The anthropological question is primarily a question on the other. And strictly speaking, is present in every individual and every human group, to the extent that neither can exist as isolated entities, but in relation to another. The other is the reference for the construction of identity, since it is built by "opposition" and not "for." Concern about what generates variations from society to society is the interest founder of modern anthropology. It was thus that, Krotz, wonder is the pillar of interest in the "other" (alter), and are the 'otherness' that marks such a contrast binary between men.
While all people share this concern, is in the West where, for particular social and historical conditions, acquires greater importance. It is undeniable that as Hesiod , Herodotus and other classics inquired into these differences. However, when Europe was found in front of unknown people that were so extraordinary, interpreted these alien life forms now fascinated, sometimes overwhelmed.
The Conquest of America is a major milestone in modern anthropological question. The writings of Christopher Columbus and other navigators show the culture shock that was immersed in old Europe. Particular importance are the work of missionaries Indians in Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Argentina in the first approaches to aboriginal cultures. Of these stresses Bernardino de Sahagun , who used in their research a very rigorous approach, and lay a piece where there is a very clear separation between church and opinion data from their 'informants' about their own culture. This work is the History of the Things of New Spain.
With the new geographical discoveries developed the interest to the societies encountered by explorers. In the sixteenth century French essayist Montaigne was concerned with the contrasts between the ways in different people.
In 1724 the Jesuit missionary Lafitau published a book comparing the customs of American Indians to the ancient world. In 1760 Charles de Brosses describes the parallels between African religion and that of Ancient Egypt . In 1748 Montesquieu published The Spirit of Laws readings based on customs of different peoples. In the eighteenth century it was common to present historical rapporteurs, who, as a chronic, describing their experiences through travel long lasting throughout the world. In this case one can cite Estanislao de la Hoz . The nineteenth century saw the beginning of journeys undertaken to observe other human societies. Travelers famous of this century were Bastian (1826-1905) and Ratzel (1844-1904). Ratzel was the father of the theory of diffusion considered that all inventions had spread throughout the world through migration, this theory was taken to the absurd by his disciple Frobenius (1873-1938) who thought that all the basic inventions were made in one place: Egypt .
In that of Charles Darwin and historical events as the industrial revolution contribute to the development of anthropology as a scientific discipline.
For the establishment of a science to incorporate theories of philosophy and general programs already developed, it would take some methodological advances did not occur until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. In this era produced the first systematic racial classification, as Linnaeus (1707-1778) and J. Blumenbach (1752-1840). During this period arose the modern language, dominated during the s. Century by the idea that languages could be classified into families and those belonging to the same family were branches from a common older. This led to the development of systematic comparative methods in order to reconstruct the ancestral language.
The regularity of sound correspondences in related languages was first presented by R. Rask (1787-1832) and published by J. Grimm (1785-1863) at the beginning of s. XIX, which helped to consolidate the general idea of the existence of regularities in human cultural change.
Another type of discoveries made in this period significantly extended the time horizon of human development and gave legitimacy to the idea of a gradual cultural progress. On the one hand, the decipherment of Egyptian writing by Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832) in 1821 dramatically altered traditional ideas about the age of man. Then in mid-century XIX, recognition of the validity of the discovery of Boucher de Perthes (1788 - 1868) of human tools of the Paleolithic, contemporary and extinct mammals. Thus, the archeology and the theories of Darwin concurred in offering an image of man as a being firmly anchored among other creatures of the past, happens to be an ape devoid of cultural attributes become a man over a long period of hundreds of thousands of years.
It is during the first half century XIX when anthropology began to acquire the status of independent scientific discipline and created the first ethnological or anthropological societies in England, France and Germany. In the latter country, the word "Kultur" acquires the technical sense that is of today, a term that will then be introduced into the English-speaking world by EB Tylor in his classic work Primitive Culture (Primitive Culture), published in 1871. In a very detailed and comprehensive overview of human cultural evolution and a clear exposition of the theoretical perspectives of a science of culture, Tylor's book is a foundational work in the development of modern anthropology.