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Anthropology and Medical Sciences

Anthropology and medical science are closely linked with the socio-cultural health, illness of the ancient human population that inhibits today. Human health is better understood from the socio-cultural, health, behaviour of ancient culture in humans.

Anthropology deals with both natural and social science, different aspects of human beings and their livelihood from the past 1000-1400 years. 

On the other hand, medical science deals with human diseases. 

  • Together anthropology and medical science deal with the evolution and health of human beings

  • Social anthropologists have to explain uncommon societies of different cultures in a holistic way

  • It increases the possibility of humans in every way

This article talks about the identification of disease, understanding it with both modern medicine and traditional culture, and translating this local traditional culture into the strategies to prevent any disease.

Opening to anthropology medical science

Anthropology deals with the study of humanity in terms of behaviour, cultural, social, economic, and health of both past and present humans as it deals with a variety of problems. Social anthropology talks about the behaviour of humans and cultural anthropology talks about the norms and values of humans, whereas medical science deals with the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, control and curation of disease and disorders. 

Anthropologists’ contribution to medicine

  • Ackerknecht, a medical historian, in 1942, contributed his work on the indigenous system of medicine to his scientific papers on Primitive medicine that provided ideas and guidelines for research on indigenous medicine to anthropologists

  • In 1947, Henry and Margaret Mead, anthropologists, conducted research on “Role of anthropology in psychosomatic medicine”

  • Basic concepts of disease such as sorcery, object intrusion, breach of taboo, soul loss, spirit intrusion were tried to explain by Clements

Primitive Medicine – Ackerknecht

  • It’s not data of error and superstition. It’s also not spells or prayers or bloodletting sacrifices

  • It simply states that the place of medicine was very much occupied in the lives of ancient people

  • It proved that Western culture introduction had met the desired cultural expectations such as adapting the roles of doctor and personal health

Likenesses and discrepancies between anthropology and medical science


  • Both deal with the medicinal health of human beings

  • Biological anthropology, the branch of anthropology, consists of subjects like genetics, human blood group system, Human Leukocyte Antigen(HLA), just like in medical sciences

  • Both fields comprise subjects like biochemistry, molecular biology and cytology

  • Dermatology is physical anthropology and forensic medicine is also beneficial

  • The anatomical department of medical science must recruit anthropologists in many countries mandatorily

  • Gerontology is studied by both anthropology and medical science to study the old age pattern which can help older people from the problems of ageing


  • Anthropology studies and focuses on both traditional and modern medicine. Medical science focuses only and mainly on modern medicine

  • Anthropology studies disease in terms of social, behaviour, cultural, prescribes and beliefs. Medical science studies the disease with deep subatomic and nano levels

  • Modern medicine fails to focus on indigenous medicine by stressing scientific medicine

  • Medical science ignores stuff such as sacrifice, magic, religion, and focuses on biological causes like bacteria, viruses. On the other hand, anthropology considers it and they also emphasise priests and shamans

Relation Of Anthropology With Other Disciplines 

Social Anthropology and social science are directly linked. Social anthropologists know more concepts and methods in several subjects compared to Social Sciences. 

Relationship between Social Anthropology and Sociology

Sociology is an observation of the behaviour of a person in a group. Anthropology is a man’s science and human behaviour. So it’s obvious that both Sociology and social anthropology are linked to a great extent and often impact each other. Hoebel says that from a wide range of points of view, sociology and social anthropology are not two parts, but the same. Evans Pritchard states social anthropology is a branch of the study of primitive societies. 

However, it has one major difference. John Beattie points out that sociology focuses on understanding human relations, whereas, in addition to this, social anthropology also shows interest in other matters such as values, ethics and beliefs. 

Relationship between Social Anthropology and History

Historians deal with past events. Anthropologists not only deal with past events but also the effects of past events on the present condition of the culture. History and ethnography are highly concerned about more than one society. 

  • John Beattie says that history is not only important for past events and explaining the present, but also to understand the contemporary ideas of people at those events. Collingwood, an English philosopher, calls it ‘encapsulated history’

Although historians and anthropologists use documentary evidence, anthropologists employ first-hand observation, rarely done by any historian.

  • John Beattie states the main differences as – historians focus on understanding a particular event, for example, the British parliament or sepoy mutiny. Social anthropologists are concerned with the role of chiefs, which says about the career and activities of chiefs

Relationship between Anthropology and Life Sciences

Anthropology has an unavoidable relation with life sciences. 

  • Zoology – the evolution of fauna and human beings.

  • Biology – the evolution of living organisms on earth

  • Genetics – the passing of inherited information through genes concerned with the variation of anthropology studies of many physical characters

A famous biologist, Paul Broca defined physical anthropology as “Science whose objective is the study of humanity as a whole, in its parts and relationship to the rest of nature”. Hence, anthropology is a specialisation of biology. 

Relationship between Social Anthropology and Political Science

Political science investigates human behaviour, which is mainly applicable in modern nations. 

In small societies, politics did not stand out as a separate domain. But, they are embedded in the social order. There was no proper leader; people used to follow their kin more than formal leaders. They found that codes of crime and punishment vary from culture to culture. It configures the system of the government of men and their thought systems and symbols. It talks about the origin of the state and its earliest development, the state’s segmentation without centralised power. 

Relationship between Anthropology and Earth Sciences

Unlike socio-cultural anthropologists, archaeological anthropologists cannot directly understand cultural and social behaviour, still, they figure it out from the archaeological survey of crafts, pottery, cave markings, etc. It’s not an easy task to recreate a human’s past. To do this, archaeological anthropologists seek the help of geologists. One cannot dig deep into the earth without geography, and to date, the past requires human geography specialists. 


Though anthropology and medical science contain different points of view, they receive knowledge from each other for overall and better understanding. Therefore, human health is not only limited to biology, but also the main road to anthropology, i.e., culture. Anthropology combined with medical science tailored the practices of local sanitation, nutrition and disease control campaigns. Both are concerned with the rear human situation in understanding. They use all the available methods. Although cultural, social, and political people seek in under it, small interventions and criticism have also been put forward for the risk of these failure components. Therefore, it helps humans to connect all across the globe by studying the past, present and future of the individuals.


Frequently asked questions

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How is social anthropology related to the economy? 

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What's the relation between Anthropology and Earth Sciences?

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How is data collected for study? 

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When was the relation between Anthropology and Medical Sciences well developed? 

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