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Visual culture



During this course, visual culture will be explored through different approaches with examples in Mesoamerica and the Classical world.

Visual culture of Mesoamerica
Visual culture could be broadly defined as the study of the social construction of visual experience. One part of the course will focus on iconography, the method of art interpretation created by Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968). This will be the starting point and subsequently used to look at visual materials of archaeological provenience.
Mesoamerican visual assemblage, particularly the art of the Central and Southern parts of Mexico, will be analysed in order to bring illustration to iconographical and other visual culture methods. In the end, iconography’s scope of research will be shown, for instance, in the possibility to look at other aspects of human culture, such as world vision, forms of social life, themes of personhood, and religious motivations, among others.
Respective approaches will allow reflection upon different targets of archaeological investigation, therefore, will open the possibility to apply the analytical apparatus to other world regions of interest.

Visual culture of ancient Greece and Rome
What we consider the canonical ‘Classical’ art, the objects made in Greece and Rome between roughly 700 BC and 300 AD, belong to a canon on which archaeology as a discipline has been founded.
When archaeology matured as a discipline however, we have largely abandoned studying these objects in favor to the non-elite culture, to landscapes and survey material, and to social structures. However very recently, archaeology is again realising the importance of Classical art, first of all because our way of analysis and approach can mean a great deal to the understanding of such objects and is therefore an important addition to Art History, Ancient History and the Classics.
Even more so however, because scholars of ancient societies have come to understand that it is this body of objects especially that has been extremely influential in creating archaeological discourse, Western-European identity and modern society. Providing a basis of knowledge on these objects and their reception, and observing these objects with a fresh look from an archaeological vantage point (using several theoretical and analytical methods) is the goal of this course and can be considered an important endeavor for any student in archaeology.

Course objectives

  • Learn and practice how to undertake a formal analysis of visual culture;

  • Ability to apply different theoretical and methodological approaches to archaeological sources in order to gain insights into various cultural structures and developments (e.g. political, social, economic).


Course schedule details can be found in the bachelor 2 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures;

  • Active participation.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours of lectures;

  • 2 essays (approx. 1,800 words);

  • 200 pages of literature.

Assessment method


All exam dates (exams, re-sits, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • E. Panofsky, “Iconography and Iconology: An introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art” (Chapter 1) (1955) in: Meaning of the Visual Art. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books. pp. 26-54;

  • M. Sturken & L. Cartwrigth, Practices of Looking. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2001);

  • Syllabus Ancient Art from Greece and Rome.


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

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


For more information about this course, please contact mw. dr. A. Rojas Martinez Gracida (Mesoamerica) or mw. dr. M.E.J.J. van Aerde (Greece and Rome).