What is Anthropology – Definition and Overview

What is Anthropology



Anthropology is the study of human beings and their societies in the past and present. It draws on many disciplines, including biology, history, sociology, and psychology.

Anthropologists have long been interested in understanding what makes us human. This includes our physical characteristics, our evolutionary history, and our social and cultural institutions.

History of Anthropology

The history of anthropology is as long and diverse as the field itself. The roots of anthropology can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who were interested in understanding the natural world and the place of humans within it. Plato and Aristotle both engaged in what could be considered anthropological thought, though they did not use the term itself.

During the Renaissance, scholars such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo made significant contributions to our understanding of human anatomy and physiology. This knowledge laid the foundation for later anthropologists who would seek to understand how different cultures around the world lived and interacted with their environments.

The first formal school of anthropology was established in 1884 at the University of Pennsylvania. Anthropology – Forensic anthropologists can help identify skeletonized human remains, such as these found lying in scrub in Western Australia, c. 1900–1910. In the United States, the subfield of anthropology became a formal discipline in the late 19th century.

Over the centuries, anthropologists have made many important contributions to our understanding of human behavior. They have helped us to see that there is much more to being human than just our physical appearance.

Today, anthropology is an important field of study that can help us to better understand ourselves and the world around us. It is a fascinating subject that has something to offer everyone.

Types of Anthropology

Anthropology is further divided into four types:

  • Cultural Anthropology
  • Linguistic Anthropology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Archaeology

Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures, including their origins, development, and functions. It is a subfield of anthropology that focuses on the cultural aspects of human societies, including their customs, beliefs, values, and practices.

Cultural anthropology has its roots in 19th-century Europe when anthropologists first began to study non-Western cultures. Since then, cultural anthropology has evolved to become one of the most important and widely respected fields of anthropology.

Today, cultural anthropologists conduct research on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the effects of globalization on local cultures to the impact of technology on social interaction. They also work in a variety of settings, including universities, government agencies, museums, and businesses.

Linguistic Anthropology

Linguistic anthropology is the study of language in relation to its cultural and social context. It encompasses a wide range of topics, including how language is used in everyday life, how it changes over time, and how it is acquired.

Linguistic anthropology is a relatively young field that emerged in the early 20th century. It draws on methods from both anthropology and linguistics, as well as other disciplines such as psychology and sociology.

The ultimate goal of linguistic anthropology is to understand the role that language plays in human societies. This includes understanding how language shapes our thoughts, experiences, and relationships with others.

Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is the study of human beings from a biological perspective. It looks at our evolutionary history and how we have adapted to our environment. Biological anthropologists use many different techniques to study human remains and fossils. They also look at how different cultures view the body and its place in society.


Archaeology is the scientific study of the material culture of past human societies, primarily through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts.

It is a subfield of anthropology, which is the study of human societies and cultures. Archaeologists use a variety of methods to excavate sites, including excavation, survey, and dating.

They also use their knowledge of history, geography, and other disciplines to interpret the evidence they find. Archaeologists work in many different settings, including universities, museums, government agencies, and private companies.

Anthropology Methods of Research

There are four main methods that anthropologists use to conduct research. These methods are:

  • Participant Observation
  • Ethnographic Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Surveys

Participant Observation

Participant observation is when the anthropologist becomes a part of the community that they are studying. They live with the people and participate in their everyday activities. This helps the anthropologist to understand the culture better and to see things from the perspective of the people they are studying.

Ethnographic Interviews

Ethnographic interviews involve talking to people about their culture and their experiences. The anthropologist asks questions about what people do, think, and believe. This information can help to explain how the culture works and how it affects the people who live in it.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are small groups of people who discuss a certain topic. The anthropologist leads the discussion and asks questions about what the group thinks about certain issues. This method can help to provide a lot of information about how the people in the culture feel about certain issues.


Surveys have been used in anthropology since the early days of the discipline and remain an important tool for gathering information about people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior. While there are many different types of surveys, they all share some common features: they are structured, systematic ways of collecting data from a sample of individuals.

Purpose of Anthropology

It is a broad field that covers everything from the study of human origins to the study of modern cultures. The purpose of anthropology is to understand humans and their cultures.

Anthropologists use a variety of methods to study humans and their cultures. They may use archaeological methods to study ancient cultures, or they may use ethnographic methods to study modern cultures. They may also use biological methods to study human evolution, or they may use linguistic methods to study language and culture.

Anthropologists seek to answer questions about what it means to be human. They also seek to understand the diversity of human cultures around the world. By understanding humanity, anthropologists can help make the world a better place for all people.

Anthropologists work in a variety of settings, including universities, museums, government agencies, and private businesses. They may conduct research on topics such as health care, economic development, or education.

About the author

Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer