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Anthropology [anth-row-pahl-O-gee] is the study of human beings in the past and present.[1] The word anthropology has two roots: [ anthrop- ] and [ -ology ]. Anthrop- means “about human beings,” and -ology means “a type of science."[2][3] Anthropology is a type of science about human beings. A person who studies anthropology is called an anthropologist.

The main goal of anthropology is to answer the questions: What makes us human and why?[4]

Anthropology is a biological and historical social science that helps us learn how groups of people are the same, and how they are different in all parts of the world.[5] Anthropologists do research in many places and study how people live now and how they may have lived in the past. They research in modern cities, small villages, tribes, and in the countryside.[5]

Four fields[edit]

Anthropology uses a "four-field approach" that divides anthropology into four big kinds:


Archaeology is the study of humans from the past. People who study archaeology are called archaeologists.

Archaeologists look at things that past people left behind to know how they lived. They look at tools, bones, and past houses to see how people in the past are not the same as people that live today.[1][4][6]

Here are some other examples of what archaeologists like to study:

Biological Anthropology[edit]

Biological or physical anthropology studies human bodies and how they change over time.

They look at how humans live in nature and how their bodies change because of where they live. They also study how human beings and apes and monkeys are alike. Sometimes biological anthropologists study human and animal bones to learn about how past humans lived.[1][4][7] They are also called physical anthropologists.

Here are some other examples of what biological anthropologists like to study:

Linguistic Anthropology[edit]

Linguistic anthropology is the study of how people talk.

Linguistic anthropologists study sounds and how they go together to make words. Then they study what the words mean and how people use them. Linguistic anthropology also studies how language changes what people think and how people change language. No two people talk the same way, so linguistic anthropologists want to know why that happens.[1][4][8]

Here are some other examples of what linguistic anthropologists like to study:

Socio-Cultural Anthropology[edit]

Socio-Cultural Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures.

It looks at how human beings understand the world around them and how they act with the people around them.[9] Socio-cultural anthropologists study living people by going to their homes and learning about who those people are and what they do. They write about people in places all over the world to see why people are different. Some socio-cultural anthropologists study medicine in these places and some look at how babies grow up in other places.[1][4][10]

Here are some other examples of what socio-cultural anthropologists like to study:

Other Kinds of Anthropology[edit]

Even though there are four main kinds of anthropology, there are a lot of different kinds of anthropology within the four main kinds. Here are some examples:

Rules of Anthropology[edit]

Like everything in life, anthropology has a set of rules that every anthropologist needs to follow. The rules try to make sure that no one gets hurt or mad when studying other people. Here are some of the rules:[11]

  • To make sure no one gets hurt when studying anthropology
  • To respect and be nice to humans and animals
  • To make sure any items used to study people are well taken care of
  • To work as a team

Notable people[edit]

Franz Boas
Margaret Mead

This is a list of important people who studied anthropology.

  • Franz Boas (1858-1942)[12]
    • Boas is known as the "Father" of American anthropology because he helped spread anthropology throughout the United States.
    • He studied socio-cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology.
  • Claude Levi Strauss (1908-2009)[12]
    • Levi Strauss studied how humans think and act the same everywhere around the world.
  • Émile Durkheim (1858-1917)[12]
    • Durkheim studied how people in societies make new ideas and groups.
  • Bronisław Malinowski (1884-1942)[12]
    • Malinowski studied how people in different places act and how they are different from people in other places.
  • Margaret Mead (1901-1978)[12]
    • Mead studied how there are different ways people raise babies and how those babies grow up.
  • Marcel Mauss (1872-1950)[12]
    • Mauss studied how different people use magic and how people give presents.
  • Alfred Radcliffe-Brown (1881-1955)[12]
    • Radcliffe-Brown studied how people put their lives in order in different places all over the world.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "What is Anthropology? - Advance Your Career". Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  2. "-ology | Origin and meaning of suffix -ology by Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  3. "anthrop | Search Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Doda, Zerihun (2005). Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology (PDF). Ethiopia Public Health Training Initiative: USAID.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "anthropology | Definition, Branches, History, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-11-15.
  6. Binford, Lewis R. (1962). "Archaeology as Anthropology". American Antiquity. 28 (2): 217–225. doi:10.2307/278380. ISSN 0002-7316.
  7. Larsen, C. S. (Ed.). (2010). A companion to biological anthropology (Vol. 20). John Wiley & Sons.
  8. Duranti, A. (Ed.). (2009). Linguistic anthropology: A reader (Vol. 1). John Wiley & Sons.
  9. Ingold, Tim. 2005. Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology. New York: Routledge.
  10. Garbarino, M. S. (1983). Sociocultural theory in anthropology: A short history. Waveland Press.
  11. American Anthropological Association. 1998. Code of Ethics
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Erickson, Paul; Murphy, Liam (2013). A History of Anthropological Theory. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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