Have you heard? National Anthropology Day is right around the corner! Founded by the American Anthropological Association in 2015, Anthropology Day celebrates the work of anthropologists around the country and promotes their research to the public. This year’s Anthropology Day is on Thursday, February 16, and OKPAN is joining in on the celebration!
But wait – OKPAN does archaeology. Why would we celebrate Anthropology Day?
Anthropology at its core is the study of people. There are all kinds of people and cultures to study and even more ways to study them. This means that anthropology is a broad term for a variety of different professions and areas of study. As a result, the term “anthropology” actually encompasses four main fields: archaeology, cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology. Of course, there are numerous subfields and specializations within each discipline, but all of them involve understanding humans and their cultures.
Archaeologists learn about people by looking at artifacts. We want to know how people in the past lived, but since we can’t talk to them, we must learn about them through the materials they left behind. Through careful excavation and analysis of archaeological sites, we can better understand past humans and their cultures to make a contribution to anthropology.
Cultural anthropologists, on the other hand, study cultures by talking and interacting with living people. They practice “participant observation” through ethnographic fieldwork – this means that they live among a group of people, observe their daily lives, and come to understand their cultures from within.
Biological anthropologists study humans through their actual physical characteristics. Some specialize in skeletal anatomy and osteology, while others study human genetics or other facets of biology. However, they are different from biologists, because they use their skills to answer the larger questions of why people do the things they do. For example, a anthropological geneticist can track gene patterns over space and time to understand human migration.
Finally, linguistic anthropologists understand humans by analyzing their languages. If you speak multiple languages, then you know that there are some words and phrases that just cannot be translated properly because of cultural differences. Linguistic anthropologists pinpoint these differences and share their work so that we can all understand the intertwining of language and culture and how this shapes the way people see the world.
Anthropology is a multi-faceted field, and it contains something to spark the interest of just about everyone. Because we OKPAN archaeologists are also anthropologists, we want to celebrate the wonderful work being done by all scholars who study people. We are excited to announce that we are hosting a special speaker for Anthropology Day this year! To learn more, click here or visit us on Facebook!