The Difference between Physical Anthropology and Archaeology

Physical Anthropology is also called Biological Anthropology. In this sub field of Anthropology, the areas of human and primate evolution, genetics, and the development of human characteristics are explored. The emphasis is on human biological development and the history of human development. Biological Anthropology gained it’s momentum as a specialized field when the work of Charles Darwin and others provided a conceptual framework as well as information which allowed more formalized ways of studying human and primate development.

In some areas, disease processes, accident and injury and how the human body has responded to such events throughout the development of humans is of interest to biological anthropology. Their work enhances the knowledge of those who seek to know how external and natural forces served to affect human development, societies, and social interaction and behavior.

Forensic Anthropology is one of the most well known sub fields of Physical Anthropology, thanks to the popular fiction of Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell. These two authors popularized the field for many women who aspired to working in areas where the detailed analysis of the human body, identification of individuals, and even reconstruction of faces based on detailed knowledge of the ethnic characteristics of the human skeleton.

Archaeology is concerned with things from the past which have determined the courses of human development and culture. Things tell how people lived, what they did, how they created and developed forms of written and verbal communication, and what kinds of societies they created. Written documents, primitive symbols, and carved tablets tell what they recorded. Artifacts tell what they valued and what the artists and artisans created. Environmental and ecological studies tell how and why people migrated, lived, formed societies, why they fought over certain lands or geographical features, and how they responded to natural events.

Archaeology is a sub field of Anthropology, which boomed when European exploration and travel led to findings of ancient and spectacular natures. This field has been popularized during many eras. The discovery of beautiful artistic works during the Victorian and Edwardian Eras, when everyone, male and female, was wildly interested in science. The Egyptian discoveries created a world wide madness for archeology, and the archaeologist became a permanent figure in literature and film.

Archaeology became the “rock star” of the soft sciences when the “Indiana Jones” films achieved great popularity, and the latest interest in Archaeology is piqued when the “CSI” television franchise happens to require the services of a forensic archaeologist in order to identify an old object or a purloined relic.