Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology investigates human and nonhuman primate biological evolution and variation by studying biology (especially the skeleton), evolutionary theory, inheritance, the fossil record, and living primates. It looks at interrelationships between behavior, ecology, and biology.


Biological anthropologists study human biology and evolution and work in very diverse fields. One field, primatology, studies nonhuman primates (including lemurs, monkeys, and apes) to learn about their behavior and evolution, to place human evolution in context, and to aid conservation efforts. Paleoanthropologists study the fossil record of humans and other bipedal primates (“hominins”) like Neanderthals and “Lucy” to understand how humans evolved. Forensic anthropologists apply their knowledge of anatomy to help identify human skeletal remains and work with law enforcement. Forensic anthropologists also work internationally in human rights cases, helping to give justice to the victims and closure to their families. Evolutionary medicine seeks to answer questions about why we get the diseases we get, what health issues are more common in certain areas, and what health/nutritional/medical strategies are used in different cultures.

To learn more about careers in these other areas of anthropology, check out the careers page. Consult with faculty on elective and minor courses and experiences to help prepare.

Courses in Biological Anthropology

  • ANTH 303: Human Biology & Evolution
  • ANTH 330: Method & Theory in Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 331: Paleoanthropology
  • ANTH 332: Skeletal Biology & Forensics
  • ANTH 333: Primate Evolution & Adaptation
  • ANTH 335: Topics in Evolutionary Medicine
  • ANTH 339: Special Topics in Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 485: Biological Anthropology Lab
  • ANTH 637: Applied Biological Anthropology (MA)
  • Course Descriptions

Medieval Bioarchaeology Program in Poland

The Medieval Bioarchaeology Field Program in Poland is a unique opportunity to excavate and analyze human remains from a medieval cemetery at Bezlawki, in north eastern Poland. This site was the territory of Old Prussians, a pagan peoples who resisted conversion into Christianity for many centuries to be finally conquered by the Teutonic Knight Order. The Bezlawki mortuary dates to around the 13th century AD, which is within about 50-100 years of the conversion to Christianity. Accordingly, burials have the potential of representing an interesting mix of Pagan and Christian rituals. From two previous field seasons, the site has already yielded 100 adult, juvenile and infant skeletons with a variety of pathologies and trauma. Prussian burial sites are rare to find intact, and so a main goal of this project is to analyze burial practices and osteological remains to illuminate the unique features of Prussian life and death.

Biological Anthropology Research Center

The Biological Anthropology Research Center is dedicated to providing training and research opportunities in evolutionary and applied biological anthropology. Current focus areas include comparative anatomy, bioacoustics and communication, primate conservation, evolutionary medicine & nutrition, bioarchaeology, and forensic anthropology.