Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 5

Anth &215

Biological Anthropology w/Lab

Introduction: Anthropology & Biological Anthropology
What is Anthropology? 1
Because of the broad scope of this discipline it rests both in the sciences and the humanities.
The scientific method is employed and so are interpretative methods

Anthropology is also a comparative approach, where the common and unique behaviors or biological traits are
Anthropology is the study of humanity in all its times and places.
The word anthropology comes from the Greek words anthropos (man) + logos (science of)
This means the discipline of anthropology is a very broad one; in fact, most anthropologists consider themselves
as generalists. Even so, there are 4 sub-disciplines in anthropology:
Cultural anthropology (also called ethnology)
Linguistic anthropology
Biological anthropology (also called physical anthropology) is concerned with human variation, evolution,
and adaptation, using a biocultural approach.

What is Anthropology? 2
The biocultural approach
Humans must be understood in terms of shared learned behavior (culture) as well as biology.
Cultures are traditions and customs, transmitted through learning, that govern the beliefs and behaviors of the
people exposed to them.
While culture is not biological, the ability to use it rests in hominin biology.
What is the difference between culture and society?
Society is organized life in groups, a feature that humans share with other animals.
The capacity for sociality is biological.
Cultural forces shape human biology
Cultural traditions promote certain activities and abilities, discourage others, and set standards of physical
well-being and attractiveness.
Culture has more to do with sports success than race does.
In Brazilian culture, women should be soft, with big hips and buttocks, not big shoulders; since
competitive swimmers tend to have big, strong shoulders and firm bodies, competitive swimming is not
very popular among Brazilian females.
In the U.S., there are not many African-American swimmers or hockey players, not because of some
biological reason, but because those sports have not been as culturally significant as football, basketball,
baseball, and track.
The Biocultural Approach
Not pictured
What is Anthropology? 3

Variation refers to differences among individuals and populations.
The anthropologist is interested in variation in terms of both biology and culture.
Uses comparative approach to determine those aspects of human behavior and biology are similar in all
Relethford Introduction Page 1

Also anthropologists study what aspects are unique. From the differences come questions such as: How do
groups differ from each other? And Why do they differ?
Evolution is change in populations of living organisms over time.
Both cultural and biological evolution interest anthropologists.
Adaptation is the process of successful interaction between a population and the environment.
Humans, like all other animals, use biological means to adapt to a given environment (i.e.; sweating or skin color)
Humans also have cultural means of adaptation. The debate as to whether other primates have culture is ongoing.
Through time, social and cultural means of adaptation have become increasingly important for human groups.
The rate of this cultural adaptation has been rapidly accelerating during the last 10,000 years.

Anthropology as a Discipline 1
The scope of anthropology
Every part of the world that has ever contained human beings.
Thus, any explanation for human behavior should evidence itself across time and space.
The holistic approach
Research takes into account the totality of human experiences
Holism is often referred to as the glue that holds anthropology together.
Anthropology embraces what it calls the biocultural approach, which look at the links between biology and
The culture concept is central as all anthropologists work within questions about culture
Context as the time, place, and circumstances from which the object/observation came is also a part of the
biocultural approach
Anthropological curiosity
There is a curiosity about the typical characteristics of human populations and the variation within this species
Think about all the sciences that relate back to the question of what it means to be human and you can see why
anthropology asks lots of questions.
Anthropology as a Discipline 2
The academic discipline of American anthropology is unique in that it includes four subfields: cultural anthropology,
archaeological anthropology, biological or physical anthropology, and linguistic anthropology.
This four-field approach developed in the U.S. as early American anthropologists studying native peoples of
North America became interested in exploring the origins and diversity of the groups that they were studying.
This broad approach to studying human societies did not develop in Europe (e.g., archaeology, in most European
universities, is not a subfield of anthropology; it is its own department)
The four subfields share a similar goal of exploring variation in time and space to improve our understanding of the
basics of human biology, society, and culture.
Variation in time (diachronic research): using information from contemporary groups to model changes that took
place in the past; and using knowledge gained from past groups to understand what is likely to happen in the
Variation in space (synchronic research): comparing information collected from human societies existing at
roughly the same time, but from different geographic locations
Any conclusions about human nature must be pursued with a comparative, cross-cultural approach.
The Subfields of Anthropology 1
Cultural (social) anthropology
Relethford Introduction Page 2

Cultural anthropology focuses on the study of existing and recent cultures

Culture is the strategy people use in adapting to the natural and social environments in which they live.
Culture can also be defined as the socially acquired way of life in a social group. The process of acquiring
culture is referred to as enculturation.

Uses participant-observation to study culture through the use of fieldwork (full immersion into a culture)
Cultural anthropology combines ethnography and ethnology to study human societies and cultures for the purpose
of explaining social and cultural similarities and difference
A cultural anthropologist is often called an ethnographer
An ethnographer is someone who undertakes field research in the form of an ethnography.
Ethnography is a detailed description of many aspects of customary thought and behavior of a people.
Ethnography produces an account (a book, an article, or a film) of a particular community, society, or culture
based on information that is collected during fieldwork
Ethnology is a cross-cultural comparison which tries to understand what it means to be human. This term is
also used to mean the study of cultural anthropology
Examples of arenas where cultural anthropologists work include urban anthropology and medical anthropology

The Subfields of Anthropology 2

Linguistic anthropology
Linguistic anthropology is the study of language in its social and cultural context across space and time. The use
of language is a unique human characteristic.
Linguistic includes 4 areas of study:
Descriptive linguistics (also called theoretical or structural linguistics) is where one might look at grammatical
systems and similar work. Some linguistic anthropologists investigate universal features of language that may be
linked to uniformities in the human brain.
Historical linguistics where the reconstruction of an ancient language or looking for language origins are only two
options. How languages change over time and how they may be related
Sociolinguistics investigates relationships between social and linguistic variation to discover varied perceptions
and patterns of thought in different cultures. Sociolinguistics may include looking at language planning or help
with ones accent How language is used in social contexts.
Ethnolinguistics has the focus of looking at how language influences our cultural understandings
Within anthropology you are more likely to see sociolinguistics and ethnolinguistics being studied.
The Subfields of Anthropology 3
Archaeology (older spelling archeology) is the study of past cultures through their material culture, especially
artifacts (objects or materials altered by humans) and paleoecological data
Archaeology is a body of methods and so reflects many different kinds of archaeology:
Classical archaeology is the study of the Mediterranean worlds classical civilizations, such as the Romans
and the Greeks. They usually are found in departments of art history, classics, and architecture, and less
commonly in anthropology
Archaeological anthropology refers to applications of archaeological methods to the origins and diversity of
modern humans. Focuses on the archaeological record and deals, in addition to artifacts, with sites (i.e., a kill
site) and features (i.e.; hearths) of human activity
Archaeological anthropology (We will call this archaeology for the remainder of the course) has many have many
areas of expertise. These studies include two major time frames:
Prehistory looks at the time before written records.
Historical archaeology is the study of the remains of peoples who left written records.
So archaeology is not restricted to prehistoric societies. Ethnoarchaeology which uses ethnographic data from
Relethford Introduction Page 3

modern peoples to help explain past cultures. Another example of the blurring of the lines between the
subfields of anthropology.
The Subfields of Anthropology 4
Applied anthropology
Applied anthropology involves the use or application of anthropological knowledge to help solve social problems
A separate field?
Just like theory, application should be a valued part of every field of anthropology
May be most helpful to think of this as a dimension of anthropology, not a field
Most applied anthropologists are trained as cultural anthropologists, such as the urban and medical
anthropologists mentioned earlier
Other examples of applied anthropology include:
Training in English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor.
Forensic anthropologists who help identify cause of death and identity of remains, as they apply
anthropological techniques to legal issues
Applied anthropologists are generally employed by international development agencies, like the World Bank,
United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the
United Nations.
The Subfields of Anthropology 5
Biological (physical) anthropology
Biological, or physical, anthropology investigates human biological diversity across time and space.
Some anthropologists still use the older term: physical anthropology.
I prefer the newer term of biological anthropology or even bioanthropology.
Consists of three sub-disciplines (sub-fields): paleoanthropology, primatology and human variation/adaptation.
Paleoanthropology ( also called human paleontology) is the study of human evolution
The fossil record (at least that of the last 65 million years) is of interest to biological anthropology;
Emergence of hominins and their later evolution is the specific focus of paleo
The interdisciplinary approach to the study of earlier hominins, their chronology, physical structure,
archaeological remains, habitats, etc.
Includes areas such as anthropometrics, osteology, and paleopathology, as well as borrowing from
chemistry, geology and other disciplines
Also included the use of anthropometry (the measurement of the human body) is key to the data sets
for paleoanthropology
The Subfields of Anthropology 6
Biological (physical) anthropology (continued)
Primatology is defined as the study of the living nonhuman primates
Primates include prosimians (older term), monkeys, and apes, and humans
Primate paleontology (also called paleoprimatology) is an example of overlap between these foci of
anthropology and studies the evolutionary history of ancient primate species.
Human genetics is the study of gene structure and action and the patterns of inheritance of traits from parent to
Genetic mechanisms are the foundation for evolutionary change
Leads to studies of human variation based on scientific explanations of human biological diversity.
Ask how and why contemporary human populations vary biologically
Relethford Introduction Page 4

Homo sapiens, the human species, though is surprisingly similar, population to population when
compared to other species.
Through the use of these types of data they determine the human adaptations (functional responses of
organisms and populations to environments):
Also look at population biology (impact of environment), and epidemiology (impact of diseases).
Molecular anthropology is another specialty

So Who are Bioanthropologists?

A previous version of this book introduced a few practicing anthropologists. I like this idea so I left them in the lecture
Barry Bogin looks at human physical growth. Among his publications is Patterns of human growth.
Michael Crawford works in anthropological genetics and in 2006 published a long anticipated update on this field
called Anthropological genetics: Theories, methods and applications
Dawnie Steadman is a forensic anthropologist who, in 2009, updated her book, Hard evidence: Case studies in
forensic anthropology
Dean Falk studies primate brains and wrote a current work (2012) called Evolution of the primate brain.
Lyle Konigsberg deals with prehistoric human skeletal remains and wrote, The Spiro Ceremonial center: The
archaeology of Arkansas Valley Caddoan culture in Eastern Oklahoma
Rachel Caspari determines age of death in fossil remains and co-wrote Race and human evolution: A fatal
Lorena Madrigal specializes in demography and genetics and just wrote, Human Biology of Afro-Caribbean
Karen Strier looks at primate behavior recently updated her book, "Primate Behavioral Ecology
As you can see, both from the titles of their works and the areas of research on which they focus, biological
anthropology is diverse

Relethford Introduction Page 5