Topics: Biological Anthropology
PHYSICAL (BIOLOGICAL) ANTHROPOLOGY
Physical, or biological, anthropology focuses on the study of biological aspects of human beings, past and present. Physical anthropology is essentially a biological science; it often seems to have more in common with biology than with the other subdivisions of anthropology. The importance of this subdiscipline in anthropology, however, is its contribution to the holistic understanding of humans. Physical anthropologists focus on both the biological nature of, as well as the evolution of, humans. By studying primates, physical anthropologists are able to contribute to our knowledge about the evolution of our own behavior. Examining fossil hominids allows physical anthropologists to study and understand the evolution of humans as a distinct species. Human variability is another major focus of physical anthropology; physical anthropologists are concerned with human variation, such as the differences in hair and skin color, the differences in blood types, the relationship between behavior and health, as well as the distribution of genetic traits. Using knowledge gained through such studies contributes to increased health and the decreased spread of diseases.
Source: Birx, H. James (Editor), Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Vol. 5 (Sage Publications, 2006) p. 185