The field of anthropology is the study of humanity, including human behavior, human societies and the origins of humans. The two main sub-fields of anthropology are cultural or social anthropology, which is the study of human cultures, and physical or biological anthropology, which studies the development and ancestry of modern humans.

Cultural and Social Anthropology

Cultural anthropology, also called social anthropology, is the study of how humans interact in social groups. Cultural anthropologists seek to understand the similarities and differences between cultures around the world, as well as the reasons that societies develop in particular ways. They collect data on social structures such as kinship, inheritance, government, religion and ritual practices. Cultural anthropologists conduct interviews and carry out observation of the cultures they study, as well as studying myths and folklore.

Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, is the study of human biological development as opposed to the cultural development studied by cultural anthropology. Biological anthropologists work primarily by studying the fossil record in order to determine the history of early hominids. They also study the biological diversity of modern-day humans, as well as the behavior and biology of modern primates. All of these subjects contribute to the study of how humans developed into their modern state.


Another method of studying human societies is archaeology, which uses the material remains of past societies to understand its history, organization, beliefs and cultural development. In the United States, archaeology is often considered to be a sub-discipline of cultural anthropology. Many American universities include archaeology programs within their anthropology departments. This is in contrast to Europe and the United Kingdom, where archaeology is typically considered to be a separate discipline with its own university departments.

Forensic Anthropology

Forensic anthropology is a sub-discipline of biological anthropology. While most biolotical anthropology is focused on the study of prehistoric humans, forensic anthropology studies the remains of modern humans to assist in criminal cases. Forensic anthropologists study the effects of trauma and decomposition on the human body in order to help determine the time and cause of death. Forensic anthropologists have also worked with war crimes investigators to identify the victims of atrocities in countries around the world.