What Was One of the Way That People of Ancient Times Classified Plants and Animals?

In ancient times, people had a limited understanding of the world around them. Despite this, they had a keen interest in the classification and categorization of plants and animals. One of the ways they classified these living organisms was based on their physical characteristics.

Physical Characteristics:
Plants and animals were classified based on their physical characteristics such as size, shape, color, and texture. For example, some plants were identified by their leaf shape or flower color. Similarly, some animals were identified by their fur color or pattern.

The practice of herbalism was also prevalent in ancient times. Herbs were used for medicinal purposes and were classified based on their properties such as taste, smell, and effect on the body. For example, some herbs were considered to be cooling while others were considered to be warming.

The Doctrine of Signatures:

Another method of classification that was popular in ancient times was the doctrine of signatures. This theory suggested that plants resembled body parts that they could heal. For instance, walnuts are thought to resemble the brain and therefore are believed to be good for brain health.

The Four Humors:

The concept of the four humors was also used for classification purposes. This theory proposed that there were four bodily fluids – blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile – which needed to be balanced for good health. Plants and animals were classified based on their ability to restore balance in these fluids.

  • Blood: Plants that could increase blood flow or improve circulation such as ginger or garlic
  • Phlegm: Plants that could reduce mucus production such as sage or eucalyptus
  • Yellow Bile: Plants that could stimulate digestion such as peppermint or chamomile
  • Black Bile: Plants that could calm the nerves such as lavender or valerian root


In conclusion, people of ancient times used various methods of classification to understand the world around them. These methods were based on physical characteristics, herbal properties, the doctrine of signatures, and the theory of four humors. While these methods may seem primitive by today’s standards, they laid the foundation for modern scientific classification systems.