Confessions of a Teenage Anthropologist: Introduction

Before I start, I would like to say that I hope that I am able to continue this as a series. This series will focus on teenagers and teenage concerns from an anthropological perspective. I am no expert, nor am I trying act as one. Everything is simply a collection of knowledge that I have acquired through reading and research.

Take what I say for its face value. I am only an aspiring socio-cultural anthropologist trying to spread my passion for the field. For many people, when the word anthropology is mentioned, visions of digging up artifacts come to mind. However, digging only encompasses a small part of archaeology, which is only a small part of what anthropology is truly all about. Anthropology is actually the lesser-known sister of sociology and psychology.

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Anthropology is the study of humans and their cultures. In essence, it is a blend of history, science, and sociology, with more or less of each, depending on the field. Anthropology basically deals with how human relationships came to be and how these relationships affect humans. Studying of anthropology can probably be traced back hundreds of years, to about the time of Marco Polo. However, it only began when transcontinental transportation and exploration began and the first explorers landed on unknown, “foreign” land.

There, were the explorers able to observed and compare different cultures and interests. There are several fields of anthropology: Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, Social Anthropology, and Cultural Anthropology. Each is related, but each specializes in a different aspect of humans. Archaeology is the study of past human activity and culture through the excavation of different artifacts. Through archaeology, humans are able to observe the evolution of humans as they advanced towards more complex ideas and technologies. However, it is not to be mistaken that archaeologists only study bones and old pots.

Archaeologists also study old scripts and writings of more advanced and recent cultures and societies, such as that of Jamestown or World War II. Biological Anthropology is the most scientific of all the fields. It studies how humans have physically evolved. They, like archaeologists, look at physical remnants of the past. They draw upon conclusions through the study of skeletons.

Biological Anthropologists emphasize on evolution and the physiological aspect of humans. Linguistic Anthropology is the study of human communication and how it affects societies. It is not limited to simply verbal languages; it extends all the way to the grunts and hand gestures of primordial times. This is the most complicated of all the fields because there have been thousands of forms of communications which have been created, have gone extinct, or will be created. Linguistic anthropology focuses on how languages can create or destroy barriers between humans, while at the same time, form identities.

Social Anthropology is very closely related to sociology. It studies how social patterns, such as violence, are affected through culture. It is often group together with cultural anthropology to form socio-cultural anthropology. Cultural Anthropology studies human’s different culture and its effect on the world’s social and economic status. This field of anthropology most relies on careful observation of people.