ARC 285: Archaeology of Mexico and Central
In this course we explore the prehistory
and early history of Mesoamerica, the prehispanic culture area
encompassing much of modern Mexico
and Central America, which was
home to the fascinating Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations, to
name just a few. Our
quest begins with the tumultuous state of
Mesoamerica on the eve of the Spanish Conquest, and
we investigate the Aztec economy, politics, imperialism and
religion. We then
look deep into Mesoamerican prehistory and trace the first
movement of people into the region as well as the processes of
domestication and settling down into the very first villages.
Our journey continues as we explore the seeds of social
inequality, the emergence of chiefs and chiefdoms (Olmec), and
finally the rise of the first cities and highly complex state
level societies (Monte Alban, Teotihuacan, Maya, Mixtec,
and Toltec). Along the
way we consider the "collapse" of these remarkable civilizations
whose power and influence are still evident, not only in
majestic ruins and archaeological sites, but also in the ritual
and belief systems of contemporary indigenous populations
throughout the region.
This course is suitable for archaeology
majors and students
who have not taken archaeology courses before, and it can be
taken for either ARC or ANT credit.
The primary objectives are:
1) To appreciate how archaeologists learn
about and interpret the past, using Mesoamerica as a case study.
2) To learn what happened to people and
societies in Mesoamerica
throughout prehistory and at the time of European conquest, as
described by archaeologists and ethno-historians.
3) To understand current anthropological
debates surrounding the important socio-cultural processes of
domestication, sedentism, the emergence of social inequality,
and the rise and fall of complex society.
4) To critically evaluate interpretations
of ancient Mesoamerican cultural adaptations and how and why
those adaptations changed through time.
5) To obtain the tools and desire to value
and continue learning about the human past long after this
course is completed.
This course is offered online every other summer.