H. floresiensis skull, Liang Bua Cave, Indonesia
H. floresiensis skull, Liang Bua Cave, Indonesia. Peter Brown


Anthropologists have many interests, traditionally defined in four fields: biological and cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics.

Since the sixteenth century and the first circumnavigation of the globe there has been an accelerating homogenization of surviving human cultures. Many have become extinct--through conquest, disease, and assimilation. The ethnographic accounts of anthropologists are the largest single body of literature about human life ways.

With the world's population exceeding 6 billion, and the prospect of its doubling within the next century there are a multitude of "why" and "how" questions that anthropologists are dealing with: how can the people of the world feed themselves, keep their populations under control, and maintain an adequate standard of living?

Anthropologists attempt to answer the question: "how can one explain the diversity of human cultures that are currently found on earth and how have they evolved?" Given that we will have to change rather rapidly within the next generation or two this is a very pertinent question for anthropologists.

More recently the question of human universals has been revived, and there then is the question of "how much alike are we?"-- a complementary question to "how diverse are we?"

Anthropology is a diverse discipline and thankfully so. Human beings are a diverse species. No single approach can hope to encompass our variability on the one hand and our similarities on the other.

This description was contributed by Michael Scullin

This glossary entry is a part of the Guide to the Subdisciplines of Archaeology, and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology. Reader Nathan Light rightly points out that anthropology is not a sub-discipline of archaeology, but rather a discipline in its own right.

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Scullin, Michael. "Anthropology." ThoughtCo, Jan. 19, 2016, Scullin, Michael. (2016, January 19). Anthropology. Retrieved from Scullin, Michael. "Anthropology." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 11, 2017).