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 Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a Bachelor of Science 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 the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree requirements.


Mathematics Complete two courses of 3+ credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level in MATH, COMP SCI, or STAT subjects. A maximum of one course in each of COMP SCI and STAT subjects counts toward this requirement.
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language.
L&S Breadth Complete:
• 12 credits of Humanities, which must include at least 6 credits of Literature; and
• 12 credits of Social Science; and
• 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include 6 credits of Biological Science and 6 credits of Physical Science.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced Coursework Complete at least 60 credits at the Intermediate or Advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience Complete both:
• 30 credits in residence, overall, and
• 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
• 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison


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. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

ANTHRO 105 Principles of Biological Anthropology3
ANTHRO 300 Cultural Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography3
Complete two:6
Principles of Archaeology
The Emergence of Human Culture
The Origins of Civilization
ANTHRO 490 Undergraduate Seminar3
ANTHRO electives15
Total Credits30

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all ANTHRO and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA in 15 upper-level major credits in residence1
  • 15 credits in ANTHRO, taken on campus

ANTHRO 300 and above are upper-level, with the exception of Quechua and Yucatec Maya language courses (ANTHRO/​LACIS  361ANTHRO/​LACIS  362ANTHRO/​LACIS  363ANTHRO/​LACIS  364,  ANTHRO/​LACIS  376ANTHRO/​LACIS  377).

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Major in consultation with the Anthropology major advisor.

Honors in the Major Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major, students must satisfy both the requirements for the Anthropology major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA for all ANTHRO and major courses
  • Complete the following coursework:​
Biological Anthropology (complete one):3
Principles of Biological Anthropology
Hominoid Evolution
Human Skeletal Anatomy
Heredity, Environment and Human Populations
Evolutionary Biology
The Evolution of the Genus, Homo
Introduction to Primatological Research
Study Abroad: Topics in Biological Anthropology
Primate Behavioral Ecology
Proseminar in Biological Anthropology
Seminar in Evolutionary Theory
Seminar-Current Problems in Paleoanthropology
Biology of Mind
Primate Conservation
Cultural Anthropology (complete one):3
Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity
Global Language Issues
Introduction to Social Medicine
Cut 'n' Mix: Music, Race, and Culture in the Caribbean
Latin America: An Introduction
Introduction to Culture and Health
Africa: An Introductory Survey
Cultural Anthropology: Theory and Ethnography
Introduction to Linguistics: Descriptive and Theoretical
Urban Anthropology
Indians of North America
Music, Race, And Culture in Brazil
Anthropology of Religion
Family, Kin and Community in Anthropological Perspective
Economic Anthropology
Introduction to the Anthropology of Japan
Elementary Quechua
Elementary Quechua
Intermediate Quechua
Advanced Quechua
Medical Anthropology
First Semester Yucatec Maya
Second Semester Yucatec Maya
Historical Anthropology
American Indian Folklore
American Indian Women
Anthropology by Women
Anthropology of Law
Study Abroad: Topics in Cultural Anthropology
Symbolic Anthropology
The Anthropology of Dance: Movement and Music in Performance
Anthropology, Environment, and Development
Ethnic Representations in Wisconsin
Psychological Anthropology
Anthropology and Education
Archaeological Anthropology (complete one): 3
Archaeology and the Prehistoric World
Principles of Archaeology
Dimensions of Material Culture
Topics in Archaeology
The Emergence of Human Culture
The Origins of Civilization
Prehistory of Africa
Lithics and Archaeology
Ancient Technology and Invention
Archaeology of Wisconsin
Field Course in Archaeology
Bones for the Archaeologist
Study Abroad: Topics in Archaeology
Archaeological Methods of Curation
ANTHRO 490 Undergraduate Seminar3
or a seminar chosen from:
Proseminar in Biological Anthropology
Seminar in Evolutionary Theory
Seminar-Current Problems in Paleoanthropology
Ethnicity, Nations, and Nationalism
Problems in Anthropology
Senior Honors Thesis
and Senior Honors Thesis
Total Credits18

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. Acquire specialized training in anthropological research.
  2. 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. Gain an awareness of ethnographic, archaeological and bio‐anthropological ethics practice and research.
  4. Distinguish between empirical and speculative narratives and claims about human diversity past and present.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

First Year
ANTHRO 100-200 level course3ANTHRO 100-200 level course3
Science Breadth3Ethnic Studies course in ANTHRO3
Communication A3Literature Breadth3
Quantitative Reasoning A3Physical Science Breadth3
Foreign Language (if needed)4Foreign Language (if needed)4
 16 16
Second Year
ANTHRO 200-300 level course3Communication B3-4
Quantitative Reasoning B4ANTHRO 200-300 level course3
Literature Breadth3Science Breadth3
Elective4I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.)3
INTER-LS 2101Elective3
 15 16
Third Year
Declare the MajorANTHRO 300-600 level elective3
ANTHRO 300-600 level elective3ANTHRO 300-600 level elective3
Humanities Breadth3Humanities Breadth3
I/A COMP SCI, MATH, or STAT (if B.S.)3Electives5
 13 14
Fourth Year
ANTHRO 4903ANTHRO 300-600 level elective3
 15 15
Total Credits 120


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 SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science. L&S 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.

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


Academic Staff

  • Elizabeth Leith, Senior Academic Curator

    Museum anthropology, protohistoric, European trade, historical archaeology

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
  • Kirin Narayan
    Cultural anthropology
  • Larry Nesper
    Cultural Anthropology
  • T. Douglas Price
    Archaeology, Archaeological chemistry, Europe

  • Frank Salomon
    Cultural anthropology, South America