Prehistoric Cultures of Latin America

ANTH 30 Dr. Maria A. Masucci
Spring 2004 Office: Faulkner House 4
MW 2:30-3:45 Office phone: 3496
Office hours: M-W 11-2

Course Description and Goals

The cultural mosaic of present day Latin America attests to the survival of many peoples and customs whose story begins long before the arrival of 16th century Europeans. The great monuments of these earlier peoples at Tikal, Machu Pichu or Teotihuacán provide powerful visual images of the past glory and scale of these ancient societies. These images are a startling contrast with the modern social, economic and political position of the descendants of these peoples. Recent years have seen resurgence in movements by the indigenous societies for greater independence and acceptance of their identities as well as a place within the national identity of the modern “Latin” nation states. This course examines the nature of the ancient cultural systems and their virtually 3,000 year long continuous record of cultural change.

Using insights from archaeology, art history, ethnography and ethnohistory we will seek to understand these societies on their own terms and their past and future place within the region today. The course will be of interest to all students interested in past as well as present studies of Latin America since the descendants of the ancient peoples have a growing role in today’s political, social, and economic scene.

Specifically, this course examines specific common themes of power, economy, religion, ritual, and symbolism which uniquely characterize Latin American indigenous societies. The course will follow a topical and comparative approach rather than a regional and chronological survey. Specifically we will focus on a narrow range of the societies which flourished in Central and South America; the complex systems we know as the Maya, Aztecs and Incas. However, to best understand and explore the development of these societies we will also consider their neighbors, ancestors and descendants.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

The course is designed as a mixed lecture and seminar format. All students are expected to be prepared for each class and take part in discussions. Grades are evaluated as follows:

Class attendance and participation 15
Map Quiz 5
Blackboard Quizzes (10 @ 10 pts each) 100
Presentation 15
Take Home Final 25
160 total points

Attendance and Participation are calculated based on two figures. Attendance is taken on a randomly selected 12 class periods for a possible total of 10 pts. The remaining five points will be given based on regularity of in-class participation.

We will be utilizing the Blackboard system for our course. Class Announcements and Class information will be posted on the system. Class Power point presentations and a summary of class lectures will also be posted at the end of each week after those particular classes. A Quiz will be posted each week on Sunday before Monday’s class. The quiz must be completed by Thursday morning at 9:00 am and the grade will be available to you before the next Monday’s class. The quizzes will be on each week’s readings and lectures.

Each student will select a topic for a Presentation from the list provided. Presentations must be in Power Point format and either emailed to me as an attachment or handed in on a CD Rom so that they can be posted on Blackboard. The Presentation is 15 minutes (including time for questions). You also must distribute a set of discussion questions (minimum 3 questions) to accompany your presentation and be prepared to lead a short discussion on your topic. A list of references also will be turned in at the time of the presentation.

Grading will be based on 5 pts for content and 5 pts for presentation and discussion for a total of 10 pts for each presentation.

A cumulative Take Home Final will be distributed 2 weeks before the end of the course. The questions are designed to require you to examine the major civilizations comparatively in terms of a set of issues and topics. The final will require you to draw on material learned throughout the course.

Required Texts (available at the Book Store)

Coe, Michael D. and Rex Koontz
2002 Mexico. 5th Edition. Thames and Hudson

Leon-Portilla, Miguel, editor
1992 The Broken Spears. Beacon Press

Moseley, Michael
2001 The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of Peru (Revised Edition). Thames and Hudson.

Reserve Readings
Ashmore, Wendy
1992 Deciphering Maya Architectural Plans. In New Theories on the Ancient Maya, edited by E. C. Danien and R. J. Sharer, pp. 109-121. University Museum Monograph 77, University Museum Symposium Series Volume 3. The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Bell, Catherine
1992 Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford University Press, New York.

Betanzos, Juan de
Narrative of the Incas. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Bruhns, Karen Olsen and Karen E. Stothert
1999 Women in Ancient America. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Cobo, Bernabbe
1979 History of the Inca Empire. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Conrad, Geoffrey W.
1992 Inca Imperialism. In Ideology and Pre-Columbian Civilizations, edited by A. A. Demarest and G. W. Conrad, pp. 159-174. School of American Research Press, Santa Fe, NM.

Díaz del Castillo, Bernal
1979 The Conquest of New Spain. Penguin Books.

Healy, Paul F.
1992 Ancient Honduras: Power, Wealth, and Rank in Early Chiefdoms. In Wealth and Hierarchy in the Intermediate Area, edited by F. W. Lange, pp. 85-109. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.

Joyce Rosemary and Shumaker
Encounters with the Americas.

Kerr, Justin
1992 The Myth of the Popol Vuh as an Instrument of Power. In New Theories on the Ancient Maya, edited by E. C. Danien and R. J. Sharer, pp. 109-121.

MacCormack, Sabine
Demons, Imagination, and the Incas. In New World Encounters, edited by S. Greenblatt. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Mann, Charles
2002 1491. Atlantic Monthly, March 2002. pg. 41-53.

Marcus, Joyce
1992 Mesoamerican Writing Systems. Propaganda, Myth, and History in Four Ancient Civilizations. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Schele, Linda and David Freidel
1990 A Forest of the Kings. William Morrow, NY.

Silverman, Helaine
2002 Touring Ancient Times: The Present and Presented Past in Contemporary Peru. Amercian Anthropologist 104(3):881-902.

Tedlock, Dennis, translator
1985 Popol Vuh. Simon and Schuster, NY.


Middle America Course Site (Univ. of Minnesota)

Presentation Topics

Mythology – Major Gods
Women and Gender
Daily Life
Agricultural Practices
Cities and Architecture
Mythology – Major Gods
Women and Gender
Daily Life
Agricultural Practices
Cities and Architecture
Mythology – Major Gods
Women and Gender
Daily Life
Agricultural Practices
Cities and Architecture

1/26 Introduction
Video: 500 Nations – 1
Mann pg. 41-53 (handout)
1/28 Setting the Scene: Nature and Culture
Video: Spirits of the Jaguar: Forging of a New World
Readings (for 1/28 and 2/2):
Leon-Portilla pp. xi-xxvii, 145-149, 175-182 and maps
Coe and Koontz Chap. 1
Moseley Chap. 2
2/2 Setting the Scene: Nature and Culture
Leon-Portilla pp. xi-xxvii, 145-149, 175-182 and maps
Coe and Koontz Chap. 1
Moseley Chap. 2

2/4 Foundations of Power in Prehispanic Latin America
Map Quiz (in class)
Marcus pp. 7-16
Bell pp. 169-181
Healy pp. 85-108
Conrad pp. 159-174
2/9 The Foundations of Mesoamerican Civilization
Coe and Koontz Chaps. 2, 3, and 4
2/11 The Foundations of Mesoamerican Civilization
Coe and Koontz Chap. 5
web site of major ancient sites

2/16 The Foundations of Mesoamerican Civilization
Coe and Koontz Chap. 6
Teotihuacan Site with great maps, photographs and information

2/18 MAYA: Ancestors and Neighbors
Coe and Koontz Chap. 6
2/23 MAYA: Ancestors and Neighbors
Schele and Freidel 64-77 (74-77 Popol Vuh)
2/25 MAYA: Cosmology, Beliefs and Rituals
Video: Popol Vuh: The Creation Myth of the Maya
Schele and Freidel 64-77 (74-77 Popol Vuh)
3/1 MAYA: Cosmology, Beliefs and Rituals
Tedlock Part 2-4 (pp. 87-199)
3/3 MAYA: Kingly Power, Monuments and Politics
Tedlock Part 5 pp. 203-228
Schele and Freidel pp. 84-95

3/15 INCA: Ancestors and Neighbors
Video: Taypi Kala
Moseley Chap. 4-5
Betanzos pp. 7-11
3/17 INCA: Ancestors and Neighbors
Moseley Chap. 6
Betanzos pp. 7-11

3/22 INCA: Ancestors and Neighbors
Moseley Chap. 7-8

3/24 INCA: Llamas, quipos and mitimaes
Videos: Odyssey – The Incas
Moseley Chap. 1 and 3
Cobo pp. 189-207

3/29 INCA: Empire Building
Betanzos Part 1

3/31 INCA: Empire Building
Betanzos Part 1
4/5 THE ANDES: Cities, Life and the People
Moseley Chap. 9
Bruhns and Stothert
4/7 INCA: Contact
Betanzos Part 2
4/12 AZTECS: Ancestors and Neighbors
Leon-Portilla xxviii-xlviii, 1-126
Coe and Koontz Chap. 10

4/14 AZTECS: Blood and Sacrifice
Video: The Five Suns
Leon-Portilla 1-126

Aztec deities

4/19 AZTECS: Empire Building
Díaz del Castillo pp. 224-244
Leon-Portilla 1-126
Site on the Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan

4/21 AZTECS: Mexican Life
Bruhns and Stothert

4/26 AZTECS: Conquest Foretold
Díaz del Castillo pp. 224-244
Leon-Portilla 1-126

4/28 Ancestors and Descendants
Joyce and Shumaker


ANTH 12 Dr. Maria Masucci

Spring 2006 Office: Faulkner House 4

T Th 8:45-10:15 Office phone: 3496


Office hours: M F 12:30-2:00


The great mysteries of vanished civilizations and the adventures of Indiana Jones attract many to archaeology and the study of past cultures. Students come to quickly realize, however, that archaeology isn’t about treasure hunting, but instead about searching for a reconstruction and understanding of our past. This reconstruction and therefore our understanding are constantly changing and open for reinterpretation. They are based on what we can read and recover of the stones, bones, sherds, and symbols of long-silenced peoples through the methods and theories of archaeology. Archaeology explores the past through the study of material remains of past human activities. Through this endeavor archaeologists provide the primary source of information about people and societies of the past as well as offer insights into contemporary society.

This course therefore offers current perspectives on the origins and rise of human societies and cultures spanning the development of fully modern humans to the rise of complex societies throughout the world. We will examine the sequence and diversity of human adaptations to different environments both natural and cultural. We will focus on major transitions such as the explosion of art and cultural diversity during the Upper Paleolithic, the origins of agriculture and settled life and finally, the origins of hierarchical societies or “civilization” from Mesopotamia and Egypt to Chaco Canyon and the Maya in the ” New World “.


The course is designed to foster and encourage growth of an historical consciousness. Students should develop an understanding of the context for our contemporary society. Through this course students should come to recognize that peoples of ancient societies grappled with similar questions and challenges to those faced today. Instead of a predetermined march to modernity the history of humans and human society is a circuitous and diverse set of journeys. Through our examination of the archaeological record students should come to appreciate and recognize the accomplishments of past societies, the solutions they found for the common problems of human societies throughout time and across space and the multiple ways ordinary people organized their lives to cope with a variety of conditions.

The course assignments also require use of various types of reasoning. The course will ask that you evaluate theories and ideas about the past and to understand how archaeologists recover and use data to draw hypotheses and interpretations of past events.


In this course we are all committing our time and energy to study and critically examine the development of human societies. In addition, commitment to the course is considered to include attendance, preparation, and participation on the part of all participants (students and instructor). Therefore, student participants are expected to attend all class meetings, prepare listed readings for the class period indicated, to come to each class prepared to complete a brief quiz on the readings and contribute information and critical comments during the class based on those readings. In addition, among the goals for this course is that participants gain an understanding of the relevance of the study of the past to the present and their own future. This means becoming aware of current events and building bridges between these events and the topics and events in the course. Ideally students will share in class or via Blackboard these new found links and connections.

As the instructor I expect to guide you through a vast body of data and theories on the events and processes of past human societies. My goal is to make that body of data and theories meaningful both in its particulars but also in its general significance and patterns.

It is my expectation that students will attend class regularly, prepare for each class, exactly follow directions for completing assignments, complete assignments on time, participate meaningfully and respectfully in class, ask questions, monitor their own performance, and seek assistance whenever material is not clear or understandable to them. Students are strongly encouraged to review the information in the syllabus on a regular basis and come to class with the syllabus in order to make any announced changes.

If you are absent from class, it is your responsibility to obtain notes and missed information from fellow students. Particular assignments given during class cannot be made up (class debates and quizzes).

Course Grading and Assignments

Geography and Chronology Quiz 20 10%

Quizzes – 4 @ 10 pts each (lowest dropped) 30 15%

In-class debates (2 @ 10 pts each) 20 10%

Theory Trading Cards 10 5%

Blackboard Discussion Leader 10 5%

Blackboard Discussion Participation 10 5%

Book Review 10 5%

2 exams (20 pts each) 40 20%

1 Cumulative Final 50 25%

200 total points

Required Texts

Scarre, Chris

2005 The Human Past. World Prehistory and the Development of Human Societies . Thames and Hudson , New York .

Balter, Michael

2005 The Goddess and The Bull . Free Press, New York .

Additional Readings (available as a course packet)

Betanzos, Juan de

Narrative of the Incas . University of Texas Press, Austin.

Diamond, Jared

1987 The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. Discover , May.

Diamond, Jared

2003 The Last Americans. Harper’s Magazine , June.

Fedoroff, Nina V.

2003 Agriculture: Prehistoric GM Corn. Science 302(5648):1158-1159.

Haas, Jonathan

1997 Archaeology and Ethnic Warfare. Anthropology Newsletter April.

Jaenicke- Després, Viviane, Ed S. Buckler, Bruce D. Smith, M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Alan Cooper, John Doebley, Svante Pääbo

2003 Early Allelic Selection in Maize as Revealed by Ancient DNA. Science 302(5648):1206 – 1208 .

Knab, Timothy J., editor

1994 A Scattering of Jades. Stories, Poems, and Prayers of the Aztecs . Translated by Thelma D. Sullivan. University of Arizona Press, Tucson .

Kuntz, Tom

1998 At Harvard, A Political Sex Scandal That’s Not News, but Ancient History. New York Times , October 18.

LeBlanc, Steven A.

2003 Prehistory of Warfare. Archaeology 56(3):18-25.

Nelson, Sarah M.

1997 Diversity of the Upper Paleolithic “Venus” Figurines and Archaeological Mythology. In Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective , edited by Caroline B. Brettell and Carolyn F. Sargent, pp. 67-74. Prentice-Hall , New Jersey .

Paglia, Camille

1999 The Right Kind of Multiculturalism. The Wall Street Journal . October.

Price, Douglas T. and Gary M. Feinman

2005 Images of the Past . McGraw-Hill, Boston .

Pringle, Heather

1998 The Slow Birth of Agriculture. Science , November 20, 1998

Pringle, Heather

1998 New Women of the Ice Age. Discover , April 1998

Smith, Marvin T. and David J. Hally

1992 Chiefly Behavior: Evidence from Sixteenth Century Spanish Accounts. In Lords of the Southeast: Social Inequality and the Native Elites of Southeastern North America , edited by A. W. Barker and T. R. Pauketat, pp. 99-109. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association Number 3.

Wheeler, David L.

1999 Young Archaeologists Help a Troubled Country Regain Its Memory. The Chronicle of Higher Education , October 1, 1999.

Details on Assignments and Course Projects

Assignments and Exams are due on the dates listed. Make-ups or extensions can only be given based on excused personal emergencies or medical circumstances.

Quizzes are given on a random set of class days and are based on that particular day’s readings. I will drop the lowest quiz score. One scheduled quizzes will cover a required set of information on geography and chronology. You will receive information in advance on the content of that quiz.

Questions on Exams are drawn from all class sources: lectures, discussion, videos, and readings.


All in-class presentations and a summary of class notes including those from daily lectures will be available to you through Blackboard. Therefore you can review the class images for exams and review information presented in class. In addition, each student will select a weekend during which they will act as discussion leader on a Blackboard Forum. The Blackboard Forums begin on each Friday (leaders should confirm topics with me on Thursday so that I can set up the forum). The final chance to post comments is midnight the following Tuesday. Discussion leaders must post at least three entries (one to begin discussion, one during the weekend, and one summing up the discussion). Each student is required to post comments at least once during each of the weekend discussion forums. The topics for possible discussion forums are listed in the syllabus or alternative ones may be suggested by students with approval from the instructor. Forums should deal with a global current event or issue which connects to our discussions of world prehistory.

In Class Debates

There will be two in-class Debates . Each student selects a particular theorist and will act as that person and argue their particular views. In addition, they will create a “ Trading Card ” summarizing relevant ideas and information about the individual theorist. The theory debates will be based on the major theoretical controversy surrounding the Origins of Domestication and Agriculture and the Rise of Complex Society . You should know well your own perspective, understand its basis and assumptions, and be strongly attached to it.

Debate #1 Debate #2

Origins of Agriculture Origins of Complex Society

V. Gordon Childe Karl Wittfogel

Robert J. Braidwood Elman Service

Scotty MacNeish V. Gordon Childe

Kent V. Flannery (2) Ester Boserup

Lewis Binford (2) Robert Adams

Marvin Harris (2) Robert Carneiro

Mark Cohen Colin Renfrew (2)

Barbara Bender Jeremy Sabloff

Ester Boserup Kent Flannery (2)

Ian Hodder (2) William Sanders

David Rindos David Freidel

Jared Diamond Elizabeth Brumfiel

Heather Pringle Christine Hastorf

William Rathje

Book Report/Review

Balter, Michael

2005 The Goddess and The Bull . Free Press, New York .

2-3 double spaced, typed pages

DUE: February 28

As a “report” you should provide a summary of the content and main points of the book as well as any other elements of the work which you found particularly interesting, intriguing or related to class topics. For example,

-What are the conflicting points of view portrayed in the book?

-What are the bases of the theoretical debates discussed in the book? What is their larger context in terms of the scientific discipline of archaeology?

-How do the theoretical debates discussed in the book relate to our class discussions and the study of human prehistory?

As a “review” you should also provide your own analysis, comments and critique on the content and main points of the book.



1/31 Introduction: Course Overview

Readings :

Paglia (read in class)

Wheeler (read in class)


2/2 Archaeology: Reconstructing the Human Career

Video : Archaeology: Questioning the Past

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 1

2/7 Archaeology: Theories and Perspectives

— Selection of Debate Figures and Discussion Forums—

Readings :

Balter Chapters 1-5 (pp. 1-90)



2/9 The Dawn of Modern Humans: Chronology, Climate and Technology

Video : The Western Tradition: 1 – The Dawn of History

Readings :

Price and Feinman pp. 75-77, 82-85, 95-97

Scarre pp. 174-181

***Discussion Forum: Decoding past meaning through archaeology: The case of the Upper Paleolithic “Venus” figurines

2/14 Late Pleistocene Adaptations: The Upper Paleolithic and the Spread of Modern Humans

QUIZ –Geography and Chronology

Video : Nova: In Search of Human Origins: #3 The Creative Revolution

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 4 pp. 154-166


Pringle (Discover 1998)

2/16 Late Pleistocene Adaptations: Upper Paleolithic Europe and The First Americans

Video : Nova: Mystery of the First Americans

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 4 pp. 166-173

*** Discussion Forum: Updates – Research on Kennewick Man

*** Discussion Forum: Updates – the Iceman

2/21 The World Transformed – Postglacial Life

Climate and Adaptive Change – Mesolithic and Archaic Adaptations

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 5 pp. 174-190

Pringle (Science 1998)

2/23 Settling Down: Origins of Agriculture and Animal Domestication


Readings :

Scarre Chapter 5 pp. 183-193


*** Discussion Forum: The Popularity of Jared Diamond

*** Discussion Forum: Meaning of the Çatalhöyük murals

2/28 Culture Change in Southwest Asia


Readings :

Balter – finish book and prepare review

Scarre Chapter 6 pp. 200-233

Take Home Exam #1 Distributed


3/2 The Rise of States and “Civilization”


Readings :

Scarre Chapter 5 pp. 193-199

3/7 EMPIRES AND STATES: Sumerian Civilization


Video : The Western Tradition: Part 3

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 12 pp. 432-448


3/9 Egypt and Complex Society in Africa

Video : Western Tradition: Part 2 – The Ancient Egyptians

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 10 pp. 350-379


3/21 African States

Video : The Lost City of Zimbabwe

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 10 pp. 380-391

3/23 East and Southeast Asia : The Rise of Complex Societies

Video: Messages from the Past: Reassessing Ancient Civilizations – China: Heritage of the Wild Dragon

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 15 pp. 552-574

3/23 Required Evening Lecture – Tiffany Tung, Vanderbilt University

Bioarchaeology – Mummy Autopsies!

*** Discussion Forum: The Human Impact – is it only western industrial society which has had significant impacts on landscape and environments and caused significant change, destruction and extinction?

*** Discussion Forum: Comments and discussion on the lecture and visiting speakers.

3/28 South Asia : Early Villages to Cities

Video: Messages from the Past: Reassessing Ancient Civilizations – Indus : The Unvoiced Civilization

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 14 pp. 518-539


3/30 Early Farmers and Chiefs in Europe

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 11 pp. 392-431

*** Discussion Forums: Who were the Celts?

*** Discussion Forum: Were the Bronze and Iron Age Europeans “Barbarians”?


4/4 Bronze Age Europe

Video : The Western Tradition: Part 4

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 13 Chapter pp. 472-486

4/6 EXAM #2

*** Discussion Forum: Should we call the domestication of plants and animals genetic engineering? Are we not doing the same thing with different tools? Are they not part of a single tradition of human manipulation of nature? (see Federoff and Jaenicke-Despres readings and

4/11 New World Foragers, Farmers and Chiefs

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 9 pp. 306-339


Jaenicke- Després et al.

4/13 New World Foragers, Farmers and Chiefs

Video: 500 Nations – Part 1

Readings :

Chapter 18 pp. 678-703

Smith and Hally

4/18 New World Civilizations: Mesoamerica and the Classic Maya

Video : Spirits of the Jaguar: The Forging of a New World – Pt. 1

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 16 pp. 594-627 (Mesoamerican Civilization website)

4/20 New World Civilizations: South America

Video: Odyssey: The Incas

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 17 pp. 640-664

Betanzos Introduction and Chapters 1-5

Final Take Home Essays Distributed

***Discussion Forum: Applied Archaeology (see K drive and Blackboard article “Applied Archaeology”)


Video: Cahokia – video questions


Video: Spirits of the Jaguar: Part 2 – Forest of the Maya – video questions


5/2 New World Empires: The Post-Classic World and the Aztecs and Incas

Video: 500 Nations Pt 2

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 16 pp. 627-639 and Chapter 17 pp. 665-668


Knab pp. 40-46

5/4 Lessons: A Perspective on Human History

Video: Out of the Past

Readings :

Scarre Chapter 19 pp. 716-720