The 4 Fields of Anthropology

Woman with a multicolored head scarf with only the eyes showing

This blog post will discuss the 4 fields of Anthropology. As you learned in the last blog post, Anthropology is the study of humans, in all times and all places. (If you didn’t read the last post, click here to read it.)

Since Anthropology studies all of humanity, that’s a lot of stuff to study. So, the discipline of Anthropology is broken down into 4 parts (at least in the USA; other countries may be different). Each part, called a field, focuses on a certain aspect of humanity.

The 4 fields of Anthropology are: 

  1. Cultural Anthropology (also known as Social Anthropology)
  2. Physical Anthropology (also known as Biological Anthropology)
  3. Archaeology
  4. Anthropological Linguistics

Image of a woman with a red dress dancing.

Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology is the study of human cultures all around the worldCulture includes behavior and ideas and includes topics like clothing, food, housing, marriage & families, political structure, economics, religion, art, and much more.

There are many sub-fields in Cultural Anthropology, and here are just a few examples:

  1.  Legal Anthropology (the study of law in other cultures)  
  2. Business Anthropology (applying Anthropology to business)
  3. Environmental Anthropology (the study of humans and the environment).
  4. Medical Anthropology (the study of health and illness)
The 4 fields of Anthropology. Physical Anthropology. Image of a human skull on a black background

Physical Anthropology

Physical Anthropology is the study of the human body. It includes:

  1. Paleoanthropology (studying human biological evolution)
  2. Human Variation & Adaptation (studying physical differences among humans, and how humans have adapted to their environment)
  3. Forensic Anthropology (studying human remains [human bones])
  4. Primatology (studying the category of primates, since we as humans are primates. Other primates include chimpanzees and gorillas.)

Archaeology. Image of Egyptian pyramids with a sunset behind them.


Archaeology is the study of what humans left behind, through excavation (digging things up). This includes prehistoric archaeology (studying the past of people who don’t have writing), and historic archaeology (studying the past of people who do have writing.) There is even such a thing as underwater archaeology, where archaeologists excavate things underwater, like shipwrecks!

Linguistics. Image of Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Anthropological Linguistics

Anthropological Linguistics is the study of human language. This includes verbal and non-verbal communication. Here are some examples of things Linguistics involves: 

  1. semantics (the meanings of words, phrases, and sentences)
  2. syntax (the structure of phrases and sentences)
  3. morphology (word formation)
  4. phonology (the sounds of language)
  5. language acquisition (learning a language)
  6. language variation (varieties of a language)

Applied Anthropology. Image showing the 4 fields of Anthropology and Applied Anthropology.

Applied Anthropology

So, those are the 4 fields of Anthropology. A sort of “5th” field is called Applied Anthropology. Applied Anthropology uses these 4 fields of Anthropology to solve real-world problems. For example, a Corporate Anthropologist works with a company, doing market research to find out what consumers like and dislike.

Are you interested in more information on the 4 fields of Anthropology? Check out this page of the American Anthropological Association’s website here.

Thanks for reading!