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Mobility and exchange in the Americas across 1492


Admission requirements

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


The nature and dynamics of past mobility and exchange are among the most significant phenomena studied by archaeologists in the Americas and beyond. The overarching premise of this course holds that peoples of the past interrelated to their counterparts not only through direct face-to-face and day-to-day interaction but also created, maintained and expanded long-distance networks of exchange of things and ideas. In return, the very subsistence, worldviews, and identities of the indigenous peoples were shaped by these interactions which for millennia involved other Amerindian groups and, later, the European and African newcomers.

In this course we aim at identifying the nature, dynamics, and continuities or discontinuities of specific networks of mobility and exchange in Americas in a deep-in-time perspective. In order to achieve this goal we implement a ‘trans-Columbian’ integrative approach.
Sensitive to socio-cultural changes, this approach allows monitoring of the long-term societal trajectories while dismantling the conceptual chimera of Historical Divide or Columbus Encounter. Substantiating interdisciplinary case studies are drawn from the department’s ERC and NWO-funded projects in the Caribbean region and Central America.

Course objectives

The goal of this course is to discuss how the archaeologists reconstruct social practices and ideologies related to Amerindian procurement and use of food in long-term historical perspective from the early pre-colonial times to the present.

  • Providing knowledge on history and current research and debates of the interaction networks in the Americas, focusing on case studies from the Caribbean and Central America;

  • Exercising research skills for in-depth interpretation of archaeological data in terms of socio-political, economic and other interactions between pre-Columbian and early colonial communities;

  • Ability to critically assess current research and literature and voice one’s properly argued opinion;

  • Ability to choose a research topic, find relevant literature and orally present this with audiovisual means, and the ability to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards.

For RMA-students, in addition to the above:

  • Capacity to present a theoretical and methodological approach and formulate new avenues for innovative research for the theme selected, or relating topic to own research;

  • Skills to write a research paper drawing from a relatively rich number of bibliographic sources and linking the specific data set to an updated theoretical and methodological approach into a broad interregional context;

  • Ability to lead a discussion after the presentation, stimulating an active exchange and discussion of ideas;

  • Ability to contribute with critical and constructive ideas during the discussions in class as well as on-line posts.


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

Mode of instruction

Seminar: other than the two lecturers, there will also be presentations by faculty members and visiting scholars working in the Caribbean and Central American regions. This, in combination with the student presentations, will be enriched by discussion of current issues drawn from recent literature. The multi-focal and multi-vocal course design will result in a more comprehensive overview of the layered concept of mobility and exchange.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 × 2 hours of tutorial (2 ects);

  • 280 pages of literature (2 ects);

  • Final essay of 2,000 words (1 ects).

Assessment method

  • Active participation: seminars in small, specialist groups in which equal and active participation in both preparation and discussion is important (20%);

  • Discussion points on literature: discussion points on literature for each week are to be posted on BlackBoard (20%);

  • Quality of presentation: student presentations should adopt a theoretical position on one of the selected case studies. Presentations should be well-structured, argued, with relevant slideshows (30%);

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

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

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on BlackBoard.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact mw. dr. M.M. Antczak.