Archaeology in the Americas

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
ANTH 2210
Semester Length
15 weeks
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Course Designation
Industry Designation
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course will explore the history of the Indigenous Peoples of North, Central, and South America, with a focus on the knowledge that can be gained from archaeology. Contemporary Indigenous interpretations will be interwoven with the archaeological record to give students an understanding of the great time depth and diversity of Indigenous cultural heritage in the Americas. This course will critically examine archaeology in the Americas. It will include the role archaeology has played in colonialism, the relationships of descendant communities to archaeology, the ethical problems specific to archaeology in the Americas, and the influence of past and present archaeological narratives on Indigenous Peoples and society at large. Examples of some of the topics covered are: the origins and antiquity of people in the Americas, the diversity of lifeways and human-environment relationships, the transition to agriculture and sedentism, the evolution of urban societies, and the emergence of empires. Some of the cultures or geographical areas may include, but are not limited to: Norte Chico, Moche, Inka, Olmec, Teotihuacán, Classic Maya, Aztec (Mexica), Amazonia, Hopewell, Mississippian, and Ancestral Puebloan.
Course Content

1. Introduction

  • Introduction to the disciplines of anthropology and archaeology.
  • The basics of archaeological method and theory: archaeological survey and excavation, dating methods and methods of material culture analysis
  • A critical review of the history and contemporary practice of archaeology in the Americas.

2. Empires

  • The Inka and Aztec (Mexica) archaeology and history in the precontact and early contact periods

3. Antiquity of People in the Americas

  • Archaeological evidence of early sites in the Americas and Indigenous origin histories
  • The Paleolithic in the Americas

4. Mesolithic/Archaic Lifeways

  • Diversity of lifeways and human-environment relationships
  • Cultures and/or geographical areas may include but are not limited to Precontact California, Calusa, and Norte Chico.

5. The Neolithic in the Americas

  • The domestication of plants and animals, sedentism and agriculture
  • Cultures and/or geographical areas may include but are not limited to Olmec, Hopewell, and Amazonia.

6. Trade, Exchange, and Economic Organization

  • Economic systems including trade and exchange
  • Cultures and/or geographical areas may include but are not limited to Teotihuacán, Mississippian, and Chavín.

7. Art, Iconography and Writing

  • Art and iconography as evidence of diverse cosmologies and writing system of the Americas
  • Cultures and/or geographical areas may include but are not limited to The Classic Maya, Moche, and Mimbres.

8. Archaeological Ethics

  • Contemporary archaeological ethics, including the impact of colonialism and the role of descendant communities.
Learning Activities

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some or all of the following: lectures, small group discussion, large class discussion, group work/projects, case study analysis, low stakes writing assignments, presentations, and films or videos.



Means of Assessment

Assessment will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with the Douglas College Evaluation Policy. The instructor will provide a written course outline containing specific criteria during the first week of classes.

An example of a possible assessment scheme is:

Tests 45% (3 x 15%)

Writing Assignment (i.e. Article Review or Site Biography) 15%

Research Project/Paper 30%

Participation 10%

Total 100%

Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class. Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving human subjects.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this course successful students will:

  1. possess an understanding of many of the methods, techniques, and theories that archaeologists use to reconstruct the way that humans lived in the past from their material remains and how these may be combined with contemporary Indigenous knowledge of the history of the Americas to enhance understanding of the past
  2. be able to explain the antiquity and linguistic and cultural diversity of people living in the Americas prior to European contact, and be able to discuss the broad outline of human history in the Americas
  3. be able to describe the specific geographical locations, cultural chronologies, material characteristics, and lifeways of selected cultures in the Americas
  4. be able to discuss some the major transitions in lifeways throughout the history of the Americas, such as the origins of sedentism, the origins of agriculture, changes in social and political organization and the emergence of urban societies, as well as assess several of the theories that archaeologists have proposed to explain these major transitions
  5. possess an understanding of the ethics of archaeology in the Americas, the role that archaeology has played in colonizing narratives, the role of descendant communities in archaeology, and the influence that past and present archaeological narratives have on Indigenous communities and society at large.
Textbook Materials

Textbooks will be updated periodically.  Typical examples are:

Mann, Charles 2011 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Second Edition. Vintage Books, New York.

Neusius, Sarah W. and G. Timothy Gross  2014  Seeking Our Past: An Introduction to North American Archaeology. Oxford University Press, New York.

Fagan, Brian  2019  Ancient North Americans: The Archaeology of a Continent. Fifth Edition. Thames and Hudson, London.

Sutton, Mark  2011  A Prehistory of North America. Prentice Hall, New Jersey.


Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for ANTH 2210
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN ANTH 215 (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU ANTH 2340 (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG ANTH 2210 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU ARCH 273 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU ANTH 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU ANTH 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO ANTH 241 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV ANTH 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC ANTH 203 (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV ANTH 1XX (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC ANTH 1XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU ANTH 2nd (3)

Course Offerings

Winter 2023