Archaeology and Anthropology

The Archaeology in Tennessee blog experiences a marked domestic and worldwide dip in visitors and views when we post on a subject that is not purely archaeological.  This is perhaps understandable because people who love archaeology expect to see posts about archaeology.   However, for our readers who may not be aware of it, the blog needs to make an important point about why we post on subjects other than just pure archaeology. 

Unlike in Europe and many other locations around the world, professional archaeology in the United States developed as a subdiscipline within the larger overall academic discipline of anthropology.  As a result of that fact, most professional archaeologists in the United States consider themselves to be anthropologists who study the social, ideological, and technological systems held by both ancient and more recent peoples of the New World as expressed in the remains they have left behind on the ground surface and beneath it.  In addition, American archaeologists are focused on how these three systems were integrated with each other, as well as the natural environment, and how these complexly integrated relationships changed with the passage of time.  It would be fair to say that most American colleges and universities teach their archaeology undergraduate and graduate students that they are always to be anthropologists first and foremost—and view their archaeology as a specialized extension of this primary calling.

What is anthropology?  One could offer up a definition from a dictionary or an introductory anthropology textbook, but that would be too easy and might even miss the mark to some subtle degree.  Therefore, this blog offers up its own definition, one that captures it all quite well and in a single swoop:

“Anthropology is the study of human biology and all that human beings have done in the past, are doing in the present, and will ever do in the future.  It is the study of everything human.”

Yes, that definition is vast, but so is the entire range of human existence and endeavor.  You can agree with it if you wish.  You are welcome to disagree.  Nonetheless, whenever you see a post about pure archaeology, talismanic symbols on Mitt Romney’s underwear, some issue in the practice of American history, a current political phenomenon, or the teaching of real science instead of quackery in our public schools, the Archaeology in Tennessee blog views it as being within the legitimate realm of anthropology as it is practiced today.

Therefore, the Archaeology in Tennessee blog kindly and gently urges its many visitors and readers to adopt a broader and more anthropological frame of mind that realizes both the importance of archaeology and the importance of human endeavor as a whole.  Please stay with us in our nonarchaeological moments and expand your horizons.

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