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What are the branches of anthropology/characteristics

The word anthropology comes from the Greek “ánthrōpos” which means “human” and “logos” which means knowledge. What are the branches of anthropology?

Anthropology is a biological science that studies the human being in an integral way , in their physical characteristics as animals and in their culture, which would be the only non-biological trait. This science is supported by the knowledge and tools provided by the natural and social sciences.

The objective of anthropology is to produce knowledge about the human being in various fields , such as their social structures, their biological evolution, their current way of life as well as their evolution over time, their cultural and linguistic expression and many other aspects. that characterize the human being. For this he uses a historical perspective, studying not only the present time, but the evolution of the human being through time.

The history of anthropology dates back to the second half of the 19th century. As a consequence of the spread of the theory of evolution (Charles Darwin), a theory similar to which they called social evolutionism originated in the social sciences , which proposes that just as species evolve from simple organisms to more complex ones, from in the same way, human societies and cultures followed the same process until they produced more complex structures. What are the branches of anthropology?

As in many sciences, anthropology has had to create specialties to focus its studies on particular aspects of specific fields. These specialties gave rise to disciplines that today are considered independent sciences, although very close and in constant relationship with anthropology.

In this article the main branches of archaeological science are mentioned , as well as their sub-branches, with a brief review of the study areas they cover, as well as some details of each discipline in general.

Anthropology is divided into several branches that address different aspects of human development. Next, we present four branches of anthropology with their different sub-branches.

Physical anthropology

It is also known as biological anthropology. This is a branch of anthropology that studies man in his biological processes , in the same way that animal biology is studied. His study focuses on the variations or differences between human populations that have lived over time and their distributions in space.

The theoretical basis for this branch of anthropology was in principle Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection . But in the middle of the 20th century, when it was possible to decipher the composition and molecular structure of DNA, the theoretical basis was complemented and deepened, allowing the molecular understanding of the phenotypic variability of organisms, which in turn allowed to understand the evolutionary process through biochemistry. And this understanding led to the analysis of genetic affinities between different organisms, reinforcing the common ancestor theory.

Physical anthropology is in turn divided into sub-branches, grouped into two trends: descriptive and metric.

Descriptive trend

Descriptive physical anthropology focuses on the comparison and contrast of non-measurable appearances or characters between groups of individuals. Here are some of the sub-branches of anthropology that are part of the descriptive trend: What are the branches of anthropology?

  • Forensic anthropology : it is the application of this science to the legal process. It tries to identify corpses and remains, as well as to decipher the circumstances of death.
  • Somatology : studies the human body and the relationships it establishes with the environment and culture. It also studies the human structure and its different types of environments where humanity lived. Other aspects that somatology studies are the emotional, mental and spiritual causes of situations that the body experiences, and how such causes affect the personal growth of the human being.
  • Primatology : it is the study of the behavior of non-human primates, their morphology and their genetics. For their study, primatologists use phylogenetic methods to infer the traits that humans share with other primates and determine what are specific adaptations for humans.
  • Osteology : it is based on the study of bones ((hard and transparent white organs, the whole of which constitutes the skeleton). Analyzes bone fossils and deduces the usual or cultural context of the organism.
  • Paleoanthropology : focuses on the study of fossil evidence for human evolution, mainly using remains of extinct hominids and other primate species to determine morphological and behavioral changes in the human lineage, as well as the environment in which human evolution occurred.

Metric trend

While descriptive physical anthropology focuses on the comparison and contrast of non-measurable appearances or characters between groups of individuals, metric specialties study and develop measurement techniques for parts of the human body. His most significant area of ​​study is:

  • Anthropometry : this sub-branch of anthropology studies the measurements of the human body. It refers to the study of human dimensions and measurements in order to assess physical changes in the human being, and the differences between races and sexual sub-races. What are the branches of anthropology?

Cultural anthropology

Cultural or social anthropology is the branch of this science that studies the behavior learned in societies, which means that it is the science of human culture. This science studies the origin, structure and variable characteristics of human culture, both in the past and in the present.

This sub-branch of anthropology is supported by other sciences such as linguistics, ethnology, ethnography, archeology, and physical anthropology.

Cultural anthropology is generally considered synonymous with social anthropology and ethnology . Social anthropology and cultural anthropology are intertwined. Social anthropology deals with the way in which people associate and group together, while cultural anthropology deals with the habits and customs of people. The concept of society is the primary principle for social anthropologists and the concept of culture is crucial for cultural anthropologists.

The following disciplines emerge from this branch of anthropology:

  • Urban Anthropology : specializes in the study of the material past of towns and cities in which the long-term permanence of human beings has left a rich record of the past.
  • Kinship anthropology : this branch of archeology focuses on kinship relations, as a social phenomenon and from a purely biological aspect.
  • Anthropology of religion : is responsible for the study of religious systems and their beliefs.
  • Economic anthropology : production, consumption distribution and exchange are the basic structures of economic transactions and their processes. Economic anthropologists focus on these activities mainly in illiterate and peasant societies. They focus on modes of exchange, including ceremonial exchanges. The concept of reciprocity and redistribution is crucial here. S also studies the nature of trade and market systems.
  • Political anthropology : It focuses on the ubiquity of the political process and the functions of legitimate authority, law, justice and sanctions in simple societies; power and leadership approach. It focuses on the anthropological point of view in the formulation of the typology of political structures based on the differences and similarities observed between the societies of the world and their political processes that arise between nations and complex societies. In addition, it also studies the political culture and nation-building processes. What are the branches of anthropology?

The arqueology

Archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. The archaeological record consists of artifacts, architecture, biofacts or ecofacts, and cultural landscapes . Archeology is seen as a social science and also as a branch of the humanities. In North America, archeology is a subfield of anthropology, while in Europe it is often considered a discipline in its own right or a subfield of other disciplines.

The discipline needs to execute knowledge of surveying, excavating and analyzing the data that has been collected to learn about the past. In a wide scope, archeology is based on interdisciplinary research . It is based on anthropology, history, art history, classics, ethnology, geography, geology, literary history, linguistics, semiology, textual criticism, physics, information science, palaeoecology, paleontology, palaeography, chemistry, statistics, among others.

Linguistic anthropology

This branch of anthropology studies human languages. It is an interdisciplinary study on how language influences social life. It is a branch of anthropology that originated from the effort to document endangered languages, and has grown over the past century to encompass most aspects of the structure and use of language. 

Linguistic anthropology explores how language shapes communication, shapes social identity and group membership, organizes large-scale cultural beliefs and ideologies, and develops a common cultural representation of natural and social worlds. What are the branches of anthropology?

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