Requirements: Anthropology

Social Sciences Division

Anthropology is an unusually broad discipline that embraces biological, historical and cross-cultural study. Anthropology courses at Kenyon reflect these three distinct but interrelated areas.

Biological anthropology studies the complex connections between our biological and cultural existence, investigating how humans have evolved in the past and continue to evolve in the present. More advanced courses focus on such topics as human skeletal anatomy, human paleontology, the anthropology of food, and human adaptation to changing environmental conditions.

Courses in archaeology allow students to learn about prehistoric peoples of the New World (Aztecs, Maya, Incas, Moundbuilders and Puebloans) as well as the Old World (Egypt, Mesopotamia and Sub-Saharan Africa). Methods of investigation and analysis also are covered.

In cultural anthropology courses, students can study native North Americans and the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as such topics as media, race, ethnomedicine, sexuality and gender, ethnomusicology, politics and development.

All anthropology courses deal with diversity, helping us to appreciate the varied ways of being human in the past and present, and what links all of us despite those differences.

The Kenyon College faculty voted to change from Kenyon units to semester hours. This change will go into effect for all students who start at the College in the fall of 2024. Both systems will be used throughout the course catalog with the Kenyon units being listed first.


New Students

A first course in anthropology should be any of the three one-semester introductory courses listed below. Each course combines lecture and discussion.

ANTH 111: Introduction to Biological Anthropology 

This course is required for upper-level work in biological anthropology courses.

ANTH 112: Introduction to Archaeology

This course is required for upper-level work in archaeology.

ANTH 113: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

This course is required for upper-level work in cultural anthropology.

Having completed an introductory course, students may enroll in either any upper-level course in that area of the anthropology program or in another introductory course to gain a broader understanding of anthropology.

Many 200-level anthropology courses do not have prerequisites and are open to first-year students. These courses are often an intersection of the various subfields and offer a holistic perspective on a particular topic. Examples of these courses include ANTH 254 (Asians in/Through Pop Culture) and ANTH 256 (Habitat and Humanity).

Requirements for the Major

Students have to take a minimum of 10 courses to complete the anthropology major.

Minimum requirements are listed below:

Foundation Courses

An introductory course in each of the three anthropological subdisciplines is required:

  • ANTH 111: Introduction to Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 112: Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 113: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

These courses should be taken as early in the major as practicable and may be taken in any sequence. Upper-level courses in anthropology normally have one of the foundation courses as a prerequisite.

Upper-Level Courses

A minimum of six upper-level courses, including at least one course in each of the three anthropological subdisciplines (biological anthropology, archaeology and cultural anthropology) at the 300 level or higher. Majors also are encouraged to pay attention to when courses are offered and attempt to fulfill requirements for the upper-level course in each subdiscipline, earlier rather than later, to avoid scheduling conflicts. The remaining three elective upper level courses can be at the 200, 300 or 400-level. 

Capstone Course

All departmental majors must enroll in ANTH 465 (History of Anthropological Thought) during the fall semester of their senior year.

Senior Capstone

The Senior Capstone in anthropology consists of a core of common readings, three seminar meetings at which the seniors and all faculty members in anthropology discuss these readings, and a take-home exam written in response to one question from a list provided by the faculty. The topic of the seminar generally requires an integration of three subdisciplines, and readings are frequently from new books that faculty members are exploring for the first time. The goals of this capstone are to place faculty and students together in the roles of expert and colleague, to critique and analyze readings together orally, and to have each student produce a synthetic essay out of this common experience.

Seminar meetings take place during the early months of the fall semester. After the three meetings, the faculty members construct two to four essay questions; students select one for the exam. Students have approximately one month to complete the essay and are encouraged to discuss their ideas with faculty members and to utilize additional sources based on either library research or readings from other classes. The essay due date is just before the Thanksgiving break. Faculty members evaluate the papers and students are notified in writing about their performance in December. Each student's paper is read by a member of the faculty, who also provides written and/or oral comments. Some students may be asked to rewrite the paper at this point. If a paper is being considered for distinction or a rewrite, a second faculty member evaluates the work.

Faculty members judge student performance not merely on the quality of the essay (clarity, insight and technical proficiency) but also on participation in the whole process of the capstone itself, especially the timely submission of the essay, as well as thoughtful and active participation in the discussions. Any extensions for completing the Senior Capstone must be approved by the dean for academic advising and support, following the same procedures in place for obtaining an Incomplete in any course.


The Honors Program in anthropology provides students with the opportunity to conduct significant independent research on a topic of their choice. Typically, a student proposes a research focus in consultation with a member of the faculty who agrees to serve as the project advisor.

Late in the junior year or early in the senior year, the student submits a brief description of the honors project to the department. This synopsis outlines the central question being addressed, what methods will be used in conducting the study and how the thesis will be organized. All anthropology faculty not on leave at the time of the proposal's submission review the document and decide whether it will be approved or declined based on its intellectual merit and feasibility as well as the student's past classroom performance, demonstrated motivation in pursuit of excellence and organizational skills.

After the project is approved, the student builds an honors committee consisting of the advisor and one other faculty member, who need not be an anthropologist. The student's senior year is spent conducting the research and writing the honors thesis, although both processes may well have begun in previous years.

The thesis is read by the two members of the honors committee as well as a third person who is an expert in the field addressed by the thesis but is not a part of the Kenyon faculty. An oral thesis defense, involving the student and the three readers, takes place near the end of the spring semester. The readers then determine whether to award no honors, Honors, High Honors or Highest Honors based on the written document and the student's defense of the work. 

Requirements: GPA 3.33 overall; 3.5 in the major.

Courses: All students pursuing honors take ANTH 497–498 during the fall and spring semesters of their senior year.

Due date: Honors theses are due in the anthropology department office on April 1 or the closest Monday after that date. The thesis defense is scheduled for a time after April 1 that is convenient for the student and the readers.

More information about the Honors Program evaluation process is available from the Department of Anthropology.

Requirements for the Minor

All minors require a minimum of five courses. It is recommended that no more than half of the courses be taken at the foundation level (i.e., ANTH 111, 112, 113). Courses typically are taken from at least two department faculty members. The courses selected for the minor have a clear and cohesive focus (e.g., a subdiscipline within anthropology or a substantive theme to be examined within the discipline). The specific cluster of courses to be included within the minor is selected by the student in consultation with a member of the department's faculty, who serves as advisor. The final selection of courses is approved by the department chair. The declaration of a minor does not guarantee students a place in any particular courses.

Please note: All Kenyon anthropology courses count toward the minor. Courses from off-campus study experiences do not count toward the anthropology minor.

Transfer Credit Policy

Subject to departmental approval, we accept transfer credit for introductory anthropology courses (cultural, biological or archaeological) taken at approved institutions, not four-field introductory anthropology courses. If approval is granted, the student still must complete 10 courses of anthropology at Kenyon.

The department accepts up to two approved off-campus study courses to count toward the major. These fill the role of upper-level elective courses. Exceptions can be made in the event that a student is in a yearlong off-campus study program, but only in consultation with the department chair. Courses taken in high school (unless they are university transfer credits) do not count in place of any requirement for the major or minor.

Double-listed Courses

The following course is double-listed in the anthropology department and can satisfy the social science requirement as well as count toward coursework in the major or minor. Students wishing this course to count for the major or minor must enroll using the anthropology CRN.

  • ANTH 206D: Seminar in Ethnomusicology.