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What is Anthropology
Anthropology is the academic study of humanity, both past, and present. Anthropology is a diverse field with specialists in different fields that range from technical subjects such as physiology, adaptation to climate, and locomotion to social subjects such as politics, economics, religion and kinship. Anthropologists are primarily concerned with people and their societies. Anthropologists seek to understand and describe how those societies and their inhabitants, past and present, think, act, and feel. Anthropologists apply a variety of methods and techniques to study human behavior in all its aspects.
Anthropological research focuses on human cultures and societies. It also focuses on biological aspects of humans (especially their physical characteristics) and their relationships to culture and society. Anthropologists usually study specific parts of the world where people live. They observe, record, and analyze their behavior through field research. They then use this information to answer questions about a people’s ways of life. Anthropologists also make inferences about past cultures through the examination of their artifacts and remains. The tools used by anthropologists include interviews, surveys, observation, audio/video recording, and measurement devices.
Anthropological research has a long history, starting with ancient civilizations in China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and Europe. An early Chinese anthropologist is Sima Qian (145-87 BCE), who lived in China during the Han dynasty.
Types Of Anthropology
- Physical Anthropology- Physical anthropology uses the knowledge of the biological sciences to understand human development. Biological anthropologists have made great discoveries in this area. They have shown that physical characteristics are not necessarily related to cultural and behavior patterns and they have also identified many genetic factors that contribute to certain illnesses such as diabetes or cancer. The application of genetic research can be seen in medicine, agriculture and wildlife conservation, population control, and genetic modification.
- Cultural Anthropology- Cultural anthropology is interested in studying what it is to be human. It looks at the individual and society over time. It examines the similarities and differences as well as how they change over time. Cultural anthropology studies a wide range of cultures from infancy to old age including their biological, cultural, and individual development.
- Linguistic Anthropology- Linguistic Anthropology uses expertise in languages to study human groups, their origins, evolution, and history. It focuses on language and how it changes over time. Languages are a key to understanding the cultural characteristics of different societies. Linguistic anthropologists have developed theories to understand how humans acquire language and what factors promote or impede its development. They study the effects of language on human thought and behavior. Linguistic anthropologists also study the origins of certain languages, examine why some languages are spoken by many people while others remain spoken by fewer people, and explain why some societies have very simple grammar while others have more complex ones.
- Archaeology- is the analysis of past human societies through the examination of their material remains such as tools, shelters, art, and architecture. These remains provide insights into the kind of life people led and the ways in which they organized their societies.
Importance Of Anthropology
The study of anthropology provides a discipline for looking at both human biological, cultural, and individual development from a global perspective. It enables us to ask questions about our common origins, evolution, and history. The study of anthropology helps us understand the diversity of humankind with respect to race, language, and culture. It also gives us an understanding of how specific biological factors such as climate, temperature, disease patterns or diet affect the ways in which human groups are shaped by their social and cultural environments. Anthropology also helps us change the way we think about our future by contributing to the understanding of human adaptation and giving society the tools for controlling its own destiny.
Anthropology is an interdisciplinary discipline. As such, its theories and methods enrich other departments’ academic fields including biology, chemistry, economics, geography, history, linguistics, medicine, political science, and psychology. In addition, anthropology helps us understand ourselves and our unique capacities in relation to other species. The knowledge gained through these disciplines is important for understanding the past and present. This understanding has direct implications for the future of humankind.
Anthropology uses the perspective of a holistic viewpoint to look at culture as a whole and not just individual parts. It studies how human groups interact with each other and their environment over time. It looks at these groups as they develop in time, with individuals and societies changing over time. The discipline involves the study of human beings and their cultural development while paying particular attention to their origin and evolution.
Topics Studied Under Physical Anthropology
- Biological Anthropology: human variation, evolution, and change; diagnosing disease; biology and behavior; skeletal biology, paleontology, evolution, paleoanthropology
- Forensic Anthropology- The application of the methods and theories of physical or biological anthropology to judicial matters or police investigations.
- Cultural Anthropology- The study of all aspects of culture, including the nature, distribution, and meaning of rituals, art, ceremonial systems, and the integration of cultural traits into biological processes.
- Ethnography- The application of anthropological theories and methods in study data based on language and culture
- Human Variation: Hominid evolution and phylogenetics; human evolutionary history; human variation at macroscopic (e.g., skin color) and microscopic (e.g. mtDNA) scales; archeological and fossil evidence for hominid evolution
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