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Why Studying Animals Is Crucial to Advancing Anthropology

The field of anthropology is a wide-ranging discipline that encompasses the study of human cultures, societies, language, and biological characteristics. One of the crucial aspects of the discipline is the study of animals, which provides essential insights into human evolution, behavior, and cultural practices. Anthropologists that study primatology, zooarchaeology, ethnozoology, and other related areas rely on animal research to help elucidate the complex relationships between humans and animals, how we interact with them, and how they shape our societies and biology.

Anthropology and Animal Behavior

Humans and apes share an estimated 98 percent of their DNA, making non-human primates crucial research subjects as anthropologists seek to understand human behavior and evolution. Primatology, which is the study of non-human primates, offers indispensable insights into human evolution, physiology, and behavior. Anthropologists studying primates observe how they interact, communicate, and socialize, which provides important clues to human social behavior and relationships. Through the study of non-human primates, anthropologists have discovered that our closest ancestors have complex social structures and engage in behaviors that are similar to humans, such as tool use, cooperation, and cultural transmission.

Furthermore, the study of animal behavior has provided researchers with a better understanding of the evolution of cooperation and conflict in humans. For instance, by studying Bonobo chimpanzee’s cooperative social structures, anthropologists have uncovered important discoveries about peaceful conflict resolution, empathy, and social bonding that are common in apes and other animal species.

Zooarchaeology and Anthropology

Zooarchaeology is the study of animal remains recovered in archaeological sites, and it is an essential subfield of anthropology that helps us learn about past human-animal relationships. The analysis of animal remains can provide insight into past human cultures, economies, and technologies. For example, analysis of a single animal bone found at an archaeological site can tell us about the species of animal present, its age at death, and the type of human activity that led to its death. Through the study of zooarchaeological evidence, we can track changes in the diet, hunting practices, and trade networks of past civilizations and better understand their relationship with animals.

Ethnozoology and Anthropology

Ethnozoology is the study of the human relationship with animals in different cultures, communities, and societies. Ethnozoologists study traditional and contemporary relationships between humans and animals and how they shape cultural practices. Ethnozoology provides insight into the role of animals in different cultures, beliefs, and practices. In some societies, animals are viewed as sacred, and ethnozoologists work to understand the cultural and social significance of these beliefs. For instance, the study of Inuit culture by ethnozoologists has revealed the central role of sled dogs in transportation, hunting, and cultural practices, and their importance in maintaining the local cultural identity.

Conservation and Anthropology

Anthropologists also play an important role in wildlife conservation and management. The study of animals has increased awareness of human impacts on the environment and how we can manage our interactions with animals to protect them and their habitats. For instance, in areas with high levels of human-wildlife conflict, anthropologists work to promote co-existence and mitigate conflicts by involving local communities in the management of wildlife habitats and educating them about conservation efforts.

Moreover, anthropologists are working with governments and non-governmental organizations to monitor and manage wildlife populations worldwide. Through the use of advanced technologies such as GPS tagging and satellite imagery, anthropologists can monitor the movement and behavior of animals and assess the impact of human activities, such as climate change, on their habitats.

Tips and Advice for Prospective Anthrozoologists

If you are interested in studying animals as part of anthropology, here’s some advice to get you started.

– Learn as much as possible about different animal species and their behavior in the wild.
– Participate in anthropology fieldwork programs that focus on primatology, zooarchaeology, and ethnozoology.
– Develop skills in analytical techniques such as DNA analysis, isotopic analysis, and zooarchaeological methods.
– Volunteer or intern at local wildlife conservation or animal welfare organizations.
– Pursue a Ph.D. program in anthropology or a related field to develop advanced research skills and knowledge.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the study of animals is critical to advancing anthropology and our understanding of human evolution, behavior, and cultural practices. Anthropologists studying primatology, zooarchaeology, ethnozoology, and other related areas rely on animal research to help elucidate the complex relationships between humans and animals, how we interact with them, and how they shape our societies and biology. Studying animals is also significant in wildlife conservation and management. Thus, the study of animals could not be more imperative to the field of anthropology.

Emily Johnson

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