Anthropology is the study of the various human cultures in the world now and throughout history. According to the University of Hawaii at Hilo, anthropology "emphasizes comparing human groups to understand the range of variation in human behavior and biology, and therefore considers what it is to be human." It is important for us as human beings to understand our origins and also to understand the cultures in the world outside of our own.
Anthropology has several branches. Linguistic anthropology studies languages and how they have developed and evolved over time. This is important in helping us understand how one language relates to another and how humans have communicated with one another over time. Through the study of linguistic anthropology, anthropologists are able to explain the links between languages and the differences in the ways that various human cultures use and manipulate words and language.
The people of one culture might have regular practices that the people of another culture would find distasteful or strange. For instance, in some cultures the people eat meat from animals that are considered pets in other cultures. In order to bridge the gap between varying cultures, anthropologists study and explain cultural practices. According to Greaterlearning.org, "This bridging of the gap between our innate sense of our own culture and the other cultures is the reason for the importance of Anthropology."
In today's world, people of varying cultures communicate and do business with one another on a regular basis. Anthropology's existence is vital to the business world for this reason. Through the study of anthropology, a business executive in the United States, for instance, can learn about the traditions and values of the Japanese culture before he visits Japan for a business trip. In learning about the culture, he can better prepare himself for a successful visit and business dealings while he is there.
There are other disciplines that study humanity. Biology studies the human body, history studies the actions of past human cultures, and literature studies the writings of various people. However, each of these disciplines provides only a small window of understanding into the world of humanity. Anthropology combines these disciplines in a holistic study of humans and the place of humans in the world around us. In this sense, anthropology is important because of its ability to synthesize the learning of other disciplines into one comprehensive picture of what it means to be human.
Humans are innately curious creatures. We want to know where we came from, how we have evolved as a species and where we might go next. We want to know how other people are similar to and different from the people we know. Anthropology answers those queries for humanity. It gives us a solid picture of our human origins and blends together the various human cultures into one large journey of humanity from the beginning of our existence to the present day. In doing so, it can also help us understand more about where our cultures might be going in the future because we predict future trends based on past growth and progress.