What are some physical applications of anthropology?

Answer by Peter Leykam:

Your confusion comes from the fact that Anthropology is four loosely connected fields that aren't directly related to each-other beyond the fact that they are "the study of mankind". Those four fields are:

  • Biological or Physical Anthropology, which covers human anatomy, human evolution, primatology and forensics.
  • Cultural or Social (or Socio-cultural) Anthropology, which looks at contemporary human culture and social organization.
  • Linguistic Anthropology: Linguistics
  • Archeology: The study of past societies.

Back in the day when Anthropology was starting as a field, lumping these together made sense. There wasn't that much published on any one field, so someone could have a strong working knowledge of all of them, while focusing on one. Now, that isn't really the case – they stay together more due to university funding politics than any real coherent unity. As far as I know, the last American anthropologist who published on all four fields was Franz Boaz, over a century ago.

That said, there is a good deal of overlap in some fields. Archeologists know a lot about human bones. Socio-linguistic anthropologists study the overlap between linguistic and social anthropology. Many medical anthropologists have a strong grounding in human biology – some of them are even medical doctors.

So, if you want to pursue what Bones does, look for a biological or physical anthropology program that has a strong focus on forensics.

What are some physical applications of anthropology?


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