Subscribe to the ZZZPTM Hotcraze Update list!

Email Address:
History: Online Rantings

Archaeology, Anthropology, and History

What are the differences between archaeology, anthropology, and history? I say, basically, archaeology is the study of things we dig up that don't come with explanations, history is the study of things that come with written explanations, and anthropology is examining peoples, from all times and places. Archaeologists bug people when they disturb graves. Anthropologists bug people when they study them without learning how to live with them. Historians bug people when they fail to report a history others may have been expecting them to discover.

A key difficulty in archaeology is how nothing discovered has an explanation to go with it. Some stuff, like pots or knives, are easy enough to figure out the basic purpose behind, but there's lots of stuff archaeologists just have to make educated guesses about. Not everyone makes the same kind of guess, so that leads to controversy.

Anthropologists try and figure out how people live and express those findings in terms Westerners (who make up the vast majority of anthropologists) will understand. They don't necessarily get the right story, so they can create controversy with each other and existing cultures by getting things wrong. It's a pity there aren't more anthropologist jokes on the Internet, because every one I've heard is hilarious.

Then you got your historians. Some do a great job of examining primary sources and applying keen analysis of them. Others do a sloppy job of rehashing someone else's poor research and passing it off as gospel truth. Unfortunately, the latter are often easier to read and that means people tend to believe that sort of thing more often than not. I see the historian's job to upset the applecarts of bad historians and, in the process, cause controversy.

None of these areas are cut and dried subjects. All leave plenty of opportunity for argument, discussion, and revision. Anyone who tries to say things happened exactly in a particular way is incorrect. There is always room for analysis and correction.

Online Rantings
Historian's Corner