Anthropology is a science that arises from the need to understand, on the one hand, the diversity of the physical characteristics of human beings, and on the other, to compare different human groups in a descriptive way.

However, as its development and scientific recognition has advanced, Anthropology has extended and systematized its practices in different branches. Next we will explain what is and what are the four main branches of Anthropology .

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What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the scientific discipline that deals with understanding what makes us human. To this end, it analyses both the physical aspects and the socio-cultural manifestations of different groups and in different periods .

Specifically, anthropologists are interested in studying how and why people behave and interact in a certain way; an issue that can be analyzed from many different perspectives.

Many anthropologists work, for example, analyzing the area of economics or politics, others health, education or law. But there may be many more. For anthropology, the fields of study are as varied as human diversity .

Likewise, the ways that Anthropology has created to study this vary according to the specific place and context where they have emerged. For example, there are traditions of anthropology that do not apply the same way in the United States as in Latin America. This is because the needs and lifestyles of people are different according to the context , and that is precisely what Anthropology seeks to understand.

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Main branches of Anthropology

Initially, anthropology was dedicated to the study of non-Western practices and world views of different groups, such as ceremonies, rituals, divination, among others . However, its fields of study have become much more diverse as the same discipline has advanced.

Thus, the object of study of Anthropology covers a wide range of possibilities. That is why it is usually divided into different fields.

According to the American Anthropological Association, there are four main branches of this discipline. Each of these branches of Anthropology can be subdivided into different topics and according to specific interests.

1. Biological anthropology

Biological anthropology (in some places known as physical anthropology) is concerned with understanding how we humans have adapted to different environments . More specifically, it studies, for example, the causes of diseases or how we have evolved differently from other species.

They are also interested in understanding how biology and culture shape lifestyles and overall human behavior.

2. Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology, which in some places is also known as socio-cultural anthropology or ethnology , explores how people in different places live and understand the world. It asks how the norms that establish the forms of interaction in a great diversity of contexts are generated.

They do this by analysing people’s points of view. These points of view allow them to understand the perspective, practices, values and social organization of human groups.

3. Linguistic Anthropology

Those who study Linguistic Anthropology are interested in analyzing the different ways of establishing communication that exist between human beings . That is, to understand how language is linked to the ways of understanding the world and relating to it.

More specifically, it is about looking at how language manifests itself in different ways and how its uses change over time, creating meaning and even changing identities and relationships. These two concepts, language and communication, are the keys to understanding society and culture.

4. Archaeology

Archaeology studies human culture by analyzing the objects, materials, tools and constructions that people have made throughout history and in different places.

To do this, the most common practice is to remove such objects from the ground, and to map the location of the buildings, in order to better understand what people’s daily lives were like, as well as to understand the differences and similarities between human societies over time.

How do these branches of study apply?

The different branches of Anthropology can be applied in very diverse contexts. For example, at the local level, in communities, trying to understand their problems related to health, or to education.

Or also, can be applied in museums or archaeological sites, which help to reconstruct the past . In the same sense, it can be applied in large cities, that is, in the analysis of the practices and spaces of the present.

They can also be applied in the business or technology field, as the latter can give many clues about how we have evolved and how our needs and lifestyles are constantly changing.

Bibliographic references:

  • American Anthropological Association. (S/A). What is Anthropology?. Retrieved May 23, 2018. Available at
  • Barfield, T. (2000). Dictionary of Anthropology. Siglo XXI Editores: México.