BA in Anthropology—Specialization in Biological Anthropology

The BA in Anthropology—Specialization in Biological Anthropology takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of biological and behavioral diversity in modern humans and their closest living relatives, including non-human primates and extinct human ancestors. Drawing from both scientific and social scientific approaches, this subfield of anthropology uses an evolutionary perspective to better understand the ecological, genetic, endocrinological, behavioral, and morphological variation underlying the full range of geographical and historical adaptations in our biological lineage. Upon completion of this specialization, students will find themselves well positioned to secure employment where critical, scientific thinking is valued. Students will be well-prepared for graduate programs in paleobiology and forensic anthropology, primatology, and human biology, or for careers in a wide range of closely related subjects, such as public health and medicine, museum and natural history collections curation, demography and population biology, human ecology, and natural resource management and conservation.

Learning Outcomes

Students with a specialization in biological anthropology will:

  • Develop an appreciation for the diversity of human cultures and the principles and methods that anthropologists employ for studying them.
  • Master the fundamental cultural themes in at least one society other than their own, and the relationship of those themes to the dynamics of social organization.
  • Recognize and be able to describe human linguistic diversity as well as the shared properties of all languages that are associated with the unique capacities of our species.
  • Understand the biological principles and historical contingencies that explain and govern the deep history of humanity as revealed by the findings of paleontology and archaeology.
  • Grasp the fundamental laws and processes of heredity and evolution, and their implications for individuals and populations.
  • Be expected to demonstrate a basic theoretical and practical understanding of some aspect of the evolutionary biology, functioning, and pathologies of the human body and of the biological factors that underlie, impact, and constrain nutrition, reproduction, and behavior in humans and other primates.

Degree Requirements

All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Anthropology with a Specialization in Biological Anthropology will ordinarily, through their required coursework, satisfy the following BU Hub requirements: Global Citizenship; Scientific Inquiry I; and Social Inquiry I, while also satisfying Intellectual Toolkit requirements for Critical Thinking. Other required and breadth courses within the larger major may also satisfy BU Hub requirements in Philosophical Inquiry and Life’s Meaning; Aesthetic Exploration; Historical Consciousness; Scientific Inquiry II; Social Inquiry II; Quantitative Reasoning I; Quantitative Reasoning II; Individual in Community; Ethical Reasoning; Writing Intensive; Oral and/or Signed Communication; Digital/Multimedia Expression; and Toolkit requirements in Research and Information Literacy; Teamwork/Collaboration; and Creativity/Innovation. While most BU Hub requirements for the major may be fulfilled within Anthropology, we encourage our students to explore the breadth of the university offerings that are relevant to their interests, particularly for their elective requirements, in keeping with the expansive educational goals of the Hub.

A total of 13 courses, or 52 credits, are required to complete the Biological Anthropology Specialization. All courses should be chosen in consultation with an advisor.

All required courses listed below are each four credit hours.

Prerequisites (2 courses)

  • CAS AN 101 Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology or CAS AN 103 Anthropology Through Ethnography (only one of these two courses may be taken for credit in the major)
  • CAS AN 102 Human Biology, Behavior, and Evolution

Principal Courses (4 courses)

Four principal courses are required, one from each of the following areas:

  • One 200-level or above course in Biological Anthropology: CAS AN 233, 234, 263, 330, 331, 333, 335, 336, 337, 339, 534, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 558, 559, 562, 588, 595, 597, 598.
  • One course in Linguistics: CAS AN 351, AN 521, or CAS LX 250
  • One 200-level or above course in Sociocultural Anthropology: CAS AN 210, 211, 220, 240, 243, 252, 260, 285, 290, 302, 305, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 323, 325, 326, 327, 340, 344, 345, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 355, 360, 362, 363, 365, 368, 371, 372, 375, 379, 382, 384, 397, 438, 461, 462, 505, 515, 519, 520, 521, 524, 525, 530, 532, 533, 538, 540, 541, 547, 548, 557, 560, 563, 568, 570, 571, 573, 585, 589, 590, 593, 594, 596.
  • One course at any level in Archaeology, excluding CAS AR 100: CAS AR 101, 150, 200, 201, 202, 205, 206, 208, 209, 210, 215, 221, 222, 230, 232, 240, 250, 251, 261, 262, 270, 273, 280, 283, 290, 305, 307, 322, 323, 330, 331, 332, 337, 338, 341, 342, 343, 346, 347, 348, 353, 365, 370, 371, 372, 375, 390, 393, 396, 410, 430, 435, 438, 450, 480, 500, 503, 505, 506, 507, 511, 513, 516, 518, 528, 531, 532, 534, 535, 551, 556, 570, 577, 580, 590, 593.

Additional Courses (7 courses)

  • Two 200-level or higher courses in Biological Anthropology or Biology from the following list, one of which may be SAR HS 251 or HS 369 from Sargent College: CAS AN 233, 234, 263, 330, 331, 333, 335, 336, 337, 339, 401, 402, 491, 492, 534, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 558, 559, 562, 588, 595, 597, 598; CAS BI 203, 206, 210, 211, 213, 216, 218, 225, 230, 271, 272, 281, 282, 291, 292, 302, 303, 305, 306, 307, 309, 310, 311, 315, 325, 349, 371, 372, 385, 391, 392, 394, 401, 402, 407, 410, 411, 413, 421, 422, 423, 438, 439, 440, 441, 443, 445, 448, 449, 455, 471, 472, 475, 481, 486, 491, 492, 497, 498, 504, 506, 509, 513, 519, 520, 525, 527, 528, 530, 535, 542, 545, 546, 551, 552, 553, 560, 565, 572, 576, 577, 578, 579, 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 586, 594, 595, 598; SAR HS 251, 369.
  • Two courses in Biological Anthropology at 300-level or above: CAS AN 330, 331, 333, 335, 336, 337, 339, 401, 402, 491, 492, 534, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 558, 559, 562, 588, 595, 597, 598.
  • Two courses in Biological Anthropology at 400-level or above: CAS AN 401, 402, 491, 492, 534, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 558, 559, 562, 588, 595, 597, 598.
  • One additional course in Archaeology or Biology from the following lists: CAS AR 206, 280, 290, 307, 410, 505, 506, 516, 518. CAS BI 107, 108, 114, 116, 119, 126, 171, 172, 191, 192, 203, 206, 210, 211, 213, 216, 218, 225, 230, 271, 272, 281, 282, 291, 292, 302, 303, 305, 306, 307, 309, 310, 311, 315, 325, 349, 371, 372, 385, 391, 392, 394, 401, 402, 407, 410, 411, 413, 421, 422, 423, 438, 439, 440, 441, 443, 445, 448, 449, 455, 471, 472, 475, 481, 486, 491, 492, 497, 498, 504, 506, 509, 513, 519, 520, 525, 527, 528, 530, 535, 542, 545, 546, 551, 552, 553, 560, 565, 572, 576, 577, 578, 579, 580, 581, 582, 583, 584, 586, 594, 595, 598.

Note that no more than three courses for the Biological Anthropology specialization may be from outside of CAS Anthropology. Please check with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Anthropology if a course does not appear on this list.

Honors in the Anthropology Major: Biological Anthropology Specialization

Students with a strong academic record (GPA of 3.5 or higher) are encouraged to pursue honors in the major. Eligible and interested students should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) and request the required forms. If the student’s GPA is between 3.2 and 3.5, they must request permission from the DUS to be accepted into the program. Accepted honors students must fill out an Honors Contract that includes forms to be signed by a supervising professor as various steps of the program are completed (see below). The student is expected to maintain an overall GPA of 3.5 while undertaking honors research. For students in the Biological Anthropology specialization, the normal progression through the honors process includes the following steps:

Junior Year

The student enrolls in either CAS AN 595 or a 500-level biological anthropology course related to their thesis. By the end of their junior year, the student is required to have identified and met with a faculty member who is willing to supervise their proposed research project. As part of their thesis, a student may also conduct research during the summer between the junior and senior years and/or during one or both semesters during the junior year.

Senior Year

By the beginning of their senior year, the student must develop a 2–3 page proposal and research plan. This plan should be attached to the Honors Contract (Part I) and signed by the supervising faculty member. The student should return these documents to the DUS.

In their senior year, the student enrolls in CAS AN 401 and/or AN 402 (Honors Research in Anthropology) and undertakes a significant research project under the supervision of their research advisor for either one or two semesters. It is possible to take AN 401 during the junior year if the research has already begun during that time period.

The student then writes a thesis of 35–40 pages (for a two-semester project) or 25–30 pages (for a one-semester project). The supervising professor assembles a committee of 1–2 additional faculty member(s) and sets a date for the defense of the thesis, giving committee members sufficient time to read the thesis. The student then defends the thesis before the committee. After a successful defense, the supervising professor will submit Part II of the Honors Contract to the DUS.

Please visit the Anthropology Department website for additional information regarding undergraduate research in anthropology.