Interdisciplinary Anthropology: Continuing Evolution of Man

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Linguistic anthropologists study t he human communication process. They focus their research on understanding such phenomena as the physiology of speech, the structure and function of languages, social and cultural influences on speech and writing, nonverbal communication , how languages developed over time, and how they differ from each other. This is very different from what goes on in an English or a foreign language class.

Linguists are not language teachers or professional translators. Most anthropological linguistic research has been focused on unwritten, non-European languages. Linguists usually begin their study of such a language by learning first hand from native speakers what its rules are for making sounds and meaning from those sounds, including the rules for sentence construction. Linguists also learn about different regional and social dialects as well as the social conventions of speaking the language in different situations.


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A hotly debated question in linguistic anthropology since the early 20th century centers on whether or not our languages predispose us to see the environment in specific ways. In other words, are languages filters for reality? For instance, if a language does not have a word for the color orange, can its speakers distinguish orange from red and yellow?

The answer to this question is not as simple as it initially seems. Archaeologists are interested in recovering the prehistory and early history of societies and their cultures. They systematically uncover the evidence by excavating, dating, and analyzing the material remains left by people in the past.

Archaeologists are essentially detectives who search through many thousands of pieces of fragmentary pots and other artifacts as well as environmental data in order to reconstruct ancient life ways.

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In a sense, this makes archaeology the cultural anthropology of the past. Archaeology is also related to biological anthropology in its use of the same methods in excavating and analyzing human skeletal remains found in archaeological sites.

Ghosts and Hybrids: How ancient DNA and new fossils are changing human origins

Archaeologists are in a unique position to understand the development of human societies and cultures from those of our distant hunter gatherer ancestors through the ancient civilizations on up to the present. There have been humans for at least 2. Only the last 5, of these years have been even partly recorded by scribes and historians.

New insights into human evolution: Interdisciplinary approach to human evolution -- ScienceDaily

Only archaeology can recover it. No archaeologist is an expert on the antiquity of all regions of the world and all time periods. Classical archaeologists concentrate on the ancient civilizations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean world Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, and related peoples. Historical archaeologists work on recovering the unrecorded aspects of life in historically more modern societies such as colonial America.


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  • Prehistoric archaeologists focus their attention on the more ancient pre-literate societies around the world including those of most early North American Indians. Underwater archaeologists discover and excavate ancient shipwrecks and submerged cities. Zooarchaeologists analyze and interpret the animal remains found in archaeological sites.

    The training required for each of these and other archeological specialties varies significantly, but they all share an interest in elucidating the lost past. This is particularly true of classical and historical archaeology. The Application of Anthropological Knowledge and Methods. Most anthropologists carry out research and teach about what they have learned.

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    They are employed by universities, colleges, and museums. However, a third of all anthropologists use this knowledge and methodology of problem solving for practical purposes in corporations, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, medical institutions, and other non-academic settings. They are applied anthropologists. It is likely that there will be continued growth in the number of these non-academic jobs.

    Some applied cultural anthropologists work as researchers, administrators, implementers, or mediators in major corporations. They help the companies understand and deal more efficiently with employees and customers from diverse cultures and subcultures. There have even been anthropologists working in the White House and U.

    Congress studying the overall operations and personal interactions. In recent years, some cultural anthropologists have worked for the U. A few cultural anthropologists have been hired by Native American tribes and other indigenous groups to help them with community development and to advise them in their interactions with the outside world.

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    Many archaeologists in the United States and some other countries apply their skills in cultural resource management specialist jobs. They record the locations of unknown archaeological sites and carry out sample excavations to determine their cultural significance and to recommend measures for preservation or further study before they are destroyed by construction projects.

    Forensic anthropologists are employed around the world principally by police, courts, and international organizations to identify murder and disaster victims. Some of the most critical world issues today also bear on human evolution, in the sense that how we got here is relevant to where we are going as a species.

    For example, global warming, population growth with its attendant demands on limited resources, pandemic threats of virulent diseases, and availability of weapons that can cause massive damage and render parts of the globe uninhabitable, all demand more rational policy decisions that take into account the long evolutionary process that brought humanity to world dominance.

    Perhaps a greater appreciation of what the people of the world have in common, rather than their differences, might encourage more cooperation. Although recent advances in knowledge of human evolution have been substantial, they really have only laid the groundwork for future achievements. New methodologies for establishing the ages of specimens and analyzing them with sophisticated instrumentation, and for acquiring information about past environments through drilling on land and in lakes and the ocean, set the stage for further discoveries.

    Accelerated research not only offers potential for highly significant advances, there is also an urgency in moving ahead due not only to the global and regional threats mentioned above, but also to the loss of potential specimen sites as a result of development and even vandalism.

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    Although research activity at the intersection of different scientific disciplines is inherently difficult, such research carries with it great potential for advances that can transform understanding. Although the usual issues of differing perspectives and different jargon were encountered during this study, the challenges of providing recommendations for new approaches that would guide research activity over the next decade or more provided the incentive to bridge the divisions. Turn recording back on. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Search term.

    Robert M.