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Lecture 1: What is Anthropology?

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McMaster University
Andrew Wade

Sept 5, 2013 Introduction toAnthropology: Sex, Food & Death What isAnthropology?  The systematic study of human kind  Anthrops = humans; Logia = study of  Two major goals:  To understand the uniqueness and diversity of human behaviour & human societies around the world  To discover the fundamental similarities that link human beings throughout the world in both the past and present.  Combines the four subfields to bridge the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities Anthropology is…  Historical  How did we come to be the way we are?  What forces in the past have shaped us?  Comparitive  What do all humans have in common?  How do we differ?  What are the reasons for this difference?  Contextual  What circumstances, environments, and beliefs (=context) shape human behaviour?  Holistic  How can we understand the entire picture of the human condition, both biological and cultural? SocioculturalAnthropology  The study of contemporary societies and cultures  Culture: learned, transmitted behaviour  Cultural Autonomy – Dr. Petra Rethmann The Four Subfields ofAnthropology  Initially emerged in Western society in an attempt to understand non-Western peoples  Today, anthropologists examine all societies, rather than solely non-Western 1. PhysicalAnthropology  Concerned with humans as a biological species  Subfield most closely related to the natural sciences  Conduct research in two major areas:  Human evolution  Modern human variation Specializations  BiologicalAnthropology  ForensicAnthropology  Paleoanthropology  HumanAnatomy  Human Taxonomy  Paleopathology  Primatology  Ethology  Population Genetics  Human Ecology Fossils  The fragmentary remains of bones and living materials preserved from earlier periods Paleoanthropology  The study of human evolution through analysis of fossils  Paleo = old or prehistoric  Date, classify, and compare fossil bones Primatology  The study of primates  Observations of living primates may provide insight into the behaviours of early human ancestors Osteology  The study of the human skeleton  Wide-ranging applications  Identification of murder victims  Design of ergonomic airplane cockpits  Important for understanding changes in fossil material & adaptations in living populations Philip Walker (2001)  Physical anthropologist  Attempted to answer general questions about the prevalence of violence in past societies  Found that human cannibalism and violence has been prevalent since the beginning of human prehistory  Human skeletal remains show traumatic injuries such as:  Embedded flint arrow points in the vertebrae  Cut marks on cranial skulls  Data indicates that frequency of prehistoric violence is associated with climate changes that resulted in crop failures/other scarcities Genetics  An increasingly important area of research  The study of biological ―blueprints‖ that dictate the inheritance of physical characteristics  Important complement to paleoanthropological research The Genographic Project  Traces both mitochondrial DNAand the Y chromosome  Helped provide independent evidence for theAfrican origins of modern human species and human ancestors. 2. Archaeology  The branch of anthropology that examines the material traces of past societies  Informs us about the shared values, beliefs and norms of those societies  Some archaeologists do research in modern societies  Methodical, time-consuming, and tedious research  Excavation can take months or years Specializations  PrehistoricArchaeology  HistoricalArchaeology  ClassicalArchaeology  DemographicArchaeology  BiblicalArchaeology  MaritimeArchaeology  UnderwaterArchaeology  Urban Archaeology  CognitiveArchaeology  Cultural Resource Management Artifacts  The material products of former societies  Provide clues to the past Middens  Ancient trash piles  Shows how past societies ate their meals, what tools they used in their households & work, and what beliefs gave meaning to their lives PrehistoricArchaeologists  Study the artifacts of prehistoric groups  Ancient inhabitants of Europe  First humans to arrive in theAmericas  No written documents or oral traditions to aid research  Archaeological record provides the primary source of information HistoricalArchaeologists  Work with historians in investigating the artifacts of societies of a more recent past ClassicalArchaeologists  Conduct research on ancient civilizations such as in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Ethnoarchaeology  The study of material artifacts of the past along with the observation of modern peoples who have knowledge of the use and symbolic meaning of the artifacts. Chicha  Ancient maize beer Geographical Information S
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