Four Field Approach

In Anthropology, the four field approach is an approach that sees the discipline as composed of the four subfields of Archaeology, Linguistics, Physical Anthropology and Cultural anthropology. The approach is conventionally understood as having been developed by Franz Boas who developed the discipline of anthropology in the United States. However, a recent 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. 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 in the U.S. Anthropology departments tended to house anthropologist specializing in all of the four branches, but with the increasing professionalization and specialization of the separate disciplines linguistics and archaeology came to be regarded largely as separate disciplines. And today, physical anthropologists often collaborate closer with biology and medicine than with cultural anthropology.