eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the Adolescence module in Explaining Human Culture, which gives a general picture of what we have learned from cross-cultural research about adolescents and the various theories that may explain cultural similarities or difference.

Religion (Explaining Human Culture)

These eHRAF exercises are designed to accompany the Religion Module: Explaining Human Culture, which summarizes what cross-cultural research tells us about predictors and possible explanations of religious variation.

General Archaeology Research Project

This high-school level archaeological project contains four parts: an oral aspect, physical aspect, power point presentation and speeches.

Overview of Archaeological Traditions

This exercise is designed for students to gain a better general understanding of archaeological traditions in terms of their locations, settlement systems, subsistence, relative time periods and other cultural markers.

Burial Practices: an eHRAF workbook for introductory archaeology courses

These exercises, designed for in-class use or as homework assignment in an introductory archaeology course, are linked to data in eHRAF World Cultures and eHRAF Archaeology. The purpose of the workbook is to give the students a feel for archaeological regional differences and an understanding of the structure and functionality of the eHRAF databases.

Hide Working and Tanning Leather

Cross-cultural exercises on hide working and tanning allow students to explore the ethnographic record on leather and related tasks in eHRAF.

Work in Skins Worldwide In-Class Activity

In this exercise, students will compare  methods, materials, and tools used by societies across the world to work in animal skins

Work in Skins in North America In-Class Activity

In this assignment, students will research strategies for working in skins in North America, and synthesize this data by extrapolating the material evidence hide-working practices might leave in the archaeological record.

Topics in Medical Anthropology

The following exercises are designed to find illness causation and medicinal treatments across cultures using eHRAF World Cultures.

Ethnobotany In-Class Activity

This exercise asks students to explore ethnobotanical practices related to a chosen plant across the world.

Causes of Disease

In places where there is great cultural diversity, it is important for medical staff to understand and be aware of cultural differences in order to treat patients effectively.

Reproductive Health

Using the eHRAF World Cultures database, compare and contrast reproductive stages across cultures.

Short Paper on Nutrition (OCM 146)

The goal of this project is for students to do research on the topic of nutrition using eHRAF World Cultures (eHRAF).

Project #1: Research Questions and Hypotheses

The main goals of this exercise are: 1) to reinforce knowledge about the fundamental concepts of research, 2) start thinking about the cross-cultural research project undertaken throughout the course, and 3) become familiar with eHRAF World Cultures. Topics include Residence, Puberty & Initiation, and Arranging a Marriage.

Project #2: HRAF Data Recovery (requires SPSS)

The main goal of this project is to develop a cross-cultural data set to be used in Project #3. In order to attain this goal, students  first need to generate hypotheses that can be tested with cross-cultural data, and develop conceptual and operational definitions of the hypotheses’ variables.

Project #3: Group Poster Presentation

The main goal of this exercise is to develop and present research posters based on the cross-cultural data  collected during Project #2.

Cross-Cultural Comparison with eHRAF World Cultures

In this course, students will be introduced to formal approaches (methods) used to describe and analyze the social world (social research). An introduction is provided to both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including the use of descriptive statistics and computer research technologies. As research method students are “apprentice researchers,” an emphasis will be placed on ethical considerations of the research process.

Tattooing and Cross-Cultural Research

Students will learn the basic techniques of cross-cultural survey research, and then apply these techniques while working on their own research project using the Human Relations Area Files as a database.