Anthropology | Ancient Maya Archaeology
P230 | 0431 | Pyburn


This is a course about the ancient Maya of Central America between 1100 BC
and the 16th century AD.  Maya cultures and languages exist today, and we
will draw on the knowledge of living people to understand the past.  But
living Maya people exist in the modern world as do people of all living
cultures, so most of the information we discuss will come from
archaeology, history and memory, not from current traditions.  There are
no prerequisites for this class, but any previous classes in anthropology
will be an advantage.

We will begin by discussing the history of archaeology in
Mesoamerica, to understand how the framework of western history has
influenced the questions archaeologists ask about the past.  Then we will
turn to a chronological overview of the culture of the Maya as it grew and
developed in the lowland tropics of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras
up through the beginning of the conquest of Mexico by Cortez.  From this
point we will focus on topics that are key to current understanding of
ancient Maya culture.

Throughout the semester students will be required to evaluate
interpretations of archaeological data.  Archaeology is a living science,
which means that conclusions that seem firm at the start of research will
certainly come into question in later stages of investigation.  We will
talk about how and why scientific perspectives change.  Since scientific
research is a part of western intellectual tradition, we will also discuss
the biases this introduces into our reconstructions of the pasts of other
cultures, and consider what the ethical implications of these biases might
be.

You will have three writing assignments worth 10 points apiece and
a group project worth 20 points.  A midterm and a final are also required,
these are worth 25 points apiece.