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Advanced Current Issues in the Archaeology of the Americas


Admission requirements

Admission to the Research Master Archaeology programme.


The American continents present a unique set of areas in world archaeology, for their relatively late initial peopling, high linguistic diversity and considerable range in adaptations to a multitude of challenging ecological zones, with concomitant difference in societal organisation.

This course broadly examines the historical developments of archaeology in the Americas, providing insights into the scholarly thinking—and possible contrasts to other areas in the world—and introduces newly ongoing debates. Key themes for archaeological work in these parts of the world will be brought out, including the emergence of urbanism, notational systems, monumentality, and alternative forms of socio-political hierarchies.

The Americas also fill a particular role in world archaeology thanks to the presence of indigenous communities throughout the two continents, and the traumatic developments that followed European colonisation. Indigenous histories of resistance and resilience are part of archaeology in most parts of the Americas, and are also politically consequential. As such, this course draws on some of the principal issues defining current-day archaeology in the Americas, placing particular emphasis on Middle and South America. Explored themes will form a wide-ranging, yet correlated set, including the formation of religious beliefs, globalising exchanges, ritual landscapes, conceptualisations of time, and the relevance of contemporary indigenous heritage.

Set-up of the course

Weekly classes of 2 hours each. Classes will include lecturing, plenary topical discussions, and short presentations.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge of and insight in key developments of archaeology in the Americas and the ability to apply these in a broader discipline-transcending setting or multidisciplinary contexts;

  • Knowledge of comparative potential of Americanist archaeology from a global archaeology perspective, and the ability to apply these materials through critical ability and originality to RMA thesis research;

  • Ability to historically situate key debates in Americanist archaeology and the ability to independently place and draw on such scholarly contexts in the aims and interpretation of RMA thesis research;

  • Ability to mobilise knowledge in reasoned oral contributions to a standard suitable to an academic audience of specialists and peers;

  • Ability to write a fluent and critical essay surrounding an archaeological body of literature, culminating in a substantiated, original and focused position, including recommendations for further research.


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

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 14 hours seminar & weekly assignments (1 ec);

  • 420 pages of literature (3 ec);

  • max. 2,000-word final essay (1 ec).

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (25%);

  • Presentation (25%);

  • Essay (50%).

A retake is only possible for the final essay, in case of an insufficient grade for a first essay. No other remaining course requirements should accompany a retake.

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

Reading list

The reading list, consisting of articles and book chapters, will be available through 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.


For more information about this course, please contact dr. A. (Alex) Geurds.


Compulsory attendance.