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The Four Field Approach


What is Anthropology?

Anthropology is the study of human behavior, beliefs, and adaptations. In the U.S. this study is traditionally divided into four sub-fields. The Anthropology department at U.W. offers courses in all four sub-fields: Archaeology and Biological, Cultural, and Linguistic Anthropology.



Uses material remains, usually from past cultures, to understand and explain human behavior and adaptive strategies through time.

Physical Anthropology

Is the study of humans as biological organisms; research areas include human evolution, diversity in modern human populations, medical anthropology

Cultural Anthropology

Explores patterns of belief and behavior in contemporary and historical cultures around the world.

Linguistic Anthropology

Documents and studies languages in terms of structure, acquisition, and use in the transmission of culture.


 While each of the sub-disciplines emphasizes different aspects of human adaptation, when combined in a four-field approach they offer a powerful tool for explaining human diversity.


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