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Anthropology: Examining the Physical and Cultural Characteristics of Humankind

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Anthropology: Examining the Physical and Cultural Characteristics of Humankind


This course has provided interesting field studies of cultures that are drastically different than what I would consider “everyday life.” Anthropology examines not only who we are as a people, but also, importantly, who we were as a people. The studies of past cultures is a good place to start to answer questions about societies and cultures today, and to bridge together the gap between the past and present, and maybe even predict where we are headed in the future.

Anthropology spans millions of generations, examining the physical and cultural characteristics of humankind. Often the artifacts recovered from a past civilization can tell us a great deal about how those people lived, their level of technology, their patterns of subsistance, and so on. Anthropology uses methods and tools from multiple scientific disciplines, such as the scientific method which allows the testing of falsifiable hypotheses. This approach seems to be a strong basis for many of the different areas of anthropology, namely archeology, ethnology, and linguistics.

I had thought that male dominance and superiority (“man the hunter” model) was a highly conserved cultural characteristic in past societies, and even in many “less developed” areas of the world today. I was surprised by the case studies of the !Kung San (traditional foraging society, not sedentary), in which females were just as important as males in...


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