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anthropology





branches of anthropology
The different branches of anthropolgy (red) and their links with allied sciences (yellow)
The study of humankind from biological, cultural, and social viewpoints. Herodotus may perhaps be called the father of anthropology, but it was not until the 14th or 15th centuries AD, with the mercantilist expansions of the Old World into new regions, that contact with other peoples kindled a scientific interest in the subject. In the modern age there are two main disciplines, physical anthropology and cultural anthropology, the latter embracing social anthropology.


Physical anthropology

Physical anthropology is the study of humankind as a biological species, its past evolution and its contemporary physical characteristics. In its study of prehistoric man it has many links with archaeology, the difference being that anthropology is concerned with the remains of human fossils while archaeology is concerned with the remains of human material culture. The physical anthropologist studies also the difference between races and groups, relying to a great extent on techniques of anthropometry and, more recently, genetic studies.


Cultural anthropology

Cultural anthropology is divided into several categories. Ethnography is the study of the culture of a single group, either primitive or civilized. Fieldwork is the key to ethnographical studies, which are themselves the key to cultural anthropology. Ethnology is the comparative study of the cultures of two or more groups. Cultural anthropology is also concerned with cultures of the past, and the borderline in this case between it and archaeology is vague. Social anthropology is concerned primarily with social relationships and their significance and consequences in primitive societies. In recent years its field has been extended to cover more civilized societies.


Related category

   • ANTHROPOLOGY