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World Archaeology 3.2: The Americas Across 1492



Bachelor year 1.


The lecture series World Archaeology gives an outline of the deep history of humans and society from our early ancestors to the more complex societies in the world. The role of material culture in society is discussed and shown in many regions and periods.
This section of the entire course is about the archaeology of the Americas across 1492.

In the Americas as well as worldwide, peoples used material culture to shape their world and at the same time people were shaped by the material culture they created. This type of data will be used to understand past societies of the Americas, but needs to be treated critically and, after 1492, should be critically intertwined with written sources and, also, with oral tradition.

We will approach human and other-than-human beings in the Americas in a deep-time perspective that only Archaeology can provide. Starting with the first settlers of the American continents, we will move across space and time discussing selected examples of house building, subsistence strategies, pottery making, social organisation and ideational worlds.
We will approach and discuss non-Western ontologies, address a specific school of thought and focus on seminal researchers and contributions.

Crossing the Historical Divide of 1492 we will be talking about the so-called historical archaeology where written documents should be balanced with archaeological data that can contest, amend or complement them.
Although mentioning several different regions of the Americas we will be focusing on Mesoamerican and Andean civilisations, approaching the indigenous peoples of Amazonia, Orinoquia and the insular Caribbean.

Comparisons between different regions and scales of analysis will allow you to understand connections between the local trajectories and broad Pan-American developments, and make you knowledgeable and aware of current societal problems and challenges.
In other words, by studying deep-time trajectories of societal interactions in the Americas, you will improve your understanding of the complexities of the contemporary world.

Readings are the selection made out of publications dedicated to the topics of specific lectures.

Set-up of the course

Daily schedule:
9-11 hrs: lectures Dutch and English
10-12 hrs: tutorial
12-13 hrs: wrap-up / q&a (all students)

Course objectives

  • Basic knowledge of deep-time history of the Americas;

  • Basic understanding of the current debates and challenges in American archaeology;

  • Basic understanding of how peoples used material culture to shape the American world(s) and how their world(s) was/were shaped by material culture;

  • Understanding the nature and variety of archaeological evidence in the Americas, i.e. tools and ornaments, household items, imagery, structures of houses, pottery, burials, zoo-archaeological remains, etc.;

  • Knowledge of the nature of archaeological data and its correlation to the regional and temporal variations in indigenous linguistics, technologies, settlements, economies, social organisation and worldviews across the continent;

  • Understanding of dramatic changes to the pre-colonial realities inflicted by colonialism since 1492;

  • Knowledge on the role of archaeology in the understanding of the non-Western ontologies and post-colonial thought;

  • Ability to summarise and reflect on specialist literature with regard to this course’s topics;

  • Ability to conceive and report in written format (Discussion Points on the assigned literature and the exam);

  • Ability to defend your Discussion Points during the class discussion supporting your position with academically valid arguments.


Course schedule details can be found in the BA1 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • The course consists of 6 meetings (lectures + tutorials);

  • Each meeting is composed of a lecture and is followed by a class discussion about the compulsory literature. The literature must be studied in advance and Discussion Points on it should be uploaded by the students on Brightspace. The tutorials consist of class discussion that is alimented in the Discussion Points. During the tutorials students discuss under supervision and practice their knowledge.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 6 days of meetings (1 ec);

  • Ca. 140 pages of literature (1 ec);

  • Assignments (0.5 ec).

Assessment method

Multiple choice exam (100%).

During the course there will be 3 assignments all students have to submit through Brightspace. Each assignment can get the student a bonus of 0.2 for their final grade.

A retake of the exam is only possible in case of a fail (conform our teaching rules and regulations) and only when the requirements of attendance and assignments are met. Compensation between the grades of WA3.1 and WA3.2 is only possible if the individual grades are a 5.0 or higher.

All exam dates (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the BA1 examination schedule.
Deadlines for assignments are included in the course syllabus.

Reading list

Compulsory readings will be posted on Brightspace in due time.


Registration via uSis is mandatory.

  • The Administration Office will register all BA1 students for their tutorials (not lectures; register via uSis!).

  • BA2, BA3, MA/MSc and RMA/RMSc students are required to register for all lectures and tutorials well in time.

  • The Administration Office registers all students for their exams, students are not required to do this in uSis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Registration ‘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).


For more information about this course, please contact dr. A.T. (Andrzej) Antczak.


Compulsory attendance during lectures and tutorials. Upon missing more than one lecture/tutorial the student will be excluded from the exam.