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Difference Between Anthropology and Archaeology

Anthropology vs Archaeology (Archeology)

Anthropology is a very popular field of study and belongs to social sciences. It is in fact, study of man as the word itself is made up of anthropos, meaning man, and logos, meaning study. So everything about man, not just in the present but from ancient past also makes up the subject matter of anthropology. Archaeology (archeology) is also study of the artifacts dug out from below the surface of the earth (related to men from the past). This study, tells us a lot about the culture, lifestyle and history of ancient men. Thus, both subjects are, in a broader sense, studying about man in general. Archaeology is thus, a part of anthropology which is akin to sociology of the ancient man. Despite such close relation and similarities, there are some differences between anthropology and archeology that will be high lighted in this article.

Anthropology is the broader of the two subjects as there are many aspects or parts of anthropology such as geographical distribution of early man, how he lived in different climates and regions of earth is what comprises geographical anthropology. Study of differences in physical features of early man and its classification into different races on the basis of color of skin, shape of head, height and other distinguishing features is what makes up study matter of racial anthropology. The third division of anthropology is interested in the culture of the early man, his social life, his interaction with others and nature as well as his intelligence as shown in artifacts of his time. His languages and customs and traditions of social life make an integral part of this study known as cultural anthropology.

It is this cultural anthropology that is closer to archeology as an archaeologist tries to know all about ancient man on the basis of analysis of artifacts dug from beneath the surface of earth where ancient civilizations lived. The tools and artifacts that are dug are arranged in their chronological age and then analyzed to throw light on the man of that time and his life. How he lived, interacted and managed with nature.

Difference between Anthropology and Archaeology

The study of anything related with man is anthropology. In this sense, archaeology is a sub field of anthropology. Archeology ends, where history begins. So, the study of prehistoric man on the basis of analysis of material dug from beneath the earth is archaeology. In North America, archeology is accepted as a sub field of anthropology but outside this region, archeology is regarded as a separate field of study, a subject that focuses on prehistoric man through analysis of his tools and other artifacts found through digging of earth. Whether archeology is accepted as a field of study within the fold of anthropology or regarded as a separate field of study, the fact remains that both are studies of early, ancient man. Such study is partly conjecture, partly revealed through the analysis of tools found through excavations carried out in archeological expeditions. Archeological research is always chronological in nature as it is necessary to classify the artifacts found on the basis of their ages. This is considered as the starting point of archeological research.


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  • Kait Nurrenberg

    Not entirely true – archaeologists can also study long-dead cultures and dig up artifacts of civilizations that died out or were built on top of or just lived a very long time ago, such as ancient Greece (we have plenty of their historical records and writings as well as artifacts). Both of my archaeology professors have been Greek. Archaeology that only studies prehistoric man is called, very plainly, prehistoric archaeology.

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