The UAF Department of Anthropology was founded in 1935 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alaska. The first chair was Froehlich Rainey (1935-1942) and other notable chairs included Ivar Skarland (1942-1948, 1949-1965), J. Louis Giddings, Jr. (1948-1949) and Erna Gunther (1966-1970). Other early professors included Helge Larsen, James VanStone, Frederick Hadleigh West, Ernest Burch, Jr., Hans-Georg Bandi, Edward Hosley, William Loyens, Arthur Hippler, W. Roger Powers, G. Richard Scott, Anne Shinkwin, Richard Jordan, and John Cook.
The Department of Anthropology is a center for teaching and research in anthropology with general focus on circumpolar regions as well as research projects and instruction covering a variety of world areas (see Research). Departmental research and teaching covers all sub-fields of the discipline: archaeological, biological, social/cultural and linguistic anthropology. The undergraduate program aims at giving students a solid introduction to the discipline with the possibility to concentrate in sub-fields. The graduate program maintains an emphasis on empirical and applied studies in various parts of the world.