Professor spotlight: Dr. Constance Arzigian


Liv Swanson

UWL professor of archeology and anthropology Connie Arzigian. Picture taken by Liv Swanson.

Liv Swanson , Sports Reporter

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and Senior Research Assistant with the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center [MVAC] Constance Arzigian has been teaching at UWL for nearly a decade.  

Arzigian has been teaching at UWL since 2010 but has been with MVAC since 1988. Arzigian said she wasn’t always confident in what direction she wanted to take her education. “When I was looking to go to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to beI didn’t know if I wanted to be a biologist, chemist, geologist, philosopher, or historian. The description for anthropologist said, ‘Anything having to do with humans,’ and I said, `Yep, that would be the one for me.’” 

While the study of archaeology and anthropology are similar, there is a separation between the two. “Archaeology is the study of people from their material remains, through mostly looking at older societies,” said Arzigian. “That could be 50 years old, early settlers here in Western Wisconsin, it could go all the way back to the very beginnings of people here on the continent 13,000 years ago, or all the way back three million years when we are looking at our hominid ancestors.”  

Arzigian said some people have a hard time seeing the difference between archaeology and history, but there are clear distinctions. “Differentiating [archaeology] from history, we are looking at the material remains that are left behind, and we are trying to figure out what the people were doing and how they were living,” said Arzigian. 

Arzigian also teaches anthropology classes at UWL. “Anthropology encompasses everything having to do with humans. There are four main subfields, and at UWL and we also have a cultural anthropology emphasis, which deals with the living people,” said Arzigian, “Overall, anthropology, as a whole, is all encompassing while archaeology is one subset of that.” 

The archeology major with a cultural anthropology emphasis is a 36 credit program which, “combines the holistic, cross-cultural, and comparative perspective of anthropology to the study of human diversity and focuses on concepts, theories, and methods students use to understand contemporary peoples and cultures based upon others’ rationales,” according to the UWL website. 

The study of anthropology teaches people cultural differences“With cultural anthropology we can start understanding how and why people do things differently, but it is okay that they do them differently. It is their way of doing thingsThere is more than one way of living and just because it may not be your way, doesn’t mean it is bad. Cultural anthropology will just expose people to lots of different ways of doing things,” said Arzigian. 

Archaeologists often study information collected in the past and apply this to better understand what is to come in the future. “Archaeology, more than history or any of these other fields, goes back thousands and thousands of years. So, we can understand how people first adapted to major climate change by looking at the end of the Ice Age, which made radical changes in all cultural systems across the world,” said Arzigian. “Today, we see archaeological sites that used to be on dry land that are now completely submerged. We can also look back and see the opposite and see people that used to be living on shorelines that are now miles away. So, we can get a time-depth to our understanding of the past that we normally wouldn’t have.” 

The Archaeology Center is located on East Avenue at UWL. The center is home to many different artifacts and displays. The center hosts many different events, lectures, and shows. “The Archaeology Center actually has nice exhibits that are open to the public. Anyone can go see some of the archaeology from this area that they might never have known is right here,” said Arzigian. “You don’t have to go to fancy places to see things ten thousand years old.” 

To learn more about the Archaeology center visit, To learn more about the archaeology and anthropology department visit,