The Importance of Studying Animals in Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humans and human societies. However, to truly understand human culture and society, it is crucial to study animals. Throughout history, humans have coexisted with other animals, forming unique relationships that have influenced our behavior and social structures. Anthropologists recognize these relationships and understand that the study of animals is essential to understanding human culture.
Animals and Human Culture
From the domestication of cattle to the use of horses for transportation, animals have been indispensable to human culture. Human societies have developed unique relationships with various animals that have impacted their way of life. By studying these relationships, anthropologists can gain insight into the beliefs, values, and traditions of a particular society.
For example, in Hinduism, the cow is considered sacred and is worshipped. The cow is not only a source of nourishment but also represents fertility, strength, and divinity. Understanding the reverence Hindus have for cows is essential to understanding their religious practices and beliefs.
Additionally, the relationship between humans and dogs has been long-lasting and significant. Dogs were the first animals domesticated by humans and have played various roles in human societies, ranging from guardians to hunting companions. By studying the relationship between humans and dogs, anthropologists can gain insight into the evolution of human behavior and social structures.
Animals and Human Society
Animals have also had a significant impact on the social structures of human societies. The use of animals for transportation, agriculture, and labor has had a profound effect on the development of human societies. The domestication of animals allowed for the ownership of property, leading to the development of economic and political systems.
Furthermore, the use of animals in agriculture allowed for the production of surplus food, leading to the development of civilizations. The horse, for example, allowed for long-distance travel, facilitating trade and the spread of ideas.
The relationship between humans and animals has also influenced the development of hierarchical systems. The use of animals for warfare and as symbols of status and power demonstrates how animals have been used to establish and reinforce social hierarchies.
Anthropological Approaches to Studying Animals
Anthropologists utilize various approaches to study animals, including the functionalist, symbolic, and cultural ecology approaches.
The functionalist approach focuses on the practical use of animals in human societies. Anthropologists using this approach study the role that animals play in economic and political systems, as well as the impact of animals on the environment and human health.
The symbolic approach recognizes the significance of animals in human culture and society. Anthropologists using this approach study the cultural beliefs and practices associated with animals, analyzing the way in which animals are represented in literature, art, and mythology.
Lastly, the cultural ecology approach recognizes the interdependency between humans, animals, and the environment. Anthropologists using this approach study the relationship between humans and animals in their natural habitats, analyzing the impact of human activity on the environment and the implications this has on the use of animals in human societies.
In conclusion, studying animals is crucial to understanding human culture and society. Anthropologists have recognized the importance of animals in human history and have utilized various approaches to study the relationship between humans and animals. By understanding the role of animals in human societies, anthropologists can gain insight into the evolution of human behavior and social structures.