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.
|The different branches of anthropolgy (red) and their
links with allied sciences (yellow)
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 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.