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Archaeology (Research): Religion and Society: Native American Cultures

The prime characteristics of this Research Master programme are its interdisciplinary perspective and ethno-archaeological interest. The programme aims to provide students with a broader knowledge of and deeper insights into the history of Native American cultures, focusing on the relationship between religious worldview and social agency. The study of the past (archaeology, anthropology, sciences, history, linguistics) is connected to an interest in the present.

Research themes

  • Artistic expressions of religious narratives

  • Concepts and rituals

  • Social organisation

  • Trade routes and cultural interaction

  • Issues of heritage and identity

These grand themes are applied to case studies in the context of specific research in specialisation tutorials and seminars on topics such as ‘ancient American art and religion’ or ‘mobility and exchange’. A special area of expertise is the reading of ancient Mexican historical and religious pictorial manuscripts. Combinations with the study of Amerindian languages or with sciences (geo-bioarchaeology) are other options.

Thesis and future research

The Research Master thesis is to be based on original research, which may include archaeological or anthropological fieldwork, as well as studies of museum collections, archives and other primary sources. It is possible to participate in Leiden field schools related to long-term research projects, such as excavations in the Caribbean or ethnography in Mesoamerica.

The Research Master thesis is conceived as the basis for later PhD-research in the context of a Leiden research project, either in the Caribbean area (excavations and surveys, with analysis of material remains) or in Mesoamerica (interpretation of ancient visual art and historical texts). Students may combine the thematic lines of the two approaches by using the space of the multidisciplinary research.


Coordinators for the Research Master specialisation in Religion and Society: prof. dr Corinne Hofman, prof. dr Maarten Jansen.