Anthropology is the comparative study of human diversity through time and across the world. Its scope spans the humanities, the social sciences, and the biological, physical, and evolutionary sciences. As a history of the human species, anthropology studies all human biological and behavioral variation from the earliest fossil records to the present; it includes the study of nonhuman primates as well. As a social science, anthropology aims at uncovering the patterns of past and present societies. As one of the humanities, anthropology seeks to understand the ways cultural meaning and political power have shaped human experience.

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, anthropology consists of three subfields: archaeology—the investigation and analysis of the remains from past cultures, uncovered through excavation; biological anthropology—the study of human evolution and the roots of the biological and genetic diversity found among contemporary peoples; and sociocultural anthropology—the comparative study of society, politics, economy, and culture, whether in historical times or in our contemporary moment. UW–Madison also offers some classes in anthropological linguistics—the analysis of language and its place in social life. Comparative and empirical work—and fieldwork in particular—are the hallmarks of anthropology on this campus.

Thus, anthropology at UW–Madison is characterized by a comparative point of view, a focus on humans and societies in all their variation and similarity, and an effort to reveal and understand the complex but organized diversity that has shaped the human condition, past and present.

Students wishing to declare an anthropology major should go to the Department of Anthropology, 5240 William H. Sewell Social Science Building.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Fulfilled with completion of University General Education requirements Quantitative Reasoning a (QR A) and Quantitative Reasoning b (QR B) coursework. Please note that some majors may require students to complete additional math coursework beyond the B.A. mathematics requirement.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language

Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include one 3+ credit course in the biological sciences; must include one 3+ credit course in the physical sciences
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

ANTHRO 105 Principles of Biological Anthropology3
ANTHRO 300 Cultural Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography3
ANTHRO 490 Undergraduate Seminar 13
Select two of the following:6
Principles of Archaeology 2
The Emergence of Human Culture
The Origins of Civilization
Additional credits in ANTHRO to reach 30 credit minimum for the major. 115
Total Credits30

1By arrangement with a supervising professor, certain students may substitute a thesis for 4 of the required credits, to be written in biological anthropology, archaeology, or sociocultural anthropology.

Residence and Quality of Work

2.000 GPA in all ANTHRO and major courses

2.000 GPA in 15 upper-level major credits in residence2

15 credits in ANTHRO, taken on campus

2Courses 300 level and higher are counted as upper level, with the exception of Quechua and Yucatec Maya language courses (ANTHRO/​LACIS  361 Elementary Quechua, ANTHRO/​LACIS  362 Elementary Quechua, ANTHRO/​LACIS  363 Intermediate Quechua, ANTHRO/​LACIS  364 Advanced QuechuaANTHRO/​LACIS  376 First Semester Yucatec Maya, ANTHRO/​LACIS  377 Second Semester Yucatec Maya).

Students planning to go on to graduate-level study should talk to their advisor about foreign languages, field experience, or other training needed for advanced anthropological research. Additional courses in related fields should be discussed with an advisor in the department.

Distinction in the Major

Undergraduate students who are not enrolled in the honors program are eligible to be recommended by their advisor to the department to receive Distinction in the Major if they have maintained a 3.500 GPA in their major and have written an exceptional senior thesis or an exceptional paper in an undergraduate seminar or independent study.

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Major in Anthropology in consultation with the Anthropology advisor(s).

Honors in the Anthropology Major Requirements

To earn a B.A. or B.S. with Honors in the Major in Anthropology students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 overall university GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA for all ANTHRO courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete the following coursework:
    • ANTHRO 490 Undergraduate Seminar or one seminar at the 600 level; choose from:​
ANTHRO 601 Proseminar in Biological Anthropology3
ANTHRO 603 Seminar in Evolutionary Theory3
ANTHRO 604 Seminar: Topics in Physical Anthropology of the Living3
ANTHRO 606 Ethnicity, Nations, and Nationalism3-4
ANTHRO 690 Problems in Anthropology3-4
  • A two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in ANTHRO 681 Senior Honors Thesis and ANTHRO 682 Senior Honors Thesis, for a total of 6 credits.
  • 9 or more credits, taken for Honors, with 3 credits in each section of Anthropology (biological, archaeological, and cultural) and a B or better earned in each course


ANTHRO 105 Principles of Biological Anthropology3
ANTHRO 302 Hominoid Evolution3
ANTHRO 303 Human Skeletal Anatomy4
ANTHRO 304 Heredity, Environment and Human Populations3
ANTHRO/​BOTANY/​ZOOLOGY  410 Evolutionary Biology3
ANTHRO 411 The Evolution of the Genus, Homo3
ANTHRO 454 Study Abroad: Topics in Biological Anthropology1-6
ANTHRO 458 Primate Behavioral Ecology3
ANTHRO 601 Proseminar in Biological Anthropology3
ANTHRO 603 Seminar in Evolutionary Theory3
ANTHRO 604 Seminar: Topics in Physical Anthropology of the Living3
ANTHRO 605 Seminar-Current Problems in Paleoanthropology3
ANTHRO/​NTP/​PSYCH/​ZOOLOGY  619 Biology of Mind3
ANTHRO 658 Ecological Models of Behavior3


ANTHRO 104 Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity3
ANTHRO/​MED HIST  231 Introduction to Social Medicine3
ANTHRO/​AFRICAN/​AFROAMER/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI/​SOC  277 Africa: An Introductory Survey4
ANTHRO 300 Cultural Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography3
ANTHRO/​LINGUIS  301 Introduction to Linguistics: Descriptive and Theoretical3
ANTHRO 307 Urban Anthropology3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  314 Indians of North America3
ANTHRO 327 Peoples of the Andes Today3
ANTHRO 330 Topics in Ethnology3-4
ANTHRO/​RELIG ST  343 Anthropology of Religion3-4
ANTHRO/​FOLKLORE  344 Anthropological Approaches to Folklore3
ANTHRO 345 Family, Kin and Community in Anthropological Perspective3
ANTHRO 348 Economic Anthropology3-4
ANTHRO 350 Political Anthropology3-4
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  353 Indians of the Western Great Lakes3
ANTHRO/​LACIS  361 Elementary Quechua4
ANTHRO/​LACIS  362 Elementary Quechua4
ANTHRO/​LACIS  363 Intermediate Quechua4
ANTHRO/​LACIS  364 Advanced Quechua4
ANTHRO 365 Medical Anthropology3
ANTHRO 424 Historical Anthropology3
ANTHRO/​LINGUIS  430 Language and Culture3-4
ANTHRO/​AMER IND/​FOLKLORE  431 American Indian Folklore3
ANTHRO/​GEN&WS  443 Anthropology by Women3
ANTHRO 448 Anthropology of Law3
ANTHRO 456 Symbolic Anthropology3-4
ANTHRO 460 The Anthropology of Dance: Movement and Music in Performance3
ANTHRO/​FOLKLORE  520 Ethnic Representations in Wisconsin4
ANTHRO/​FOLKLORE/​MUSIC/​THEATRE  539 The Folklore of Festivals and Celebrations3
ANTHRO 545 Psychological Anthropology3
ANTHRO/​ED POL  570 Anthropology and Education3
ANTHRO 632 Linguistic Anthropology3
ANTHRO/​FOLKLORE  639 Field School: Ethnography of Wisconsin Festivals6-8
ANTHRO/​RELIG ST  666 The Anthropology of Shamanism and Occult Experience3


ANTHRO 102 Archaeology and the Prehistoric World3
ANTHRO 212 Principles of Archaeology3
ANTHRO 309 Prehistoric Europe3
ANTHRO 310 Topics in Archaeology3
ANTHRO 311 Archaeological Chemistry3
ANTHRO 321 The Emergence of Human Culture3
ANTHRO 322 The Origins of Civilization3
ANTHRO 333 Prehistory of Africa3
ANTHRO 352 Ancient Technology and Invention3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  354 Archaeology of Wisconsin3
ANTHRO/​AMER IND  355 Archaeology of Eastern North America3
ANTHRO 370 Field Course in Archaeology3-6
ANTHRO 391 Bones for the Archaeologist3

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Students will acquire specialized training in anthropological research.
  2. Students will obtain comparative global knowledge of human diversity, material culture, culture history, and the evolution of people’s relationships with the physical, cultural, and natural world.
  3. Students will gain an awareness of ethnographic, archaeological and bio‐anthropological ethics practice and research.
  4. Students will be able to distinguish between empirical and speculative narratives and claims about human diversity past and present.


Students interested in anthropology and declaring the major should contact the department directly by calling the general number (608-262-2866) or stopping by 5240 William H. Sewell Social Science Building for individual advising.

Career Exploration

Anthropology encourages majors to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with the L&S Career Services office to help you leverage the academic skills learned in your major and liberal arts degree, explore and try out different career paths, participate in internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).

Letters & Science graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important that students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

Career Resources


  • Katherine Bowie

    Cultural anthropology, Southeast Asia, Thailand

  • Henry T. Bunn

    Archaeology, emergence of culture, behavioral ecology, East Africa

  • Jerome Camal

    Cultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, Caribbean

  • Sarah Clayton

    Archaeology, Mesoamerica, Teotihuacan

  • Falina Enriquez

    Cultural anthropology, ethnomusicology, Brazil

  • John Hawks

    Biological anthropology, paleoanthropology, anthropological genomics, South Africa

  • J. Mark Kenoyer

    Archaeology, South Asia, Harappa, craft production

  • Nam C. Kim

    Archaeology, Southeast Asia, Vietnam, complex societies, warfare

  • Maria Lepowsky

    Cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, Oceania

  • Hayder al-Mohammad

    Cultural anthropology, anthropology of Islam, Iraq

  • Richard McFarland

    Biological anthropology, primatology, behavioral ecology

  • Larry Nesper

    Cultural anthropology, legal anthropology, North America, Wisconsin

  • Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney

    Cultural anthropology, East Asia, Japan

  • Travis Pickering

    Biological anthropology, taphonomy, South Africa

  • Sissel Schroeder

    Archaeology, historical ecology, Eastern North America, complex societies

  • Amy Stambach
    Cultural anthropology, East Africa
  • Karen Strier

    Biological anthropology, primatology, behavioral ecology, Brazil

  • Claire Wendland

    Cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, Africa, Malawi

  • Zhou Yongming

    Cultural anthropology, East Asia, China, development

Academic Staff

Affiliate faculty

Administrative Staff

Emeritus faculty

  • Kenneth George

    Cultural anthropology, Southeast Asia, Indonesia

  • Sharon Hutchinson

    Cultural anthropology, Africa

  • Anatoly Khazanov
    Cultural anthropology
  • Herbert Lewis

    Cultural anthropology, history of anthropology

  • T. Douglas Price

    Archaeology, Archaeological chemistry, Europe

  • Frank Salomon

    Cultural anthropology, South America

  • James Stoltman

    Archaeology, North America, Wisconsin