Team up with faculty on groundbreaking anthropological research.

The Department of Anthropology was founded in 1935 as part of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Alaska. The first undergraduate degrees in Anthropology were given in 1959, the first MA degrees in 1968 and the first PhD degrees in 1988. We are the only anthropology program in the United States that maintains a holistic approach to circumpolar studies, providing instruction and research in all aspects of anthropology.

News and Events

  • Human Paleoecology from the Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene, Tangle Lakes, Alaska

    Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 10:00AM Alaska time
    Audra Darcy MA Thesis Defense Human Paleoecology from the Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene, Tangle Lakes, Alaska This study examines paleoenvironmental change from the Late Pleistocene to Early Holocene in the Tangle Lakes region of interior Alaska to explore changes in resource distribution and impacts on prehistoric hunter-gatherer subsistence patterns in upland settings (>500 masl). In interior Alaska, prehistoric hunter-gatherer subsistence economies were organized around the procurement of large herbivores (bison, caribou, elk, and moose), which were primarily regulated by habitat availability. Changes in habitat availability altered the distribution of key faunal resources, necessitating shifts in land-use strategies. The palaeoecological chronology from Glacier Gap helps contextualize resource distribution within dynamic landscapes by identifying changes in habitat availability for grazing, mixed-feeding (bison, caribou, elk), and browsing (moose) herbivores. This study applies pollen analysis, as well as carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, of lake and peat deposits to reconstruct paleoenvironmental change from~14,000 to ~6,000 Cal yr BP. Results indicate grazing habitats persisted until approximately ~13,500 Cal yr BP which allowed for initial expansions of bison and elk, but habitats became mixed following the appearance of birch shrubs. Existing archaeological data indicate that initial use of upland regions coincided with expansion of bison and elk habitat, which would have represented large-bodied, predictable sources of food. As shrubs continued to expand, grazing and browsing habitats became increasingly fragmented in a mix-feeding period between ~13,000 to ~10,000 Cal yr BP. Fragmentation of bison and elk habitats made these species less predictable on the landscape, which likely led to the abandonment of the Tangle Lakes. A shift from mixed-feeding to browsing habitats occurred with increasing shrub growth and the expansion of peat following the Holocene Thermal Maximum approximately ~10,000 Cal yr BP, supporting caribou and moose populations. Settlement patterns indicate re-occupation of the Tangle Lakes, and intensified use of uplands, possibly on an annual basis, when browsing specialists became more predictable, and settlement patterns shifted to the procurement of caribou ~6,000 Cal yr BP. Taken together, grazing and browsing habitats represent homogenous environments where resources were more abundant and predictable for hunter-gatherers, while mixed-feeding habitats represent heterogenous environments where herbivores were fragmented and less abundant or predictable on the landscape
  • The Making of Alaskan Pastoral Traditions: Colonial encounters of the Sámi reindeer herders in Alaska

    May 7, 2021
    Abstract: In the late 1800s, two groups of Sámi people came to Alaska to teach reindeer herding to Alaska Native peoples. Thus, they became entangled with colonization and cultural assimilation schemes of the U.S. government. The immigrants’ contribution to the development of reindeer herding, as well as their experiences as Indigenous and colonized people, has not been fully addressed in the literature regarding reindeer herding in Alaska. The proposed research sheds light on the little-known stories of Sámi reindeer herders in Alaska by examining archival and bureaucratic materials and through photographic elicitation fieldwork in Alaska and northern Fennoscandia. A main objective is to build a nuanced understanding of the colonial encounters between the Alaska Sámi and the Native and non-Indigenous peoples who were involved in the Alaska Reindeer Project (ARP). In contrast to earlier essentializing narratives about the Alaska Sámi, this research focuses on their lived experiences within a nexus of colonial encounters. Methodologically, it applies the New Rhetoric textual analysis framework onto written materials to elucidate the cultures of colonialism. An important aspect of the research is its collaborative dimension: Preliminary findings as well as archival photographs will be discussed with Sámi local knowledge experts in Guovdageaidnu (Kautokeino), Norway, during fieldwork. Along similar lines, another objective is to share the archival materials that are examined in the context of this research with contemporary Sámi communities.
  • Dr. Justin Cramb receives an URSA Innovative Technology and Education (ITE) Award.

    April, 16, 2021
    Dr. Cramb of the UAF Department of Anthropology received a 2021 URSA ITE award for his proposal titled Zooarchaeology Teaching Collection Improvement and Database Integration. The funding for this award will be used to purchase new curation materials for the skeletal comparative collection housed in Bunnell 408 and to integrate the collection into the Arctos online database management system. The collection of hundreds of comparative animal skeletons housed in the Zooarchaeology Laboratory is used to train students to correctly identify animal bones found at archaeological sites. The end goal of this project is to improve the accessibility of the collection for students and researchers. The integration with Arctos, a large international online database for cultural, biological, and archaeological collections, will allow students and other researchers to browse the collection remotely and to easily find, access, and engage with specimens in the physical collection. This will improve the teaching and research capabilities of the lab.
  • Dr. Elaine Drew receives UAF Honors College's 2021 Robert Piacenza Outstanding Teaching Award!!

    April 13th
    Dr. Elaine Drew is the recipient of the UAF Honors College's 2021 Robert Piacenza Excellence in Teaching Award! The award is facilitated through a process driven by the Honors Student Advisory Council, and the awardee is selected based upon student testimonials. We are swelling with pride in congratulating our esteemed colleague on this well-deserved recognition! We are also pleased to share these photos of Dr. Drew and her students at the Medical Anthropology Lab she has established at UAF; at the session on undergraduate research she led at the 2020 meeting of the Alaska Anthropological Association; as a guest of the student-run KSUA Speaking of Anthropology show; and hosting a raffle at the celebration of the World Anthropology Day. Congratulations, Elaine! Thank you for all you do as a mentor, scholar, and caring generous contributor to the life of the UAF Anthropology Department.