The Anthropologist

Methods in Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of people throughout the world, their evolutionary history, how they behave, adapt to different environments, communicate and socialise with one another.

The Anthropologist

The study of anthropology is concerned both with the biological features that make us human (such as physiology, genetic makeup, nutritional history and evolution) and with social aspects (such as language, culture, politics, family and religion). 

A few common questions posed by anthropology are: how are societies different and how are they the same? How has evolution shaped us? What is culture? Are there human universals? By taking the time to study peoples’ lives in detail, anthropologists explore what makes us uniquely human. In doing so, anthropologists aim to increase our understanding of ourselves and of each other.

L0028782 Barclay, J., The Anatomy of the bones...
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Skeleton Family
The anatomy of the bones of the human body; represented in a series of engravings, copied from the elegent tables of Sue and Albinus / By Edward Mitchell, engraver ... With explanatory references, by the late John Barclay ... 
John Barclay
Published: 1829

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Methods In Anthropology

Biological anthropologists employ research techniques similar to those of biologists and paleontologists. To understand human physical development and evolution, they study prehistoric evidence, fossil records, other primates (such as monkeys and apes), and the biology and genetics of living humans. Although physical anthropologists may conduct field research similar to that of their counterparts in cultural anthropology, much of their work may be to take part in excavations and study the bones they dig up in a laboratory setting.

A question that the biological anthropologist might try to answer is whether male and female diets changed when humans stopped hunting and gathering and started farming. First of all they must decide whether a skeleton is male or female? A skeleton’s overall size and sturdiness give some clues. Within the same population, males tend to have larger, more robust bones and joint surfaces, and more bone development at muscle attachment sites. However, the pelvis is one of the best sex-related skeletal indicator, because of distinct features adapted for childbearing. Looking who had more cavities in their teeth can then tell us whether males or females were snacking on sugary foods more frequently.

male pelvis model

The Anthropologist // Male Pelvis

There are many differences between a male pelvis and a female pelvis in terms of structure and function. A male pelvis is smaller and narrower in nature which is designed to support a heavy body build and a stronger muscle structure while a female pelvis is wider and roomier and mainly serves for the purpose of childbearing. The pubic arch is the defining characteristic between the two pelvises with the male being v-shaped.

The pelvis is connected to the bones in the lower extremities particularly the femur. The femur is attached to the acetabulum which is located at the pelvis. The acetabulum has a very significant difference between a male and female pelvis. A male acetabulum is much larger than a female acetabulum.

female pelvis model

The Anthropologist // Female Pelvis

The pubic arch is the defining characteristic between the two pelvises in the female the pubic arch is wider.

The female pelvis is more flexible and straighter than the male pelvis, which helps women during child birth. The female sacrum is wider, shorter, and has less curves. Thus, it provides more space in the pelvic cavity compared to a male’s who has a longer and narrower sacrum.

The sciatic notch in the female pelvis is wider than that of a male pelvis. The pelvic inlet in a female pelvis is slightly oval in shape while a male pelvis has a heart-shaped pelvic inlet.

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