Archaeology and Anthropology Difference

Archaeology and anthropology are related fields that study human history. However, they have different focuses and approaches.

Reconstructing the material world of past cultures is the proximate goal of archaeology. Interpreting that world’s historical and cultural meaning is the ultimate objective.

Often, archaeological researchers collaborate with experts in other disciplines. For example, they may work with palynologists to identify types of ancient vegetation or geologists to help them understand sediment formations.

Methods of Study

Generally speaking, anthropology is a broad field of study that uses many different sciences to better understand cultures. This includes the use of social, biological, and physical science. It also utilizes the scientific method of testing theories, refining them, and reformulating them when new data becomes available.

Archaeologists gather their data through excavations, or digging through layers of soil and sediment in order to uncover artifacts and other physical evidence of past societies. They then use their findings to create meaningful historical and cultural interpretations.

Since written records did not exist in most prehistoric societies, archaeological findings are often the only way to learn about them. To help gather this vital information, archaeologists work closely with a variety of other disciplines, such as palynologists to determine the types of vegetation that existed at a site; geologists to help explain the formation of sediment layers; and zoologists to provide them with detailed information about animal bones found in certain contexts.

Interdisciplinary Research

Archaeology is just one branch of the study of human history called anthropology. This holistic field of research includes the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains to understand past cultures and their development.

According to O*NET, the majority of core tasks in this occupation involve surveying and assessing artifact sites, digging up and recovering those artifacts, analyzing them, and recording their acquisition. Archaeologists frequently work together with palynologists (who use pollen to reconstruct the environment in which the artifacts were made), geologists, and other experts.

The analytical techniques and approaches that are utilized in archaeology can also be found in fields like philosophy, sociology, economics, and religious studies. This cross-disciplinary nature can be observed by examining the pattern of scholarly citations in this discipline.

Common Misconceptions

Many people use the terms archeology and anthropology interchangeably, believing that these two fields are the same. However, they differ in focuses and methods of study.

Anthropology is a holistic field that studies the human species from a cross-cultural perspective. It also aims to formulate universal principles that can be applied to any culture.

Archaeologists, on the other hand, study a society’s past by directly examining its material remains, including architecture, art, and artifacts, in addition to bones and fossils. This type of research is conducted on site. Archaeologists also rely on contextual evidence, such as association — or proximity — of artifacts with each other and their surroundings to establish dates and locations.

One of the most common misconceptions is that archaeologists exclusively focus on studying ancient civilizations, like Egypt. In fact, Egyptian archaeologists are not the only ones who travel to Mexico and South America in search of ancient ruins. They work in cooperation with the governments and landowners of the countries that they are guests in, ensuring cultural sensitivity.

Forensic Investigations

Regardless of whether the field of study is archaeology or anthropology, both have a role in forensic investigations. Both fields use a scientific approach to the physical evidence found at sites where human remains are discovered.

Forensic archaeological excavations focus on maximizing data recorded and recovery of artifacts while maintaining context and chain of custody for all recovered items. This is especially important for outdoor scenes where the environment and the handling of evidence can have a major impact on the quality of information recorded.

Forensic anthropologists can use their knowledge of osteology to help determine an individual’s sex, stature, age and ancestry through the study of the skeleton. They can also identify injuries to a victim, which could indicate pre-, peri or post-mortem activity using the shape and structure of the bones. The pelvis is particularly useful in sex determination as it contains distinctive sexual dimorphisms. These characteristics can help police investigators find a suspect.

Journey back to the main page

Leave Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *