Anthropology, it was explained to us, was the study of all people in all places at all times, but that was just a general definition of what all anthropology did. You might be thinking ‘All anthropology? There’s more than one thing in this craziness?’ Yes, indeed; there are actually quite a few types of anthropology:
-Cultural: The study of beliefs, creations and inventions, and behaviors. Cultural anthropologists study (surprise!) the cultures of different people around the world. Culture is learned behavior, so on top of learning what a people’s culture is, this type of anthropologist also strive to learn how the culture is taught.
-Archaeology: Everyone is at least a little familiar with this one. Indiana Jones was one himself, if you recall. Hollywood aside, archaeologists try to see how people live or lived in an area. They study material culture, which includes weapons, pottery, tools, jewelry, and the foundations of houses. In fact, even garbage is included. The University of Arizona saw archaeologist William L. Rathje start the ongoing “Garbage Project” to study the trash of what we would call “modern civilization.”
-Applied: Simply put, it’s anthropology put to good use. This type focuses on using anthropology to help people with their problems. They’re involved with the governments of countries, business corporations, and politics to solve real world problems, like lack of irrigation systems and helping to better law enforcement. Applied anthropology is being put to use in our very own Jamestown, NY, with a proposed “urban farm” to help promote local farmer’s markets and teach sustainable agricultural methods. You can check out their website to learn more.
-Physical: Sometimes called biological anthropology, this type studies people as biological organisms, human evolution (including primatology, the study of non-human primates), how humans adapted to their environment, and the variations of genes and traits. Forensics (anyone watch “CSI” or “Bones”?) is also included as a sub-category, studying trauma, skeletal material, how people lived, and (naturally) how they died.
-Linguistics: This is the study of symbolic communications. This type of study came about when the desire to preserve endangered languages emerged. K. David Harrison, a published author, researcher, and teacher at Swarthmore, is dedicated to investigating the phonetics (sound structure. Think back to how English teachers would always talk about syntax and vocabulary) of languages of Inner Asia; Siberia and Western Mongolia specifically. You can check out some of his work in this video: