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Worldview and ritual 2


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

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


For 2nd-year RMA-students, Teaching assistance (in cooperation with staff members) is included in the Worldview and ritual course, involving: discussion points, ability to set up a seminar, knowledge of editing papers (providing feedback), experience in coaching students, assessment of papers according to prescribed protocol.
The overall teaching and coaching skills during the assistance period will be evaluated by the lecturer.

This course provides an interpretive study of ancient visual culture as an 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.
RMA-students will follow the seminar during two years (as topics change yearly).

Course objectives

  • 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 well-argumented opinion;

  • Ability to connect archaeological and iconological research questions with research concerning living Native American cultures, under a general theoretical perspective concerning ritual and religion;

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

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


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

Mode of instruction

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

Assessment method

  • Active participation in discussion;

  • PowerPoint presentation’

  • Written assignments, including a short final paper. The final paper is to be handed in 21 days after the end of the course.

Reading list

Various sources, monographs and articles, which in part will be assigned during class, and in part have to be identified by the students themselves (library/internet search).

General background literature:
R.A. Rappaport, Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity. Cambridge University Press (1999).
See Blackboard for further indications of literature and assignments.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr M.E.R.G.N. Jansen.