Anthropology is a new branch of social science that restricts its domain of study to the origin of humankind and cultures of the world. There are a number of methods anthropologists employ to study the past, and none of them could be used in the absence of the other, if at all reliable and accurate historical information has to be accrued from the historical studies. These methods include archeology, linguistics, culture, physical, and evolutionary studies. Archeology, a physical study of the human history, through a wide range of artifacts, collected from different regions of the world at different periods of time, takes the center stage in unearthing much relevant information about the historical evolution of man. Archeologists rely on careful analysis of the fossilized human remains and artifacts, such as tools and pottery, and scientific techniques to establish the cultural and social lives of the past societies.
Secondly, linguistics serves to understand variation in language, its uses and communication courses across space and time with the sole aim of establishing the relationship between the culture and language. Oral narratives, drawn from different cultural backgrounds, yield much insight and reveal information of the past. In connection with the linguistics, the study of cultures (ethnography) plays an a pivotal role in mapping out universal human kinship. The established systematic links between different groups of people help trace the origin of man with much precision and authenticity. All the highlighted methods should be incorporated in a research, in quest for the most elaborate, reliable and accurate information about the possible origin and social activities of man in space and time.
There are a number of guidelines anthropologists follow during the selection of sites to study. First and foremost, there must be a preliminary survey, conducted at the site, to ascertain the presence of artifacts and remains of interest at the site. It is commonly inspired by the pre-existing literature (oral tales and publications) about the past human activities within the study area and presence of historic physical evidence and artifacts.
In an attempt to select the site, the researchers first demarcate the study area, based on the presence of physical archeological evidence, such as artifacts and human remains. Taking into consideration that some of the artifacts and human remains stay buried beneath the ground, the researchers are compelled to excavate carefully the area and unearth all the hidden fossils and artifacts. Excavated findings constitute the cluster of historical evidence which give crucial hints into the past. Information, directly accrued by archeologists at the site through excavation, analysis of artifacts, observation and interview, constitutes the primary data. On the other hand, pre-existing literature and other records about the human history in that particular place are collectively termed as secondary data.
There are two categories of dating techniques, used by scientists to determine the age of artifacts or logical order of historical events at the site, named absolute and relative dating methods. Relative dating comes handy when a researcher simply wants to know which artifact is younger or older than another. Stratigraphy, for instance, is used by archeologists to determine which layers of soil were younger or older, based on the order of their deposition. Relative dating is very fundamental in establishing the sequence and order of the historical events.
On the other hand, the laboratory based absolute dating methods such as radioactive decay dating make it possible to determine the exact age of physical artifacts and fossilized human remains. This chronological data is vital in enhancing our understanding of the past in regard to the origin and evolution of man on the basis of substantial scientific evidence.