A.Anthropology is the study of the human species and its immediate ancestors.
1. Anthropology is holistic in that the discipline is concerned with studying the whole of
the human condition: past, present, and future; biology, society, language, and culture.
2. Anthropology offers a unique cross-cultural perspective by constantly comparing the
customs of one society with those of others.
B. People share both society and culture.
1. Society is organized life in groups, a feature that humans share with other animals.
2. Cultures are traditions and customs, transmitted through learning, that govern the
beliefs and behaviors of the people exposed to them.
3. While culture is not biological, the ability to use it rests in hominid biology.
C. Adaptation is the process by which organisms cope with environmental stresses.
1. Human adaptation involves interaction between culture and biology to satisfy
2. Four types of human adaptation (see the illustration of these with regard to adjustment
to high altitude).
a. Cultural (technological) adaptation.
b. Genetic adaptation.
c. Long-term physiological or developmental adaptation.
d. Immediate physiological adaptation.
D. Humans are the most adaptable animals in the world, having the ability to inhabit widely
variant ecological niches.
1. Humans, like all other animals, use biological means to adapt to a given environment.
2. Humans are unique in having cultural means of adaptation.
E. Through time, social and cultural means of adaptation have become increasingly important for
1. Human groups have devised diverse ways of coping with a wide range of
2. The rate of this cultural adaptation has been rapidly accelerating during the last 10,000
a. Food production developed between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago after millions
of years during which hunting and gathering was the sole basis for human
b. The first civilizations developed between 6,000 and 5,000 years ago.
c. More recently, the spread of industrial production has profoundly affected
A. The four subdisciplines of American anthropology.
1. The academic discipline of American anthropology is unique in that it includes four
subdisciplines: cultural anthropology, archaeological anthropology, biological or physical
anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. 2. This four-field approach developed in the U.S. as earlyAmerican anthropologists
studying native peoples of NorthAmerica became interested in exploring the origins and
diversity of the groups that they were studying.
3. This broad approach to studying human societies did not develop in Europe (e.g.,
archaeology, in most European universities, is not a subdiscipline of anthropology; it is
its own department).
B. The four subdisciplines share a similar goal of exploring variation in time and space to
improve our understanding of the basics of human biology, society, and culture.
1. Variation in time (diachronic research): using information from contemporary groups
to model changes that took place in the past; and using knowledge gained from past
groups to understand what is likely to happen in the future (e.g., reconstructing past
languages using principles based on modern ones).
2. Variation in space (synchronic research): comparing information collected from human
societies existing at roughly the same time, but from different geographic locations (e.g.,
the race concept in the U.S., Brazil, and Japan).
C. Any conclusions about "human nature" must be pursued with a comparative, cross-cultural
III. Cultural Forces Shape Human Biology
A. Cultural traditions promote certain activities and abilities, discourage others, and set
standards of physical well-being and attractiveness.
B. Culture has more to do with sports success than "race" does.
1. In Brazilian culture, women should be soft, with big hips and buttocks, not big
shoulders; since competitive swimmers tend to have big, strong shoulders and
firm bodies, competitive swimming is not very popular among Brazilian females.
2. In the U.S., there are not manyAfrican-American swimmers or hockey players,
not because of some biological reason, but because those sports are not as
culturally significant as football, basketball, baseball, and track.
IV. The Subdisciplines ofAnthropology
A. Cultural anthropology combines ethnography and ethnology to study human societies
and cultures for the purpose of explaining social and cultural similarities and differences.
1. Ethnography produces an account (a book, an article, or a film) of a particular
community, society, or culture based on information that is collected during
a. Generally, ethnographic fieldwork involves living in the community that
is being studied for an extended period of time (e.g., 6 months to 2 years).
b. Ethnographic fieldwork tends to emphasize local behavior, beliefs,
customs, social life, economic activities, politics, and religion, rather than
developments at the national level.
c. Since cultures are not isolated, ethnographers must investigate the local,
regional, national, and global systems of politics, economics, and
information that expose villagers to external influences.
2. Ethnology examines, interprets, analyzes, and compares the ethnographic data
gathered in different societies to make generalizations about society and culture. a. Ethnology uses ethnographic data to build models, test hypotheses, and
create theories that enhance our understanding of how social and cultural
b. Ethnology works from the particular (ethnographic data) to the general
B. Interesting Issues: EvenAnthropologists Get Culture Shock
1. "Culture shock" is alienation that results from stepping outside one's own
cultural frame and into a different one.
2. The example of Kottak’s work among theArembepe suggests that culture
shock eases once we begin to grasp the logic of a culture that is new to us.
C. Archaeological anthropology reconstructs, describes, and interprets past human
behavior and cultural patterns through material remains.
1. The material remains of a culture include artifacts (e.g., potsherds, jewelry, and
tools), garbage, burials, and the remains of structures.
2. Archaeologists use paleoecological studies to establish the ecological and
subsistence parameters within which given groups lived.
3. The archaeological record provides archaeologists the unique opportunity to
look at changes in social complexity over thousands and tens of thousands of
years (this kind of time depth is not accessible to ethnographers).
4. Archaeology is not restricted to prehistoric societies.
a. Historical archaeology combines archaeological data and textual data to
reconstruct historically known groups.
b. William Rathje’s "garbology" project in Tucson,Arizona.
D. Biological, or physical, anthropology investigates human biological diversity across
time and space.
1. There are five special interests within biological anthropology:
a. Paleoanthropology: human evolution as revealed by the fossil record.
b. Human genetics.