What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of people, past and present, with a focus on understanding the human condition both culturally and biologically. This joint emphasis sets anthropology apart from other humanities and natural sciences. In a general sense, anthropology is concerned with determining what humans are, how they evolved, and how they differ from one another.

The study of anthropology is often divided into three subdisciplines: archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology.

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Anthropology Department Subdisciplines


Archaeology is the study of earlier cultures and past human lifeways through the scientific recovery, analysis, and interpretation of the material remains of past societies. The science of archaeology is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of human behavior as evidenced by cultural remains. Texas State offers coursework in archaeology concentrated in the geographic areas of Mesoamerica, North America, South America, and the Old World during the Paleolithic period.

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Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is the study of humans within the framework of evolution, with an emphasis on the interaction between biology and culture. Biological anthropology is subdivided into areas of specialty including human biological variation and adaptation, primatology, medical primatology, growth and development, functional morphology, osteology, forensic anthropology, and paleoanthropology. Texas State offers coursework in a number of these biological anthropology specializations.

Cultural Anthropology

Cultural anthropology deals primarily with all aspects of cultural variation in the present or recent past. Through a variety of theoretical approaches and research methods, anthropologists today study the cultures of people all over the world, including social, political, economic, and ideological facets of cultures. Linguistic anthropology is an area of study within cultural anthropology that examines language structure, the use of language in given societies and social contexts, and the historical relationships of languages to one another. Texas State offers coursework on a variety of cultural and linguistic topics, including medical anthropology, sociolinguistics, gender studies, speech sounds, and economic anthropology.

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