Skip to Main Content



Although the term is relatively new, ethnoscientific study has been around since people first began exploring the relationship between people and their environment, by studying music, language, biology, history, and all the elements that form societies and cultures.

Ethnoscience evolved as a subfield of ethnography, the study of cultural groups in the 19th century. The ethno- (meaning race or people) prefix became more widespread as the disciplines of ethnobotany, ethnobiology, and ethnoecology developed in about 1895, 1935, and 1954, respectively. Ethnohistory gained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Interest in indigenous knowledge and ethnoveterinary medicine arose with the failure of many development projects that had regarded Western technology and approaches as superior and that had tried to use them in other cultures with little adaptation and modification. Scientists have come to value local people's knowledge of veterinary science and they have started to study and use it in projects.

Sound-recording devices, beginning with the phonograph, have enabled ethnoscientists to record and keep sounds, such as language (ethnolinguists) and music (ethnomusicologists). More recent innovations include multimedia technology, which can collect complex and multifacted data including recordings animal sounds, images of plants and animals, recordings of the pronunciation of native names, and video of everyday activities such as tool making, food preparation, burial practices, and other cultural practices.