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Advanced Studies in Mobility and Exchange in the Americas Across 1492


Admission requirements

  • BA degree (or equivalent) in Archaeology or a relevant discipline;

  • Admission to the RMA Archaeology programme.


The overarching goal of this course is to discuss how archaeologists reconstruct pre-colonial and early colonial mobility and exchange of peoples, materials and ideas in the Americas, contributing to the development of students’ skills and abilities and adequate management of specialised literature.

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 materials and ideas. In return, the very subsistence, worldviews, and identities of the 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 operationalise a ‘trans-Columbian’ integrative approach. Sensitive to socio-cultural changes, this approach allows monitoring 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.

Set-up of the course:

Block 1
Class 1: Introduction to the course.
Class 2: Theoretical concepts of Mobility & Exchange.
Class 3: Resources and Mobility & Exchange (Socio-economic aspects).
Class 4: Ideas and Mobility & Exchange (Socio- Ideational aspects)
Class 5: Ceramics and Mobility & Exchange.
Class 6: Animals and Mobility & Exchange.
Class 7: Plants and Mobility & Exchange.

Block 2
Class 8: European Conquest of the Americas and Mobility & Exchange.
Class 9: Mobility & Exchange in the Andes.
Class 10: Mobility & Exchange in the Southeastern Caribbean.
Class 11: Mobility & Exchange in contemporary indigenous societies.
Class 12: Student oral presentations (focus on mobility and exchange with respect to human and animal mobility).
Class 13: Student oral presentations (focus on mobility and exchange with respect to provenance of raw materials).
Class 14: Student oral presentations (focus on mobility and exchange with respect to style, iconography, symbology, ritual paraphernalia and mortuary practices).

Specific weekly readings will be provided on Blackboard in due time. Dates and hours for the delivery of Discussion Points and Presentations, and the thematic blocks to be researched in student presentations (last classes of the course, 11 and 12) will be established together with the students.

Course objectives

  • Providing knowledge on the overarching topic of mobility & exchange in pre-colonial and post-1492 archaeology and, therefore, preparing the student not only to acknowledge but also to critically approach the existing tensions expressed in the postcolonial thought;

  • Explaining current debate on related 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 ideational interactions between pre-colonial and early colonial communities (Indigenous, African and European interactions);

  • Crafting abilities to critically assess current research and literature – the student voices one’s properly argued opinion;

  • Crafting ability to choose an adequate research topic, find relevant literature to support it and orally present selected topic with audiovisual means, as well as the ability to handle a stimulating discussion afterwards.


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA and RMSc time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Seminars with presentations by the lecturer and in-class discussions afterwards. There will also be presentations by invited guest speakers (Faculty members and visiting scholars working in the Caribbean and other American regions).
This, in combination with student presentations, will be enriched by discussion of current theoretical and methodological topics 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 across 1492.

Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14×2 hours of tutorial (2 ec);

  • 280 pages of literature and weekly discussion points based on the literature (2 ec);

  • Final essay of ca.1,800 words (1 ec).

Assessment method

Please note that differences in evaluation and grading (both partial and final) of MA and RMA students are applied in this course (see website).

RMA-students will be evaluated by demonstrating the capability to apply broad theoretical and methodological framework to their case study.

  • Leading participation in in-class debates in which the involvement in the preparation of the discussion, and the critical and constructive insights, and theoretically drawn argumentation expressed during it are all important (20%);

  • Writing discussion points on assigned literature: discussion points on literature assigned for each week are to be posted on BlackBoard (20%); some readings may vary with regards to their theoretical content with respect to MA readings;

  • Quality of oral presentation: students’ presentations should examine a broader spectrum of available theories and methodologies and adopt a specific theoretical position to one selected case study. Presentations should be well-structured, argued, and illustrated with relevant and duly acknowledged slideshows (30%);

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

In all the above-mentioned cases the guidelines and other Leiden University policies are strictly applied.

A retake is only possible for the final essay and only if all requirements, including attendance, have been met.

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

Reading list

The reading list will be posted on BlackBoard.


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.

Contact information

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


Compulsory attendance.