Physical Anthropology

Anthropology Introduction to the four Subfields

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The History and Understanding of the Four Subfields of Anthropology:

Anthropology is the study of people in their cultural context and the examination of all aspects of patterned social behavior. The study of humanity covers all areas of human biological and social life. It provides meaning to the existence and behaviors of people in the past and present. Being a broad field of discipline; the general overview of the branch of anthropology investigates ancient societies through the material remains they have left behind.

Franz Boas was the founder of North America anthropology. He established academic anthropology in the United States; dividing the discipline in four crucial and interrelated fields of biological, or physical anthropology, socio-culture anthropology, linguistic anthropology and archaeology.

1.) Biological or Physical Anthropology:

Biological or physical anthropology is the study of humans as biological organisms; research areas include origin and human evolution of the species. A study which is based upon uncovering fossil evidence of both early human remains and ancestral to Homo sapiens which are the primate order from which they themselves evolved; the diversity in modern human populations and medical anthropology as well.

2.) Socio-culture Anthropology:

Socio-culture anthropology is the study of the diversity of cultures, societies, and social institutions that exist in modern world; as well as explores patterns of belief and behavior in historical cultures around the world. The majority of anthropologists around the United States belong to the socio-cultural field of subfield. In this choice of study these individuals go out in the field and collect data; by spending long periods of time in communities studying people, communicating with them and participating in their activities. They analyze the most important contributions. The approach is called:

A.) Ethnography: It is an inductive, exploratory character for understanding complex situations and traits. Section: A, and section: B, are two subfields within the study of socio-culture anthropology.

B.) Ethnohistory: The study of native or non-Western societies from a combined historical and anthropological perspective by written documents, oral literature, material culture as well as ethnographic data.

3.) Linguistic Anthropology:

Linguistic anthropology is the main disciplines dedicated to the study of the role of languages and the variation within language; both in prehistoric and modern cultures, and also the social uses of language, traditionally divided into three branches. Those being: biology, cognition and languages that they use.

The branch of anthropology being the linguistic methods of anthropological ideas to an analysis of semiotic and linguistic formation and processes on an even tilter scale by the interpretation of socio-cultural processes and a broad interdisciplinary field; with the study of evolution, distribution and functions of the human language in a cultural setting in societies by learning cognition with their experiences. By documenting and studying the languages in terms of the structure, acquisition and use in the transmission of culture.


Archeology is the sub discipline of anthropology involving the broad field of discipline with the general overview of the branch of anthropology; investigates ancient societies through the material remains they have left behind; the study of human history; being a systematic examination of the diversity of cultures and societies; by recovering and examination of remaining material evidence; such as graves, buildings, tools and pottery.

Archeology provides meaning to the existence and behaviors of people in the past. Archeology is concerned with the study of prehistoric cultures. Prehistory refers to the period of human history prior to the advent of written records. Past societies by recording information from the past that was found at that location. The study of people in the past and present day by using material remains.


Anthropology today is as much the study of being human as it is the study of human beings. Scholars working in its four major sub-disciplines in the USA: culture, physical, linguistic and archaeological, despite the widely varying loci of their endeavors, generally takes a holistic view of the field of anthropology.


Anthropological Theory: An Introductory History by R. Jon McGee

Anthropology: A Global Perspective by Raymond Scupin

Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches by H. Russell Bernard

More about this author: Kimberly Bunch

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