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Unit information: Aztecs and Incas: Pre-Columbian Archaeology of the Americas in 2015/16

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Unit name Aztecs and Incas: Pre-Columbian Archaeology of the Americas
Unit code ARCH25018
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Saunders
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Anthropology and Archaeology
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This course aims to give students a broad understanding of some of the origins and diversity of ancient civilizations in Pre-Columbian Mexico and Peru. The unit will provide a comprehensive introduction to the interdisciplinary study of some of the region's major cultures, their art, architecture, archaeology, and religion, from 2,000 BC to the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century. The unit will provide description and understanding so that students will not only learn about the distinctiveness of Amerindian cultures, but will also be able to employ this understanding for cross-cultural comparisons with better-known Old World civilizations.


  • provide students with a detailed overview of the diverse range and development of Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico and Peru
  • enable students to recognise and understand a range of ancient American traditions in art and architecture
  • provide students with a sound understanding of the relationship between material culture, religion, and worldview in those civilizations covered by the course
  • enable students to recognize the distinctive aspects of Pre-Columbian civilizations for comparative analysis with Old World cultures.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to:

1) Summarise the diverse range of Pre-Columbian civilizations

2) Discuss the complexities involved in recognising and analysing the relationship between material culture and indigenous Amerindian philosophies of life and death

3) Recognise the timelines and cultural trajectories of cultural development in Mexico and Peru

Teaching Information

Lectures 10 x 2 hrs = 20 hrs

Assessment Information

  • One essay of 2500-2750 words (50%)- assesses ILOs 1-3
  • One oral presentation of 15 mins (25%)- assesses ILOs 1-3
  • One presentation write-up 2000 words (25%)- assesses ILOs 1-3

Reading and References

  • Coe, M.D. 1993. The Maya. (5th edition). London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Coe, M.D. 2002. Mexico. London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Saunders, N.J. 2006. Ancient Americas. The History Press.
  • Townsend, R. 1993. The Aztecs. Thames and Hudson.
  • Von Hagen, A. and C. Morris. 1998. The Cities of the Ancient Andes. London: Thames and Hudson