What Are the Major Subdivisions of Anthropology?

By Sylvia Cini; Updated July 05, 2017
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Archaeologist image by russe from Fotolia.com

Anthropology is the study of the natural history of man. Anthropologists approach their research holistically, incorporating knowledge from diverse fields to form a clearer understanding of a phenomenon. One anthropological study might describe a people through history, biology, geography, psychology and theology. American universities and colleges generally offer four areas of anthropological study: sociocultural, biological, archaeological and linguistic.

Sociocultural

Sociocultural anthropologists study the development of human society and culture. This subdivision focuses on the changing laws, behaviors, customs, traditions and interpersonal relationships. One way in which these anthropologists gain knowledge is first-hand observation, living within or near a given cultural group. This interest may be the basis for a career in business, religion, art or government.

Biological

Understanding our genetic past can lead to cures in the present.

Homo Sapiens are visibly different. However, 99 percent of our genetic code is identical. There are a lot of questions concerning human origins, evolutionary development and variety. Biological, or physical, anthropologists try to answer these queries through archaeology, genetics and biology. You might find a biological anthropologist studying diseases in a lab or traveling the world to survey biological anomalies.

Archaeological

Archaeologists use physical evidence of human society to draw conclusions about past cultures. By comparing artifacts with existing groups of people, these anthropologists make assumptions concerning the sequence of past events, social order and governing. While some focus their research on large events and significant historical figures, others focus on the basic activities of daily life. Archaeologists are well-known as field-researchers, but may also be employed at schools, museums and parks.

Linguistic

One linguistic anthropologist developed a dictionary of South African hand gestures.

Language is often seen as a reflection of cultural development, showing how people group, think and plan. Linguistic scientists move beyond this limiting belief by researching how language actively shapes culture. For instance, the use of a dialect leading to group acceptance. These anthropologists work closely with existing peoples to gain a better understanding of language and humanity.

About the Author

Sylvia Cini has written informative articles for parents and educators since 2009. Her articles appear on various websites. Cini has worked as a mentor, grief counselor, tutor, recreational leader and school volunteer coordinator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Clark University of Worcester, Massachusetts.