Dickinson’s Anthropology curriculum provides students with a comparative perspective for examining and understanding human diversity and addressing challenges people face in our changing world. Anthropology is relatively unique because it connects the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities, concerning all aspects of humanity, globally and throughout the time defined by human evolution. Biological Anthropology examines human evolution, biological variation in human and nonhuman primates, and biocultural aspects of nutrition, health, and adaptation. Cultural Anthropology focuses on culture and society and interactions with broad forces such as politics, economics, and environment. Archaeology delves into how societies throughout the world developed and changed. Students in Anthropology compare people’s experiences in different societies and cultures and over great spans of time, thereby gaining important perspectives on the world.

How Anthropology works can be illustrated by the example of a student interested in health, although health is only one interest of Anthropology. Through Biological Anthropology the student can study the evolution of human biological adaptations, how physiological traits intersect with health, and learn to identify health conditions in human skeletal remains. In Archaeology the student could examine past societies’ interactions with pathogens and responses to disease episodes. Cultural Anthropology courses address cultural aspects of healing and the political, economic, and social shaping of care. Linguistic Anthropology reveals how people in different language groups categorize and act upon illness. The student can design senior thesis fieldwork or laboratory work to research some aspect of health—such as maternal health in Tanzania. Examples of actual student research in Anthropology—in areas as diverse as performance in Chicago; economic development in highland Peru; and the local food movement in Scandinavia—are listed in the Student Research link on the Anthropology Department web page.

Uniqueness of our program: The Anthropology major emphasizes student fieldwork and laboratory work. In two methods courses students learn to design ethnographic fieldwork and collect and analyze quantitative data. In the Keck Biological Anthropology Laboratory students learn skills in human evolution, human biological variation, and human skeletal identification. The Dickinson Environmental Archaeology Laboratory offers students experiences in archaeobotanical analysis. Students also study diverse theoretical perspectives, from the social sciences and humanities to critical perspectives on human biological variation, race and racism, and health. These skills and the comparative perspective prepare students to conduct research culminating in the senior thesis and to pursue a range of post-graduation career options.

Potential majors and advisors of first-year students should note the interdisciplinary nature of Anthropology. Department courses contribute to and are cross-listed with many other departments and programs, including Archaeology; Africana Studies; East Asian Studies; Health Studies; Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies; Women’s and Gender Studies; Environmental Studies; and Sociology. Courses in other fields and cross-listed courses help students pursue their unique interests and, at the same time, expand their comparative perspective in anthropology.

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

In Anthropology you do not have to start with the 100-level courses. Most 100- and 200-level courses may be taken as a “first course” in the department, without a prerequisite course. Here are some examples:

ANTH 100, Introduction to Biological Anthropology
ANTH 101, Anthropology for the 21st Century
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory
ANTH 229, Principles of Human Variation and Adaptation
ANTH 230, Ethnography of Postcolonial Africa
ANTH 233, Anthropology of Religion

For course descriptions and requirements for the major, refer to the Academic Bulletin: Anthropology.

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Division II:
All of our courses, except for ANTH 100 (Introduction to Biological Anthropology), fulfill the Division II distribution requirement.

Division III:
ANTH 100 Introduction to Biological Anthropology

Comparative Civilizations:
ANTH 101, Anthropology for the 21st Century
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory
ANTH 216, Medical Anthropololgy
ANTH 217, Gender, Culture, and Transnationalism
and many other courses in the department

Suggested curricular flow through the major

These guidelines suggest courses to take each year rather than specifying a required sequence; the exception is Senior Colloquium, which is taken in the spring semester of the senior year. Students can tailor these guidelines to their circumstances in discussions with an Anthropology faculty member. We recommend completing at least one methods course, and preferably both, prior to study abroad, in case the student has a fieldwork opportunity while abroad. Many students who study abroad complete the Anthropology major and a second major, and some complete three majors.

First Year
ANTH 100, Introduction to Biological Anthropology
ANTH 101, Anthropology for the 21st Century
ANTH 110, Archaeology and World Prehistory
Consider taking a 200-level elective: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology

Sophomore Year
ANTH/SOCI 240, Qualitative Methods
ANTH 241, Measurement and Quantification
complete a required ethnographic course
ANTH general electives: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology

Junior Year
either ANTH 336, Social Distinctions, or ANTH 331, Principles of Human Evolution
ANTH general electives: refer to Academic Bulletin: Anthropology
finish ANTH course requirements; study abroad

Senior Year
ANTH 400, Senior Colloquium (register in spring semester only)
finish any remaining ANTH requirements or electives

Senior Thesis

Each student majoring in Anthropology completes a senior thesis based on independent and original research. Most theses build on fieldwork or laboratory analysis; some develop new perspectives on material already published. A student crafts a thesis in coordination with an advisor and the Senior Colloquium director. Toward the end of the senior year, seniors present their thesis research results to the department faculty and fellow Anthropology majors.


The departmental honors program is linked to an independent study or a fieldwork experience undertaken before the end of the junior year and culminates in a paper or other project written for the senior colloquium. Eligibility for honors candidacy requires a minimum overall GPA of 3.6. Before the end of their junior year, students wanting to be considered for honors in anthropology must identify themselves to the department faculty and submit a two-page proposal for an honors project to the department chair. In the senior year, the prospective honors student participates in the senior colloquium. The quality of the senior colloquium project, judged "exceptional" by the anthropology faculty, is the primary basis for awarding honors to graduating seniors at the end of the spring semester.

Opportunities for off-campus study

Participation in summer field schools in cultural anthropology and archaeology, as well as internships at local museums and other sites, provides unique, hands-on experience. The Field School in Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 396) is for six weeks every summer in Tanzania, Africa or Querétaro, Mexico.

Additional Remarks

Careers: Graduates with the Antrhopology major have pursued higher degrees in anthropology, archaeology, education, law, linguistics, medicine, public health, and academic administration. Department faculty are glad to discuss with students their possible career opportunities.