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Archaeology and art in the Americas


Compulsory attendance


Admission requirements

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


Many archaeological objects recovered throughout the Americas, besides provoking admiration due to their splendid craftsmanship, evoke strong and often complex engagement of people with other people, nature and other diverse animated and unanimated entities. This seminar will explore recent interpretative approaches to ‘art’, focusing mainly on the expressive symbolism of archaeological objects from central and southern Mesoamerica, South American Lowlands and Amerindian circum- Caribbean area.

Objects such as funerary urns and pottery figurines will be examined, but also fragile and perishable pictorial manuscripts, baskets, masks and feathers, looking closely to their morphologies and meanings, discussing their significance in the particular sociocultural contexts of their producers and users, as well as aiding the analysis with ethnographic information.
The content of this course stimulates cross-cultural approaches, therefore nourishing discussions and interregional comparisons are expected.

Course objectives

  • Sharpen skills on critical and close reading;

  • Ability to connect visual culture, archaeological, historical, and ethnographical data with relevant research questions concerning Native American cultures;

  • Ability to critically assess current research and theoretical literature and voice one’s well-argumented opinion;

  • Improve the ability to identify a general theoretical perspective within an anthropological framework;

  • Improve the skills to write a paper on a specific research topic, with critical assessment of the literature, making use of the relevant literature and archaeological data;

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

Besides, for RMA students:

  • To acquire the skills to write an academic paper situating the data, methodology or theoretical approach into a broader context of current archaeological research or interregional study;

  • Ability to organise, lead and chair a session of presentations, stimulating an active exchange and discussion of ideas.

Ects distribution

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Essay of max. 2,000 words (1 ects);

  • 20 hours of practical work for making an giving a presentation, poster or video, including attending the presentations of fellow students (1 ects).


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

Mode of instruction

Seminar with active discussions and critical analysis of the literature and material given during block 1, student presentations during block 2.

Assessment method

  • Active participation and weekly BlackBoard key discussion points (40%);

  • Final essay of max. 2,000 words (30%);

  • PowerPoint, poster, video presentation (30%).

Assessment deadline

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

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 via library and internet search.
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.

Contractonderwijs: all information (costs, registration, entry requirements, etc.) for those who are interested in taking this course as a Contractstudent is on the Contractonderwijs Archeologie webpage (in Dutch).

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw. dr. A. Rojas Martinez Gracida MA or mw. dr. M.M. Antczak.