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What is Anthropology?

         "Are you as interested as I am in knowing how, when, and where human life arose, what the first human societies and languages were like, why cultures have evolved along diverse but often remarkably convergent pathways, why distinctions of rank came into being, and how small bands and villages gave way to chiefdoms and chiefdoms to mighty states and empires?"
—Marvin Harris, Our Kind

The word anthropology itself tells the basic story. From the Greek anthropos (“human”) andlogia (“study”), it is the study of humankind, from its beginnings millions of years ago to the present day. Anthropology is an effort to understand this broad sense of humanness has been divided into four major disciplines, each focusing on different aspects of what makes us human.

They are:


Archaeology is the study of the human past through materials remains with the aim of reconstructing, ordering and describing daily life, customs and events of past people. It is the study of past human cultures. Like cultural anthropologists, archaeologists are interested in all aspects of culture. Through systematic methods of excavation and examination of these objects from the past, archaeologists are able to determine how a society utilized resources in the physical environment for food, tools, clothing, shelter and transportation.                              


Biological anthropology is the study of human biological diversity, primate behavior, and evolution of humans over time. It is also known as physical anthropology, examines the biological traits of humans past and present, and how these traits interact with cultural factors to produce human variation through time and across space.

Biological anthropologists also study the evolutionary origins of the human species from non-human primates that began many millions of years ago. Traditionally, biological anthropologists relied mainly on fossilized skeletal remains for their studies.


Cultural anthropology is to understand social and cultural behavior. Also known as sociocultural anthropology, takes human society and culture as its subject matter. Cultural anthropologists study such cognitive phenomena as beliefs, systems of knowledge, and symbols, as well as such products of human labor as technologies and the arts.

They are also interested in human behavior as expressed in social structures and social relations, as well as economic and political systems. Cultural anthropology shares many things in common with related fields, such as sociology and psychology.


It is the study of human language, its construction, and how it is used in societies.It is the study of human language and communication. Linguistic anthropologists study the origins of language in general and the histories of particular languages and language families.

They are also interested in the dynamics of contemporary linguistic change, how language is learned, the role of language in systems of thought, and the relationship between language and other aspects of culture (e.g. oral traditions, politics, mass media, and expressive arts such as music and theater).

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