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Various Subsections of Anthropology Essay

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Updated: Aug 26th, 2019

Studying humanity journey


Anthropology is the study of human beings in time and space. The central theme of anthropology is to trace the development that has occurred to the human race from the past to the present in different geographical locations. In fact, it uses both scientific and humanistic means for its data analysis that is gotten from various studies and researches that are conducted on the human race and its close relatives.

Anthropology explores various issues that pertain to the existence of life for humans and the physical, biological as well as geographical differences exhibited by the human race. From time in memorial, humans have evolved to display the differences that they have among themselves and other animals which share the same ancestral origin.

For ease of study, anthropology as a discipline is divided into various study categories such as physical or biological anthropology, cultural anthropology and forensic anthropology among other sub-sections.

Each of these sectors studies a certain aspect of human life aimed at bringing a clear and concise understanding of the human race. This paper aims at explaining the various subsections of anthropology and the role they play in enhancing the understanding of the value of anthropology.

The value of studying human evolutionary sequence

Of interest to anthropology is the idea of evolution which is pivotal to the explanation of emergence of different forms of life. Evolution theory can be traced back to the work of Charles Darwin who introduced it to modern biological and evolutionary thought. Physical anthropology as a branch deals with evolution of biological characteristics observed in human beings.

Evolution can be described as the process by which living organisms have developed mostly through adaptation, natural selection and survival for the fittest to be what they are today. This theory uses genetical adaptation and inheritance to explain why some organisms have survived while others have become extinct (Thompson 1).

The study of anthropology has helped in many ways both in understanding human beings and solving various problems that persistently arise. Physical anthropology understanding is crucial in the field of medicine.

Most scientists believe that biological evolution can help in preventing and inventing cures as well as getting the local population to change their attitude towards medication. It is evident that many problematic diseases have their roots from the genetical inheritance that has occurred from the past. Medical researchers in this field need to study evolutionary biology to trace and get the cure of these early diseases.

Evolution has played a key role in shaping the current anatomy, physiology and behavior that either exposes us to diseases or provides an immune system against the infections. Natural selection has acted through nature to eliminate mal-adapted organisms through diseases and other natural calamities.

In the process, various organisms might have either survived or passed on defective genes. Major emphasis is laid on diseases and conditions that are passed through genes, from parents to offsprings which may need inference from biological evolution (Downie 3).

Through studying humankind journey via evolution, we are able to understand the position of man in the current world of organisms. It sheds light on why humans are more developed than other organisms although origin of life seems to have been at similar interval. Past human activities that are recorded by archaeological undertakings help to explain the current changes in both humans and the environment we live.

It is apparent that through beings evolution, archeologists have had great impacts on the natural environment by altering it to suit them (Brunet et al 146). Archaeology brings forth information from the ancient life and helps to reconstruct the extent to which human beings have changed. Adaptation to environment is a major tool used by human beings to survive and propagate.

Humans globally exhibit different characteristics and behavior as per their geographical regions. These perceived differences are due to the influence of the geographical regions and cultural differences. Human variation (HV) studies the various differences exhibited by human beings namely behavior, color, genetical differences and adaptation measures.

HV has evolved from the past through adaptive means to what is currently perceived. Through it, scientists are able to deduce whether humans have the ability to continue adapting successfully to the fluctuating environmental conditions or not. From this kind of data obtained from genetic pools of various past and present humans, scientists are able to advise human beings on potential dangers (Becks et al 989).

Further, HV helps to explain disease prevalence in certain communities or geographical regions as opposed to others. For example, where the malarial disease has high prevalence, certain genetic traits are also prevalent.

The study of HV shows that it is important in maintaining adaptive populations, biological variance for the functioning individual communities and ecological systems. Loss of HV may cause instability in human communities, negative effects in innate systems and genus viability (Becks et al 995).

Archaeology is an anthropological discipline that is concerned with the history of people and their extinct cultures. It relies on the remains of left objects and materials called artifacts for the study and analysis. Archaeology is devoted to the search and excavation of the material remains to reveal the history of people and reconstruct their early life.

It produces visible evidence to support the evolution theory. Historical archeology also relies on material culture and its exploitation but combines it with perspectives in anthropological field to bring an understanding of early lives of various groups of people whose material culture has been excavated (Paynter 169).

Archaeology provides vital information on various issues that pertain to the extinct population. Information on diseases, cultural way of life, eating habits and other important aspects of human life can be gotten from archaeological analysis.

Importance of understanding anthropological sub-fields

Understanding the various sub-fields of anthropology has great importance in the life of individuals and that of the complete society. It is a common phenomenon for people to have a biased approach on others due to their differences in culture, color, eating, dressing habits and various aspects of community life.

Countless conflicts occur due to the misunderstanding generated by difference in cultures (Brunet et al 148). Through understanding various topics, the prevention of such conflicts is possible. Besides, it prepares an individual for any occurrences that require great understanding of human dynamics.


Anthropology offers important scientific and humanistic knowledge on human beings.

Anthropological information traces the descent of mankind from primitive forms to the developed forms that offers insight into the unobserved and observable characteristics which are helpful in a wide-range of scientific and humanistic application. Despite curricula importance, anthropological knowledge has wide individual application in real life.

Archaeology and Palaeo-anthropology


Archaeology is the humanistic and scientific study of ancient form of human beings through the use of material culture obtained via recovery and analysis. Material culture are the remains of environmental objects left by the ancient form of human beings including artifacts, building remains, biological remains namely plants, bones, ashes and other archaeological records.

Archaeology traces human descent from the first primitive form of human life up the evolution ladder to the present form of human life which takes several million years ago. From paleolithic era to the development of complex human life, archaeology provides information on human evolutionary journey (Renfrew and Bahn 13).

Palaeo-anthropology is the study of human fossils in support of evolutionary theory of human beings. However, fossil are the hardened parts of a human body that have been preserved for a long time through the action of nature such as in snow, burrows and in caves. It incorporates intelligible cultural practices like burial practices that man acquired in the process of evolution.

Palaeo-anthropology uses both paleontology and physical anthropology to study human fossils. Indeed, physical anthropology is concerned with evolution based on biological inherited characteristics that are essential in the maintenance of human evolution path.

Paleontology conversely studies the prehistoric life to determine the evolution and the interactions that occurred among early human beings which might have resulted into the exchange of cultural practices evident in excavated human remains. Paleontology provides an extensive evolution view of the primary forms of life which are found within the context of early human life (Laudan 58).

Human evolution

Existing human beings are as a result of a long chain of evolutionary processes that has seen them develop from primitive forms to complex form. The study of their evolution is attributed to palaeo-anthropological studies that get their raw data from archaeological excavations. In the evolution sequence, human beings have adapted biologically to changing environmental conditions.

Humans are believed to share a common ancestry with the apes but developed and adapted differently resulting to the differences observed between the ape family and human beings. Mutually, these species share various common and similar characteristics both genetically and cultural although apes display primitive form of human behavior (Laudan 59).

The earliest form of human life is traced back to the appearance on the face of earth of an upright walking ape, approximately 6 million years ago. The human species were named hominid and was differentiated from that of the close human like apes named the chimpanzee on traits of uprightness and the use of opposable thumb.

This difference is attributed to the use of tools that required the big finger to move constantly to allow for the gripping of the tool. These fossils are dated 7 million years ago. Further excavations yielded other fossils closer to human beings and were classified under the genera Australopithecus and Homo (Renfrew and Bahn 16).

Through biological evolution initiated largely from the effects of environmental fluctuations, the general homo developed to Homo sapiens which are associated with the current day human beings.

Fossils have been excavated all over the world bearing characteristics that have enabled archaeologists and palaeo-anthropologists to rank them accordingly in the human evolution sequence. From the earliest sahelanthropus species, humans have evolved through various stages each with different adaptations that have helped it to survive the torrid natural environment which has been changing from time to time.

Natural selection in these species has determined which species were to prosper and propagate while others perished. Through nature, environment chose the best adapted forms of species to pass on to the next level to human evolution. The earliest fossils that had resemblance to human beings were discovered at Taung, near Kimberley in South Africa and were assigned to the genus Australopithecus (Dart 196).

This hominid form was more like a chimpanzee and lacked the ability to create tools. Recent discoveries of Kenyanthropus hominid in Kenya that date 3.5 to 7 million years ago reinstated the idea of accepting a separate genera and species for the human beings.

Palaeo-anthropologists cite that the separation between the chimpanzee family and the human family ideally took place nearly 3.5-7 million years ago but each family developed on its own (Dart 197).

Biological differences such as teeth pattern and bi-pedalism have been used extensively by palaeo-anthropologists to differentiate human beings forms and other close relatives. The evolution of hominid family was later followed by the excavation of the hominid ardipithecus from the Middle awash region in Ethiopia.

This hominid displayed characteristics of terrestrial bi-pedalism which was linked to early human forms. This fossil similarly contained dental system that was close to hominids.

The excavation of further hominid forms in Rift Valley also strengthened the argument of evolution (Brunet et al 147). Dentition was used to differentiate the extent of hominid resemblance. The following summary provides a detailed evolutionary sequence of man.

The first fossils attributed to the genus Homo was the Australopithecine found in 1924 at Taung in South Africa by Raymond Dart. The hominid walked erect, lived on the ground and probably used stones as weapons to hunt small animals. It was dated to be 3.5-7 million years old.

The first evidence of the Homo species believed to have walked upright was discovered in Java in 1891. It was named Pithecanthropus Erectus meaning the erect ape man. Another kind of identical hominid was made in China; south-west of Peking called Peking man. The hominid had larger cranial capacity than Australopithecus yet lived in communal existence and used fire.

The Acheulean tool making era is associated with this hominid. These tools were made of stone, wood and bone. The hominid is also said to have hunted big games in a communal way and lived in caves. The Home erectus gradually evolved into the Neanderthal man.

This primitive man used stone flakes as tools, spears for hunting and is seen to have lived in cave (Renfrew and Bahn 15). The Neanderthals were capable of big game hunting including elephants, rhino et cetera. The final stage of man evolution is the appearance of the Homo sapiens hominid that represents the modern day man with all the capabilities to live complex lifestyles.

It is to be noted that the evolution of man has taken millions of years and various reshaping of man by natural occurrences. Numerous factors have contributed to this evolutionary sequence.

Evolution has been marred by struggle for survival. It included where only the fit survived, variations in both biological and physical traits, survival for the fittest which eliminated the mal-adapted organisms and denied them the chance to pass on their defective genes, hence natural selection (Dart, 198).

Through natural selection, nature chooses organisms to propagate based on their ability to adapt to the changing natural conditions. Biological adaptation through genetic variance, mutation and propagation has played a key role in the evolution of man. Genes have enabled organisms that are better adapted to evolve further and deny those which are not the chance to evolve and therefore die away.


The emergence of current day man has been as a result of a long series of evolutionary stages that has been documented by palaeo-anthropologists using archaeological evidence of material remains left by early life forms.

This trend has passed through several stages each characterized by different traits that brought closer the emergence of modern day man. Biological evolution through the role played by genetic inheritance has been pivotal in this sequence.

Works Cited

Becks, Lutz, Ellner Stephen, Jones Laura and Hairston Nelson. “Reduction of adaptive genetic diversity radically alters eco-evolutionary community dynamics”. Ecology letters 13(2010).

Brunet, Michel, et al. “A new hominid from the Upper Miocene of Chad, Central Africa”. Nature 418.6894 (2002): 145–151.

Dart, Raymond. “Australopithecus africanus: The Man-Ape of South Africa”. Nature 115.2884 (1925):195-199.

Downie, John, R. Evolution in health and disease: The role of evolutionary biological in the medical curriculum, May 1994. Web.

Laudan, Ronald. (1992). “What’s so Special about the Past?” Nitecki, Harman and Nitecki, David. History and Evolution, 2010.

Paynter, Ray. “Historical Archaeology and the Post-Columbian World of North America”. Journal of Archaeological Research 8.3 (2000).

Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul. Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. High Holborn, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2004. Print.

Thompson, Paul. Biological evolution. Montgomery, AL. Apologetics Press Inc, 1994.

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