The specialisation Archaeology of the Americas focuses on an extensive and varied area outside Europe. This archaeology is mainly distinguished by the presence of native (“Indian”) communities living in various parts of the continent today, who maintain elements of cultural traditions from before the age of European colonisation.
The archaeology of this region is therefore closely related to cultural anthropology and is primarily concerned with the role of the heritage of the native peoples today.
The lecturers are all personally involved in research projects in Mexico and central America, the Caribbean and Amazonia (Antilles, Guyanas and tropical lowlands of South America), and the Andean region. The emphasis is on the knowledge and skills required for
(a) the reconstruction and interpretation of social processes by studying material and immaterial heritage (artefacts, monuments, visual arts, continuing traditions, etc.);
(b) practical archaeological or ethnographic fieldwork in non-European cultural areas;
© work in museums of cultural anthropology.
The archaeology of Central and South America is a broad area that studies societies ranging from small villages headed by chiefs to expansive early state systems. The Faculty’s research takes place in both areas, the emphasis of archaeological fieldwork being on the Caribbean and Central America.
Current research in the Caribbean is concerned with villages and burial grounds from the archaic and ceramic periods on islands such as Curaçao, Saba, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic. Thematically, the emphasis is on island archaeology (migration, exchange, food economy etc.).
Current research in the Central American isthmus focuses on sites from the period starting at around 300 AD to the Spanish Conquest, located in Nicaragua. The archaeology of Mesoamerica and the Andes (Aztecs, Mayas, Incas and many other cultures) is characterised by many large settlements, monuments, art and sometimes graphology. Furthermore, these regions are still populated by large Indian populations, who have preserved much of the ancient culture and still speak some of the same languages. Researchers from Leiden regularly organise archaeological field schools in the Caribbean and in Central America. An internship in a museum of cultural anthropology is also a possibility.
For international (field) research, knowledge of Spanish and sometimes Indian languages is very useful. Courses in these languages are offered by the Faculty of Humanities in Leiden.
After the Bachelor, you can specialise further in the Graduate School (MA/RMA) in the Master specialisations Archaeology of the Americas and/or Heritage of Indigenous Peoples, or the Research Master Religion and Society in Native American Cultures.