Lecture 1: Anthropology and the Scientific Method

What is Anthropology?

  • Study of all aspects of humankind
  • Holistic approach to humankind
  • Both culture and biology
  • Looking humankind as a species
  • Similarity and the diversity of the species
  • We are more similar than we are different

Biocultural Approach

Central paradigm of anything in anthropology is culture


Integrated system of beliefs

  • The foundation of all sub-fields of anthropology is culture
  • Rests in the foundation of all anthropological inquiry
  • Culture forms your perception
  • Inherited in the sense that it is passed down from one generation to the next – NOT biologically inherited
  • Based on symbolic thinking
  • Humans are not the only cultural species
  • Other primate groups interacting with each other
  • All anthropologist believes in evolutionary theory

Four Sub-fields of Anthropology

  1. Sociocultural
  2. Ethnographies
  3. Collect data
  4. Participant observation
  5. Ethnologies (Comparative samples)
  6. Graphy – Collecting data
  7. Linguistics
  8. Study of human speech and language
  9. Difference and similarities by language
  10. Language has an intricate relationship with culture
  11. Biological/ Physical
  12. Study of humans and their relatives
  13. Within the framework of culture
  14. Biology as a reflection of human behaviour
  15. Includes – humans as primates
  16. Human ancestry
  17. Modern human variation
  18. Not just the anatomy but also the culture – you get that just by the skeleton
  19. Modern human variation
  20. Archaeology
  21. Material remains that are left behind
  22. Recovery and analysis of material remains left by human cultures, primarily of the past
  23. Prehistorical – Pre-contract, lack of good, written documents
  24. Historical – Better data
  25. Public Archaeology (CRM) – Cultural Resource Management
  26. Excavations
  27. Professionals helped with the expansion of 407

Four Sub-fields of Physical Anthropology

  1. Evolutionary Anthropology (Paleoanthropology)
  2. Study of human evolution
  3. Particularly fossil remains
  4. Molecular Anthropology
  5. Genetics
  6. Can examine the genetic relationships
  7. Human population
  8. Humans and their primate relatives
  9. Humans and their primate ancestors
  10. Primatology
  11. Study of our non-human primate behaviour and biology
  12. Primate Paleontology – Study of primate fossil record
  13. The leaky 3 – Jane Goodall, Diane Fossey and one more
  14. Osteology
  15. Study of human bones
  16. Bone biology
  17. Population relationships
  18. Paleodemography – Demographics of a place – How many males/ females/ infants in the cemetery?
  19. Paleonutrition – Nutrition in the bones
  20. Paleopathology – Diseases in the skeleton
  21. Forensic Anthropology
  22. Antimortem – During your life
  23. Perimortem – Happens at the time of your death
  24. Postmortem – Happens after death

Applied Anthropology

Application of anthropological research in other fields

  • Practical use of knowledge and expertise of anthropology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Medical anthropology

How do Anthropologists Study Culture?

  • Scientific Inquiry

Scientific Method

  1. Define a relevant problem
  2. Establish a hypothesis
  3. Determine the empirical implications of the hypothesis
  4. Collect appropriate data through observation and/or experimentation
  5. Test the hypothesis by comparing these data with the expected implications
  6. Reject, revise, and/or retest hypothesis as necessary

History of the study of human variation

  • Linneaous 1758

Separated humans into five categories -

  1. Americanus
  2. Europaeus
  3. Asiaticus
  4. Afer
  5. Mostrosus

Count de Buffon

"Varieties of the human species” (1749)

  • Descriptive
  • Rejected classifications
  • Emphasized unity of species
  • Behavioural and cultural biases

Inherent bias and cultural conformity in the examination of groups.

Early Physical Anthropology

Franz Boas (1902)

  • The mental life of mankind
  • Anatomical characteristics of the races of man
  • Idea of categorizing human characteristics

Blumenbach (2752)

  • Skull shape and measurements to determine race
  • Coined the term “Caucasian”
  • Craniometry
  • Cranial capacity, phrenology

Problems with human classification

  • Humans are both investigators and subjects
  • Inequalities and injustices

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