Anthropology is an arena of study that is focused on the humans’ past and present. The field builds upon this knowledge in providing an explanation of the complexities of human, social, biological and physical sciences. These aspects form the cultural, biological, linguistics and archaeological sub-disciplines of anthropology. To improve the understanding of these complexities, anthropologists emphasizes on the employment of cross-cultural comparison, in identifying the individual variations of each subdivision. This essay provides a conclusive description of how cross-cultural comparison can be employed in studying each of the sub-disciplines of anthropology.
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A cross-cultural comparison is a form of comparative study that mainly focuses on collecting data from diverse societies. Such data is used to assess a range of human behavior, and it is also employed in identifying the shared or varied characteristics between cultures and beliefs. Today, anthropologists generalize on human behavior by studying the conceptions that are dominant in different cultures. Through this, cross-sectional comparison, they are able to tell whether these conceptions are similar. In the event they are not the same, the data collected from the cultures is employed in explaining the diversities present between human cultures. The use of cross-sectional comparisons in each of the subdivisions of anthropology is discussed below.
Cross-Sectional Comparison in Different Fields of Anthropology
Biological anthropology can be used in attaining a greater comprehension of human beings and their cultures. Biological anthropology is also characterized as the physical anthropology, and it is subdivided into four categories namely human biology, paleoanthropology, ethnology, primatology. As a social science, it examines the biology of humanity with the emphasis on both human behaviors and culture. The study of biological anthropology is primarily hinged on the physical evolution of humans and the variations that present themselves between the living humans and their fossil relatives. For instance, some of the issues studied under this subdivision include comparisons of genetic make-ups of human populations. It also involves the study of human demographic patterning as well as the evolutionary stages of the human species and their ancestors.
Through cross-cultural comparison, the human species are studied as biological organisms within the cultural context. In this case, the development of the physical human body and mind conditions are examined through the study of ancestral remains. They are then compared with the structure of similar primate species, which is inclusive of their behavior. For comparative examination, cross-sectional comparisons prove useful in the study the human variations, relationships with other primate species as well as forensics. Therefore, the information collected through these comparative studies substantiate the significance of comparative studies in identifying the rapport between cultures and biology.
This subdivision of anthropology focuses on the contemporary study of human cultures. Nevertheless, great emphasis is placed on the present human cultures. In this case, the diversity that subsists between different ways of life is compared. This includes the exploration of how these cultures work within different societies as well as their change over time. Most importantly, the manner in which these cultures interrelate with each other in the contemporary world is analyzed. The cross-cultural analysis also proves essential in understanding the varied experiences of subjects to these cultures. This also takes account of how these cultures are passed from one generation to the next. In a broad perspective, cultural anthropology provides an explanation of how different people interact with their environment through their cultural adaptions.
In order to make comparisons between different cultures adopted by people, an emphasis an emphasis is placed on the definable principles of social order that evident in these cultures. This is because the principles are factors that make the cultures meaningful to its adherents. This phenomenon is what makes diverse cultures open and responsive to scientific examination. Such examinations also focus on the comparison of religious belief, matrimonial systems, economic structures and political systems. Anthropologists, therefore, seek to identify both the shared and distinctive features, which may be presented among diverse cultures. These comparisons, therefore, provide a platform on which people can understand their own culture, other people’s cultures and the relationship to their social environment.
Archeology is a sub-division of anthropology, which serves to explain past human cultures. On its own, its entails the assemblage and preservation of artifacts, ecofacts, architecture, biofacts and material culture in both the past and present human cultures. Culture in archeology represents the material culture, ancient oral traditions of people as well as the written records. Nevertheless, archeology is principally focused on the remnants of the human species that have been left behind. Such include their hunting tools among other relics, most of which are dated back to millions of years. Given their originality, such materials are capable of providing a rich evidence that portrays the type of culture evidenced in a certain population. Such evidences may, therefore, serve as foundations from which the comparisons of different cultures can be based.
Archaeology is a wide field that encompasses the study of all time periods and geographical locations that were once home to various human populations. Contrary to history, archeology does not rely on written records for evidence of past human activities. Through the analysis of objects and structures that remained buried for thousands of years, qualitative information pertaining to the early forms of life may be obtained. This information is concrete and can be used to explain human cultural disparities. This is attained by forming a cross-cultural comparison with archaeological evidence from other geographical regions. Such information can also be employed for comparison in an effort to understand the humans’ varied diets and subsistence practices.
Cross-cultural comparisons are especially essential in developing a meaning from an archeological evidence. It proves useful in examining the chronologies that relate to cultural practices between different periods and cultures. The diversities between different cultures exposed through the reconstructions of ancient ways of life can be explained through cross-sectional comparisons. This is possible through the exploration of socio-economic, environmental and cultural forces that influence past human activities. In addition, such explorations may identify the origins and advancements of the complexities present in those diverse cultures. Therefore, through cross-cultural comparison, archeological evidence may be used to derive an exclusive perspective on the history of humanity. This enhances the understanding of the differences and developments in the ancient periods, whose patterns explain a number cultures that characterize the human society to date.
This last sub-division of Anthropology explores the diversity of human language structures and other associated communication systems. This field also examines the interrelationships that exist between linguistics and culture. The study is focused on the human languages, which reveals certain fundamental aspects of various cultures. A greater understanding of anthropological linguistics can only be achieved via the exploration of the phonological and semantic constituents of various languages. However, it is the use of cross-cultural comparison that illuminates on why these language components may be similar or varied between different speech communities. Therefore, this contributes to a better understanding of the language speakers and their adopted cultures.
Understanding the general trends in the evolution of language is also an essential part of this field. As such, the study of anthropological linguistics may borrow aspects of archeology when seeking to determine the origin of various languages. This is because archeological evidence can illustrate the aspects that necessitated the need for a language among the past human societies, and also how the language was developed. Therefore, the cross-cultural examination of different language systems can aid in understanding the influential cultures that may have been incorporated into the language during languages development period. In addition, this may further explain some of the reasons why such languages are distinct to certain groups of people.
Since the human social construct is a correlate of language, the linguistic classification practices, human behavior and intellectual forms of thought are major interests in the field. It involves the analysis of language as a uniquely human characteristic, which also incorporates the social aspect of various groupings of people into various languages. The cross-sectional comparison also proves to be an essential means of exploring the varied thought processes while establishing its relationship to the language. It, therefore, offers a greater understanding of the variations in culture by classifying the similarities and disparities in both the primitive and modern languages.
In light of the above discussion, the use of cross-sectional comparison and its significance in the field of anthropology is evidenced. Anthropology is a wide discipline of study that seeks to provide answers regarding the various aspects of humanity whether in the past or the present. As such, cross-cultural comparisons play a significant role in this discipline, by providing a better understanding of anthropological evidence. This is attained through the establishment of relationships between different cultures within all the sub-disciplines of anthropology. In addition, it provides probable explanations to such relationships by trying to identify their origins. This deems it an appropriate technique, which can be used to facilitate a greater understanding of human cultural meaning and context.
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