Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology

What is Anthropology?

Anthropologists are concerned with the origin, history, and future of the human species. Our mission is to further our understanding of past and present human societies in their cultural, biological, and environmental contexts. The discipline provides students the knowledge and skills they will need to navigate these complex, multicultural, and rapidly changing worlds. Because we study what it is to be human, the field is one of the most wide-ranging of the academic disciplines.

There are four main subdisciplines of anthropology. Three are currently taught in our department: Archaeology is concerned with studying the human past based on the material culture left behind. Biological anthropology is concerned with human evolution and variation. Sociocultural anthropology is concerned with the many ways humans organize themselves and create, reproduce, and reject meaningful patters of life in changing local and global circumstances. Anthropologists across all of the subdisciplines apply holistic, comparative, and evolutionary perspectives and a range of methodologies in their research. We are committed to fieldwork and the application of this knowledge to helping people better understand one another.

Why Study Anthropology?

Students have many reasons for pursuing graduate degrees in anthropology. Some are curious about the origins of the human species. Others are fascinated the diversity of human experiences in ancient and modern periods. Some students intend to pursue international careers, where they will use languages and work in cultural contexts very different from those in which they were raised. Others plan to work in museums collecting and curating human cultural resources. Some wish to pursue graduate training in one of the field’s subdisciplines, while others seek to use their anthropological training as preparation for professional schools, including law, medicine, public health, journalism, business, and engineering. There are many professions where the broad scientific, humanistic, and multicultural knowledge available through the study of anthropology can be useful, such as education, healthcare, law, social work, business, human resources, public affairs, cultural resource management, or laboratory research.

The Anthropology Department at the University of Kansas maintains a holistic and integrative approach to studying human beings. Our world-class program has particular strengths in the Americas in all three subdisciplines, and is committed to engaged research with community partners.

We are committed to fully funding all PhD students for at least four years. 

Anthropological Research Opportunities at KU

KU Anthropological Genetics

The KU Anthropological Genetics group maintains three laboratories and computing resources for graduate and undergraduate students wishing to incorporate genetics into their research.

  • The Anthropological Genetics Research Facility has laboratory spaces for contemporary genomic analyses, as well as post-PCR and NGS library purification.
  • The Ancient DNA Laboratory consists of cleanroom facilities and equipment for working with ancient DNA.
  • Laboratory of Biological Anthropology (LBA): Founded in 1975, the LBA was established as a research center of the University of Kansas. The LBA currently houses DNA samples and training facilities for undergraduates.

KU Archaeology

The Archaeology program at KU has a number of resources for graduate students.

  • Field Schools:  Anthropology faculty offer field schools in archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. Undergraduates and graduate students have conducted independent and collaborative research in the United States, including Alaska; Mexico, Central, and South America; sub-Saharan Africa; and Asia. 
  • Archaeological Research Center: Located in historic Spooner Hall on the main campus, the archaeology laboratory offers research space and support to Anthropology faculty and graduate students.
  • KU Lab for Applied Archaeological Science (KLAAS). Located in Malott Hall, KLAAS applies experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to traditional questions in archaeology.
  • The ODYSSEY Archaeological Research Program is run through the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS). ODYSSEY supports field-and laboratory-based research on the archaeology of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene in the Central Great Plains. ODYSSEY has supported numerous graduate and undergraduate students from the Department of Anthropology. 

For specific questions about our program, please contact us:

The University of Kansas
Department of Anthropology
Corinne Butler
Graduate Program Coordinator