What is Biological Anthropology? - Definition & Subfields

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Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Why do some people fear open spaces? How can science help solve crimes? These and many other questions have much to do with the field of biological anthropology.

What Is Biological Anthropology?

To this day, no one knows exactly how humans are related to other primates, like apes and monkeys. Have you ever wanted to be the person to discover the missing link, the common ancestor between humans and other primates? If you said yes, then perhaps you should consider studying biological anthropology.

Biological anthropology, also called physical anthropology, studies people from the standpoint of human biology, the form and function of the human body, the environment, social behavior, and how we've evolved in respect to these aspects.

The Different Anthropology Fields

Biological anthropology includes many different sub-fields. Let's meet a few people working in some of these fields.

Lou is studying paleoanthropology. Paleoanthropology tries to determine how early humans originated and developed. In order to figure this out, Lou turns to a lot of different sources. He goes out into the field and finds fossils and primitive tools to help him learn about the development of early humans. Lou also studies the anatomy and social behaviors of other primates to gain insight into what our very early ancestors may have looked like and how they interacted with one another and their environment.

As a result, Lou often comes into contact with a colleague of his, Linda, who is a primatologist. Primatology is the study of non-human primates, like the great apes. Linda tries to figure out how these primates are similar and how they're different from one another. Her work can then be used by Lou and other biological anthropologists to glean insights into humans as well.

Caitlyn is another biological anthropologist. She's in a sub-field of biological anthropology called forensic anthropology. This is a field that studies skeletal biology and most commonly applies this knowledge in helping law enforcement identify human remains to solve a potentially criminal case. Caitlyn uses her skills to identify the approximate age and sex of the individual as well as a potential time and cause of death.

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