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I.1.3.2 Branch of Anthropology, their scope and relevance: (b) Biological Anthropology.

Physical anthropology also known as biological anthropology, analyses  the physical and biological facets of humankind from comparative, ecological, and evolutionary  approaches. Paul Broca- father of Physical Anthropology


It is natural history of the genus Homo and more concretely as the science whose objective is to study humanity as a whole and in relationship to rest of the nature.- Paul Broca

It is defined as science which studies variation, comparative study of the human body and its inseparable functions, exposition of the causes and courses of human evolution, transmission and classification, effects and tendencies in the functional and organic differences, etc.- Juan Comas,

Physical Anthropology comprises of biological evolution, genetic inheritance, human adaptability and variation, primatology, and the fossil record of human evolution.

Physical anthropology is largely an American and British concept while biological anthropology is German concept.

The subject matter of biological, or physical, anthropology is human biological diversity in time and space. The focus on biological variation unites five special interests within biological anthropology:

1. Human evolution as revealed by the fossil record (paleoanthropology).
2. Human genetics.
3. Human growth and development.
4. Human biological plasticity (the body’s ability to change as it copes with stresses, such as heat, cold, and altitude).
5. The biology, evolution, behavior, and social life of monkeys, apes, and other nonhuman primates.

Field of study

Physical anthropologists study such matters as the nature of racial differences; the inheritance of bodily traits; the growth, development and decay of human organism; the influence of natural environment on man. -Herskovits

The branch of anthropology that concerns the human and nonhuman primate evolution, the biological basis of human behaviour, and human biological variability and its significance.

Aim– to study

  • the broad based understanding of human organism
  • bio-cultural studies of human diversity,
  • the ancestors of human species, comparative anatomy,
  • ecology,
  • behaviour and history of primates,
  • human genetics,
  • growth and development and evolutionary history human physical structure
  • function and behaviour as modelled byenvironment


  1. man’s physical characters, their origin, evolution and development
  2. comparative science of man as a physical organism
  3. the fields of genetics and anthropometry


  1. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach – founder of physical anthropology, the inventor of craniology,
  2. James Cowles Prichard -races study
  3. Samuel George Morton – human variation, anthropometry
  4. Paul Broca -racial craniology
  5. Rudolf Virchow – impact of environment and disease upon the human variation
  6. Edward Tyson – primate behaviour
  7. Thomas Henry Huxley’s – primate evolution
  8. Ernst Haeckel- primate anatomy
  9. Karl Pearson- statistical tests like variation and correlation, and tests of significance
  10. Franz Boas-minimize race in favor of studying culture.


  1. Human Growth and Development:  concerns the process of growing to maturity
  2. Human Genetics: the study of inheritance ,classical genetics, cytogenetics, molecular genetics, biochemical genetics, genomics, population genetics, developmental genetics, clinical genetics, and genetic counseling.
  3. Primatology: study of primates
  4. Human Evolution: the origin and evolution of Homo sapiens
  5. Palaeoanthropology:  study of fossil hominid
  6. Human Osteology: study of human bones
  7. Human Ecology:  human  and ecological developments, growth of human population
  8. Nutritional Anthropology: study of social and cultural factor and its impact on health, nutrition, nutritional disorder
  9. Molecular Anthropology:  molecular analysis to understand the evolutionary links between ancient and modern human populations, as well as between contemporary species.
  10. Forensic Anthropology: is the application of the science of physical anthropology and human osteology in a legal scenario; when in a criminal case, victim’s remains are unidentifiable or in the advanced stages of decomposition, forensic anthropology helps in identification of the individual.
  11. Anthropological Genetics: encompasses patterns of genetic similarity among different human populations to deduce demographic history, including mating structure, the account of people moving from one place to another and mixing with surrounding groups, and population size fluctuations.
  12. Genetic Anthropology: deals with combining DNA data with available physical evidence and past histories of civilizations.
  13. Physiological Anthropology: is a scientific study of the mechanical, physical and biochemical functions of humans in good health, their organs, and the cells which constitute them.
  14. Dental Anthropology: study of people including their living and extinct primate relatives, using the evidence of teeth.
  15. Anthropometry: “anthropos” which means man, and “metry” meaning measure. study of human physical variation, measurement of humans
  16. Ergonomics: “ergon” meaning work, and “nomoi” meaning natural laws, study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements, and how to carry about the work.
  17. Demography: Demography is the scientific study of uniqueness and movement relevant to the human population illustrated by size, growth rate, density, vital statistics, and distribution of a specified population.
  18. Human Diversity: study of human evolution and human biological variation.
  19. Palaeoprimatology: study of fossil specimens by collecting, describing and interpreting them phylogenetically and functionally.
  20. Population Genetics: study of the genetic structure of populations, the frequencies of alleles (alternate form of a gene) and its genotypes
    (genetic constitution).
  21. Human Variation:  study of genotypic and phenotypic detail in relation to historical and evolutionary factors

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