For years, the two sciences were treated as separate fields, but the more we discover about ancient people, the more obvious it seems that these disciplines belong together.
The teaching of archaeology and anthropology at many universities now comes under the curriculum of a single department.
This marriage of once separate studies has been forced by advances in technology, such as new abilities to study DNA of ancient remains.
But in order to understand how these sciences can work together, it is important to understand what they offer individually.
Archaeologists study “places” and “things.” They gain knowledge by excavating ancient structures from villages, towns and lost cities. At dig sites, the items that are discovered help to offer a greater understanding of how humans lived in the past.
Without this field, we would know little if anything at all about some of the greatest ancient civilizations, let alone our cave dwelling forebears.
Studying artifacts is one way in which archaeologists understand what life was like for our ancestors. Discoveries that range from pottery shards and artwork to ancient texts and architectural remains can all provide a greater understanding of ancient life.
Anthropologists study “people.” They are interested in individuals, groups, cultures and civilizations. They look at people today and the way we live, examining how our cultures have developed along with differences in lifestyles.
Without this field, modern humans might have very little understanding of each other or why we have such varying customs and mores, traditions and beliefs.
Branches of anthropology include socio-cultural studies of how people in cultures react to one another as well as biological anthropology, which seeks to understand how people adapt to their changing world.
On the other hand, linguistic anthropology examines communication patterns and how language is influenced by different civilizations.
Most academics now see archaeology as a specialized form of anthropology, different enough to be separate but perhaps better included under a broad umbrella because they inform each other so well.
Together they can tell us all about people, places and things–explaining not only when and where events occurred, but also how and why.
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