Four-field approach

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The four-field approach in anthropology sees the discipline as composed of the four subfields of Archaeology, Linguistics, Physical Anthropology and Cultural anthropology (known jocularly to students as "stones", "tones", "bones" and "thrones"). The approach is conventionally understood as having been developed by Franz Boas who developed the discipline of anthropology in the United States.[1][2] A 2013 re-assessment of the evidence has indicated that the idea of four-field anthropology has a more complex 19th-century history in Europe and North America.[3]

For Boas, the four-field approach was motivated by his holistic approach to the study of human behavior, which included integrated analytical attention to culture history, material culture, anatomy and population history, customs and social organization, folklore, grammar and language use. For most of the 20th century, U.S. anthropology departments housed anthropologists specializing in all of the four branches, but with the increasing professionalization and specialization, elements such as linguistics and archaeology came to be regarded largely as separate disciplines. Today, physical anthropologists often collaborate more closely with biology and medicine than with cultural anthropology.[4]


  1. ^ Anderson, E. N. (2003), "Four-Field Anthropology". Anthropology News, 44: 3.
  2. ^ Alice Beck Kehoe. 1998. Humans: An Introduction to Four-Field Anthropology. Psychology Press, 1998 - Social Science
  3. ^ Hicks, Dan (December 2013). "Four Field Anthropology: Charter Myths and Time Warps from St. Louis to Oxford". Current Anthropology. 54 (6): 753. doi:10.1086/673385. JSTOR 10.1086/673385.
  4. ^ Borofsky, R. (2002), "The Four Subfields: Anthropologists as Mythmakers". American Anthropologist, 104: 463–480.