Anthropology: The Study of Humankind

Humankind is a complex subject matter that requires a vast array of knowledge in essentially what is known as Anthropology. The overall information in which anthropology attempts to cover is abundant, which is where the four subfields, biological, cultural, linguistic, and archaeology come in an attempt to explain the phenomena that is humans. Biological Anthropology, sometimes called physical anthropology, is concerned with studying the human species on an intimate level, focusing on its past and present evolution in an attempt to understand the modern human species.

Biological anthropologists are determined to answer the many unknown questions of our kind, as they delve themselves into the subfield’s human biology, primatology, paleoanthropology, skeletal biology and osteology, paleopathology, and forensics. All six subfields are significant in understanding human beings, but perhaps skeletal biology and osteology remains as the dominant field.

Osteologists and skeletal biologists not only able to identify the organism from which a bone was taken, but may also determine the sex, ancestry, and the development state in which it lies.

Cultural anthropology is the study of human societies in a cross-cultural perspective. Cultural anthropologists focus on the way people live through their day to day lives, no interference done, just simple observation. A specialized area of this field is ethnology which is essentially again the study of human societies, with the only difference being that the behavior is closely focused on. From the arrangement of funerals and marriages, to the kinship system, to the economic system, and even the political system, cultural anthropologists use their observations of these in order to potentially understand another culture by seeing how it compares to one’s own.

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Archaeologists laboratory are sites from all over the world. They study tools excavated from the ground ranging from 2.5 million years to modern times. Prehistoric archaeologists study cultures that did not leave any known writing system. Excavating a fossil isn’t as simple as simply digging it up and taking it to the lab, for archaeologists must map the site, use specialized techniques to not damage the fossil, document the item, and ultimately analyze the tools. Linguistic anthropology is the study of the social context, function, and form of language. Contrary to the common belief that linguistics are solely concerned with the technical composition, language use and the role it plays in shaping the culture are the main focus. People tend to use language to conform to their social environment so linguistic anthropologists seek out to see fore example, how and what sets Black English apart from mainstream English.

One of the countless specialty areas of biological anthropology is forensics. Forensic anthropologists are masters in the field of osteology in which they use to answer important questions about how recent humans lived and died. They also deal more with the legal context of biological anthropology in which they study remains from crime scenes, war zones, and mass disasters. The information gathered from their analysis leads them to be able to potentially identify an individual, their life history, and the circumstances in which their death occurred. While forensics is a subfield of its own, it includes elements of other important subfields such as archaeology and osteology, doing so by retrieving remains and constructing a biological profile of the subject.

Often more times than not, a remains site is found by accident by a passerby. Once the police get to the scene and close it off, the forensic anthropologists systematically survey the area and may use ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) in order to identify the subsurface are. Once that task is fulfilled, they use an array of archaeological techniques in order to find, document, and remove the remains. The bones are then tagged, bagged, and listed on catalogue and sent to the laboratory for further analysis. A chain of custody must be made in order to prevent the findings from being tampered with and not usable by the courts. In the laboratory, the forensic anthropologist must remove any soft tissue that remains on the bone, take inventory of the bones present and then arrange them in their anatomical position. Once that is complete, evaluation of the bones can be fulfilled where age and sex indicators are found, and cuts and extremities identified. In order to ensure positive identification, forensic anthropologists will pull up and compare dental records, surgical implants, and any antemortem and postmortem x-rays if possible. If necessary, to the case, facial reconstruction of the individual is done and released to the public in hopes of gathering any crucial information needed.

In 1809 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed a groundbreaking theory concerning organisms and their environment, labeling it the theory the inheritance of acquired traits that essentially relied on the concept of need and use. According to Lamarck, all organisms were able to make p adjustments of their body throughout their lifetime that allowed them to better suit their environments. These new adaptations obtained by the organism was then passed to their offspring which caused their survival rate to increase as they wouldn’t struggle in their new domain, thus being able to efficiently spread their genetic DNA by reproducing with suitable mates. The introduction of the correlation between organisms and the environment caused a scientific uproar as its ideas were something new to the world. Scientists were baffled that they hadn’t thought of something so simple yet complex that ultimately made common sense the more they spent on it. Despite the fact that Lamarck’s theory is laughed at in modern times, it was significant during the period in which he introduced his set of notions, for they had no previous knowledge on the connection between genes and their inheritance and ultimately served as an antecedent to Darwin’s ideas.

Let’s assume that there is a long-necked giraffe residing in a region where the trees stand below his stature. Now according to Lamarck, the giraffe will be able to gradually shorten its neck throughout its lifespan in order to reach the leaves it so desperately wishes to eat. The now short-necked giraffe will now reproduce with a mate it deems worthy, passing its short-neck feature to it. The offspring will be now be more fit for their environment compared to their long-necked counterparts. Lamarck’s theory failed to acknowledge the possibility of an organism unwanted loss in a physical characteristic, such as a mouse losing its tail to a cat. The faults are then seen as the question of whether the offspring of the tailless-mouse will be born with or without tails and why. For these reasons. It is no longer an accepted part of evolutionary theory. 6. Primates are a diverse group of eutherian mammals divided into two suborders, Haplorhine and Strepsirrhini. Each group has grasping hands, large brains, and have shown that their behavior is learned. Primates lack specializations other animals have, and instead contain more generalized body plan that allows them to have choices in for example method of travel.

While human primates are bipedal, all nonhuman primates are quadrupeds and vary in the way they use their limbs. Strepsirhines are commonly known for vertical clinging and leaping, their larger hind legs allowing them to launch themselves through the air, while others prefer running and leaping along the branches. Primates contain distinct anatomical features that are special to their kind which helps scientists differentiate them from other animals. Save for marmosets and tamarins, all primates have flattened nails at the end of their digits as opposed to claws. Forward facing eyes with stereoscopic vision is also key in primates for it allows them to have excellent depth perception, unlike animals whose eyes are mounted on either side of the head. Another important anatomical trait that aids in vision are the enclosed bony eye orbits in the skull. Although more complete in haplorhines than in strepsirhines, the structures are crucial in protecting the eye and its vision. The last and debatably most important feature of a primate is the grasping hands with opposable thumbs and big toe.

This key feature allows primates to contain the ability to grasp onto objects unlike their fellow counterparts. An ape will also use their hallux in the same manner as they do their hands, while humans cannot due to the fact that evolution has line up their toes which ultimately allows for an increase of bipedal success. The most fundamental social adaptation that characterizes most primates is sociality. Living in groups decreases stress in primate to find food, find a mate, and to avoid predators, for there is a social system in place that takes care of all three. During the end of the Mesozoic, devastating environmental changes potentially stemming from a crater or comet crashing into the Earth, the dinosaurs were wiped out which tipped the scales toward the smaller mammals. New archaic groups of mammals began to emerge due to the absence of larger predators and flourished during the Paleocene Epoch, for it had a warmer climate that contributed to emergence of flowering plants. The more plants that popped up meant a greater variety of insects that appeared which sought to pollinate the plants. This series of increasing plants and insects resulted in plesiadapiforms having a bountiful feast of food to choose from, as their spiky teeth allowed them to fully relish the hard-crunchy bodies of the insects and mashing of the fruit. With the success of their ancestors, the first primates were able to emerge during the Eocene around fifty-four million years ago.

Unlike the status of the plesiadapiforms, whose status is yet to be determined due to the lack of a postorbital bar, nails, small brain, and long nose, the Eocene fossils that were found were fully accepted as the first true primates due to their larger brains, eye sockets on the front of the face, opposable big toe, nails, and a complete postorbital bar. The adapoids and omomyoids, which previously appeared at the beginning of the epoch, gave rise to lineages that transformed into strepsirhines and haplorhines. Adapoids contained long broad snouts and ate a fibrous diet. While some were completely nocturnal, others were diurnal, with some potentially having a great range of locomotion. Omomyoids were omnivores whose large eye orbitals suggested a nocturnal lifestyle. They were active leapers, with the ability to vertically cling indicated by their hind limbs and ankle bones. Their original anatomical differences deterred them from competing for food, and instead suggested that they shared available food resources. This along with many other factors encouraged their split, leading to the evolution of higher primates.

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Anthropology: The Study of Humankind. (2022, Apr 22). Retrieved from

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