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World view and ritual


Compulsory attendance


Prerequisites and restrictions

BA degree (or equivalent) in archaeology or another relevant discipline.


This course provides an interpretative study of ancient visual culture as expression of the knowledge, concepts and religious world view (rituals, sacred histories) of Native American cultures. The seminar also pays attention to living cultural traditions and indigenous perspectives, as well as to historical accounts. The introductory classes will focus on Mesoamerica, particularly on the department’s iconological – historical – ethnographic research projects (such as the research on the function and symbolism of the ancient Mesoamerican calendar, still in use in Southern Mexico and Guatemala). Students are encouraged, however, to focus on their specific area of (thesis) interest for their analysis and discussion of the literature, as well as for their own presentations.

Learning outcomes

  • Knowledge of current research and debates in visual culture as expression of the knowledge, concepts and religious worldview of Native American cultures;

  • Ability to identify and critically assess current research and literature on Native American cultures and voice one’s properly argumented opinion;

  • Ability to connect archaeological and iconological research questions with research on living Native American cultures;

  • Ability to choose a research topic, find relevant literature, present this via a PowerPoint presentation and being able to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards;

  • Ability to write a paper on one’s own research topic, with critical assessment of the literature and one’s own properly argumented opinion, making use of the relevant literature and the information provided by the different presentations.

Mode of delivery

Seminar with analysis of examples of ancient American visual culture and / or ethnographic data, including discussions of methodological and theoretical issues.


  • Active participation in discussion;

  • PowerPoint presentation;

  • Written assignments (including a short final paper).

Reading list

Various sources, monographs and articles, partly to be assigned during class, partly to be identified by the students themselves (library/internet search).

Time schedule

Course schedule details can be found in the MA time schedule.