Jump to navigation Jump to search Not to be cultural anthropology essay topics with Historical anthropology. History of anthropology in this article refers primarily to the 18th- and 19th-century precursors of modern anthropology.
The topics to be included and the terminology have varied historically. The compound, however, is unknown in ancient Greek or Latin, whether classical or mediaeval. The mixed character of Greek anthropos and Latin -logia marks it as New Latin. There is no independent noun, logia, however, of that meaning in classical Greek.
The lack of any ancient denotation of anthropology, however, is not an etymological problem. The ancient Greeks often used suffixes in forming compounds that had no independent variant. Marvin Harris, a historian of anthropology, begins The Rise of Anthropological Theory with the statement that anthropology is “the science of history”. According to Harris, the 19th-century anthropologists were theorizing under the presumption that the development of society followed some sort of laws. He decries the loss of that view in the 20th century by the denial that any laws are discernable or that current institutions have any bearing on ancient. He coins the term ideographic for them. Elsewhere he refers to “my theories of historical determinism”, defining the latter: “By a deterministic relationship among cultural phenomena, I mean merely that similar variables under similar conditions tend to give rise to similar consequences.
Harris agrees with the 19th-century view that laws are abstractions from empirical evidence: “sociocultural entities are constructed from the direct or indirect observation of the behavior and thought of specific individuals . He borrows terms from linguistics: just as a phon-etic system is a description of sounds developed without regard to the meaning and structure of the language, while a phon-emic system describes the meaningful sounds actually used within the language, so anthropological data can be emic and etic. Harris, like many other anthropologists, in looking for anthropological method and data before the use of the term anthropology, had little difficulty finding them among the ancient authors. The ancients tended to see players on the stage of history as ethnic groups characterized by the same or similar languages and customs: the Persians, the Germans, the Scythians, etc. Thus the term history meant to a large degree the “story” of the fortunes of these players through time. Eriksen and Nielsen use the term proto-anthropology to refer to near-anthropological writings, which contain some of the criteria for being anthropology, but not all.