Universiteit Leiden

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Archaeology (MA/MSc)

Archaeology of the Americas

In the master’s programme in Archaeology, you can follow courses on the archaeology of the Americas, deepening your understanding of this large region.

Studying the archaeology of the Americas

From creating understanding of the historical background to Americanist research to studying examples of the complex forms of human-environmental relations. mobility and interaction between people in pre-colonial and colonial times, to the emergence of urbanism. From alternative forms of socio-political hierarchies to the relevance of contemporary indigenous heritage. The archaeology of the Americas spans a wide array of themes and eras, taught by our world-renowned experts.

Our master's courses on the Archaeology of the Americas

During this semester-long module the background to regional studies in the Americas is examined, focusing attention on the multidisciplinary roots of Americanist archaeology and the contemporary dynamics that define this field. For regional cases such as, for example, Middle America, students will be shown how the regional archaeology came to be as they are today and what drives archaeological in those regional case today.

A second component of the module is a hands-on engagement with various examples of research that tackle some aspect of Americanist archaeology, where students receive tutoring from guest researchers and independently set up studies with small teams to work on original data.

Dr Alex Geurds

Lecturer: Dr Alex Geurds

'My work focuses on human histories in parts of Mesoamerica, the regions of southern Central America and Colombia. In this, the ideas of landscape and monumentality play an important part, as I try to consider how communities understood and shaped their natural surroundings. On the one hand, this study of ritualised elements of landscape, is significantly informed by the many contemporary indigenous societies that continue such ways of being and doing—and this is also why the Americas is such a rewarding part of the world to conduct archaeological studies. My specialisation combines archaeological fieldwork, the analysis of object collections, and designing collaborative aspects of archaeology. 

Transferring ideas and knowledge about my specialisation is a central motivator, from sparking an interest with new undergraduate students, to working with smaller groups of graduate students and providing supervision for thesis subjects. Also central in my teaching duties is creating critical awareness with students, encouraging them to take a reflexive stance, and be explicit about what their views are on archaeological work today. While there is room both for ponderously footnoted articles as well as countless hours spent microscopically peering at a petrographic cosmos, our work is always consequential, and everyone needs to build a perspective on this during their studies.

I’m happy to consider a wide range of thesis subjects regarding the past human histories of Middle and South America. While I’m always available to provide advice on possible subjects, I’m not a proponent of suggesting ‘ready-made’ subjects to students. Zeroing in on a well-defined thesis subject is a dialectical exercise that may generate some friction and uncertainty, but once identified, the gratification is usually all the greater for it.'

This module considers human and object mobility across the Caribbean and using the Amazon as a frame of reference, with a particular emphasis on how worldview is materialized on object through style and imagery and involving analogical practices of shamanism.

The principal argument brought out in this module is that indigenous communities in the Americas established long-lasting and expansive exchange networks of materials and ideas, in the process giving shape to subsistence strategies and identities – processes that are also comparable across the 1492 divide of the onset of European colonization.

These courses are currently taught in this academic year . The curriculum for next year may differ slightly.

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