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Theory of Origin of Anthropology and Development of Anthropological Theory

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The study areas of anthropology are widening while coming from ancient time to present time. About this we explain here. According to T.K. Pennima's book 'A Hundred Years of Anthropology' - 1965, the development process of anthropology has been divided into five parts:

1. Formulatory Period (up to 1835 AD)

It was the formulatory period in the process of the development of anthropology. This period of time is also called philosophical period of time. The thoughts of Greek philosophers, Unani Philosophers and Eastern Philosophers are included here. Before start of Anno Domin Year, Several Philosophers were presented their logic about society and culture. These are also taken as an important sources of ancient period of time from which later on the anthropology got the form of it.

Among several philosophers of this period of time the name of Herodotus (484-425 B.C) is an important. He is also a father of history. As mentioned by Penniman, Herodotus had studied, explained and analyzed more than 50 ancient Greek human communities and mentioned about art, culture, customs, language, law, family, marriage procedures, political and economic activities etc. of these communities. This study is an important aspect for the anthropology. This study of him is the study of sixth century B.C. because of this cause he is also called in some of the places as a father of anthropology. After him, Democritus (460-370 B.C.) has mentioned the logic about society and culture that human being learned to make community.

Also read: Society and Culture from Evolutionary Perspective

Another philosopher Protogoras (480-410 B.C.) has formulated the logic that the impact of human is greater for the gradual complexity of society and culture as passed time rather than that of god. The society of that period was based on the power of god and supremacy of god and believe on it. In this process Socrates (470 - 399 B.C.) a Greek Philosopher formulated a logic that social behavior directs to the society regarding to social rules, traditions, norms, values, ceremony etc. which is very relevant context in anthropological analysis. Among Greek Philosophers Plato (427 - 347 B.C.), Aristotle (348-322 B.C) etc. scientists are explained about human and society and culture, politics, state etc. It is found that in ancient time too in eastern philosophy and epics about society and culture was mentioned. Beda, Puran, Gita, Mahabharat, Economics of Kautilya, Manusmiriti, Buddha Darshan etc. are some examples on which caste system, social behavior, activities, role of women in the society, law system, marriage, family etc are analyzed as the subject within anthropology. More than these,food system of human, customs, traditions, culture, magic words, religion etc. matters are mentioned analyzing by different perspectives.


Middle age is taken as or has also been mentioned as dark age because of the lack of development process of anthropology. In this period, the concept of philosophers could not be developed effectively about the analysis of society and culture. The book of Roger Bagon (1214-1294) comparative studies of man and culture was very important which was the publication about society and culture after century. After this, Franscis Bacon (1561-1626) published 'Advancement of Learning', Herbert Cherberry (1583-1638) published 'Study on Religion', Hugo Grotiu (1583-1655) published 'Human Understanding' etc. on these books more or less the anthropological analysis and explanation was found.

Also read: Society and Culture from Diffusionist Perspective

After his Charlse Linnqueus published 'System of Nature' on which the explanation of human and its joint group is explained. Likewise, J.B. Lamark (1744-1829) and George Couvier (1765-1832) studied about human fossils and published a book named Philosophique Zoolosique in 1908 A.D. In this book, the development or organ, growth and transformation of living being has been mentioned.

2. Convergent Period (1935 to 1859 A.D.)

This period of time is short period of time started in 1835 and ended in 1859. This period of time is taken as the period of intellectual generation and coordination of conclusion or the age of convergent. In which the thoughts of philosophers and study conclusions were forwarded or the attempt of forward was done through the medium of interrelation as in the form of scientific facts. Different publications helped to make arrange to each other to the scientists. In this context, the publication of world famous philosopher Karl Marx - 'Poverty of Philosophy' (1874) energized about objectively study of society and culture. In this period of time, the attempt to analyze interrelation between the conclusion of biological study and social study was done. Engels and Marx explained about the level of historical development process of human society and the rule of dialectical materialism. Likewise, the father of sociology August Comte published 'Positive Philosophy' in 1838 A.D. on which he explained different levels and stages of human society development. In this the same time, darwin (1709-1882) published 'Origin of Species' a famous book which occupied greater space for the development of anthropology. In this book, how evolution of human being happened? Mainly in this book, the criticism over the believe of supernatural forces and the rule of living being development was clearly mentioned. Being influenced by the theory of evolution-ism of Darwin, Herbert Spencer forwarded the concept of social organism. From this, valuable knowledge about the development process of botanical anthropology and social anthropology was achieved. And from it, the uncertainties about the development process of human society and culture also disappeared.

3. Constructive Period (1859 to 1900 A.D.)

This period of time was very important which created some of such issues of the development of anthropology which centralized the concern of scientists towards different sub divisions of anthropology. Likewise, it extended up to the level of teaching and learning. And it further extended up to the level of research. The publication of Darwin 'Origin of Species' helped to break illusion of past time about human evolution. This efforts concentrated to the different anthropologists about the study of physical development process of human being from past to present, social development process, and cultural development process. After this, Tylor, Spencer, Morgan etc. anthropologists developed the concept of evolution-ism. This theory has kept great significance in anthropology. Teaching and learning started of this subject in 1884 A.D. in Britain at Oxford and in 1900 A.D. at Cambridge University in Britain. In this process, different areas of anthropology was started to teaching and learning. After this different sub-divisions of anthropology such as social anthropology, physical anthropology were developed. The scope of anthropology extended widely.


In this period of time, teaching, study and publication extended much and got the specialization of it. In 1870 J.G.Wood published 'Natural History of Man', likewise A.C. Haddon in 1898 published 'Study of Man' and Darwin published 'Descent of Man' in 1871 A.D. 'The Ancient Law' published by Henry Main in 1861 A.D. tried to make clear about biological development process of human being and socio-cultural development process.


E.B. Tylor published 'Primitive culture' in 1871 A.D. it was about evolution of human culture. He had done field study. L.H. Morgan explained about evolution of family, marriage, kinship etc. Likewise, F. Boas developed the theories regarding to cultural diffusion. In this way several scientists who are not mentioned here also contributed for the scientific study about language, art, literature, behavior, politics, marriage, kinship, family, religion etc. The consequence of this, the anthropology of present day is extended widely. The theoretical values developed in this period of time are mentioned as in the form of titles while explaining the issues of different anthropological theories.

4. Critical Period (1900 to 1935 A.D.)

In the process of evolution of anthropology, this period of time is taken only about 35 years. This period of time covers from 1900 A.D. to 1935 A.D. This period is taken as critical period because each established theories, published publications, the thoughts of scientists etc. which were developed in the context of human development were all criticized and analyzed again to get the facts and tried to find out the reality. From this exercise, anthropology further extended and established up to the level of research areas, development and teaching and learning. The new values and concepts were developed. Because of this cause, after Darwin, Mendel developed 'Genetic Theory' regarding to human evolution. Likewise, from the cultural evolution the theory of diffusion-ism and its coordination and structuralism theory started to develop gradually. Malinowski, Redeliff Brown and other such anthropologists developed different theories being the base of filed study.

5. Consolidation period (After 1935 A.D.)

This period of time is taken as very important time for the coordination of different established theoretical values and integration of these especially for the further specialization. Multi-linker concepts developed in the development of culture. Marvin Harries developed the theory of cultural materialism. He published Cultural Materialism: The struggle for a science of culture in 1979. He studied about production and distribution system of residents of New Guinea and about cow and Hindu culture of Indian Subcontinent and formulated the logic that culture emerges as according to the physical environment. Likewise American cultural anthropologist Julian Steward (1902-73) expressed the facts about the study of multi-liner concept in the evolution of culture and social change. This published in 1960 on the 'Law of Heredity' of Mandal. From which the great knowledge is achieved about the differences of human species. Likewise, Leslie A White (1900-1975) developed 'Energetic Theory' regarding to cultural evolution. He emphasized the value that culture develops with the use of technology and invention of it. Likewise, micro level theories related to knowledge, culture and personality theory ecological theory etc. were developed in this period of time.

For the study of human fossil different methods are developed. From which the knowledge is gained about the human before thousands of years. The explorations have done for the anthropological study. This subject is further specialized through different branches such as archaeology, linguistic, social anthropology etc. the new study areas are developed through the development process of anthropology and different anthropological perspectives are developed from these the trend of study and research of human society and culture has been developed. Among these, few important perspectives can be mentioned below as:
  • Emic and Etic perspective
  • Holistic Perspective
  • Historical perspective
  • Community/People perspective
  • Ecological perspective etc. are important
 We study area of anthropology in present time has been extended widely. The new concepts are developed while making the study area of ancient society, complex condition of present society such as language art culture, literature and the study of social organizations are prioritized as the matters of study and similar type of new concept has been developed. Anthropological analysis has been realized for different development related works and natural resources their mobilization human procedures and tradition, caste struggle and war etc. New logic are developed that anthropology should have the study area about complex social structure of present time too. In this regard, the study area of anthropology has been extended widely. Anthropology has incorporated the study of micro level of macro level. The anthropological study is taken as an important about the study of biological impact on environment, study about population growth and urbanization, study about women and deprived ethnic groups and also the study of negative impacts of capitalism. Likewise anthropological study may occupy important place for the understanding of genetic diseases, language, literature, technology and the relationship between human beings. 

In the present modern society the change on the study areas of anthropology has been done. In the beginning, the study area of anthropology was taken as ancient and simple illiterate and undeveloped society. These are narrowed by industrialization diffusion and process of social development. Moreover the services of communication such as radio, television, newspapers, telephone, Internet and other new technologies helped to deliver knowledge about different societies and cultures all over the world. Traditional anthropological study area has been narrowed. In this process, the extension of market system has played significant role. Because of the impact of market system and present material service, ancient societies are gradually coming being changed. Because of the impact of globalization cultural variations are declined and single culture has been developed, racial variations and linguistic variations are also gradually being declined. Hegemony type of society and culture and its impact has been extended all over the world. 

In this context urban anthropology has been developed within anthropology which has taken as an important the anthropological study for the study of complex society too. Conducting study about human behavior and their cultural model in complex social system is developed as anthropological study area. The concern of anthropological study has been increased about the social problem such as nutrition taking, public health, human behavior towards medicine, relations and so on. 

Through the applied anthropology mainly about the condition of underdevelopment of third world and socio-cultural or other impacts of external aspects are being stared to study. The importance of applied anthropology has been accepted as in the condition of negative impacts of politics in development, impact of colonialism or market system and cultural conflict or cultural encroachment. Likewise the field and importance of clinical Anthropology Marxian anthropology as branches has been as expended. In present time, extension has been done in the study area of anthropology. This subject has been established as in important social science.         


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