Anthropologists study the origin, development and functioning of human societies and cultures, as they exist now or have existed throughout history.
Anthropologists are concerned with the complexities of social and cultural life, including religion, rituals, family and kinship systems, languages, art, music, symbolism and economic and political systems.
An anthropologist may perform the following tasks:
- work in different communities to gather and analyse information on the social and cultural behaviour, artefacts, language and biology of groups and societies that they are studying
- collect, identify, date, protect and preserve indigenous artefacts, material possessions and other objects of anthropological interest.
There is considerable overlap in the areas of specialisation in anthropology. For this reason, specialist anthropologists sometimes conduct joint research.
An applied anthropologist may work in areas such as social policy and planning, social impact assessment, conservation, advocacy, community development, women and development, cultural resource management, land claims and social justice.
A biological/physical anthropologist concerned with the biological evolution and variations of the human species (past and present), and with the interactions between biology, ecology and culture over the life spans of individual humans. Some biological anthropologists study the bones of people who lived in the distant past, working closely with archaeologists.
A linguistic anthropologist studies the evolution, structure, history and function of languages, and how they influence, or are influenced by, other aspects of social life.
A social/cultural anthropologist conducts ethnographic research on small communities, cities and nations, and makes comparative studies of different cultures.
An anthropologist's main research method is fieldwork, living with the people being studied and learning through participation in activities, often under difficult conditions.
- capacity for detailed observation and accurate practical work
- able to work independently
- aptitude for research
- good oral and written communication skills
- sensitive to other people and cultures.
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