75787 - Native American Civilisations (1)(LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

The course is aimed at providing the student with a general knowledge of the archaeology of the Americas. The course will deal both with the diachronic development of the ancient Native American civilizations and with the comparative analysis of specific phenomena from different American cultural areas. From the methodological point of view, the main peculiarities of American archaeology will be illustrated, as well as the relationships linking American archaeology with contiguous disciplines such as art history, epigraphy, etnohistory, and anthropology.

At the end of the course, the student will have acquired the fundamental skills in order to analyze specific American archaeological cases, as well as to compare phenomena from the Old and the New World.

Course contents

The course will start with a synthesis of recent perspectives on the peopling of the Americas and on the processes of sedentarization that led to the formation of the different American cultural areas. The classes will then deal with the Mesoamerican cultural area, tracing its development from the Formative origins to the Spanish Conquest, and focusing especially on Olmec, Maya and Aztec cultures. Specific subjects, such as settlement pattern analysis, development of the urban tradition and the study of ritual activity areas will be treated in greater detail. 

Lessons schedule:

  1. Introduction and peopling of the Americas.
  2. Early Preclassic.
  3. Middle Preclassic: the Olmecs.
  4. Late Preclassic.
  5. Preclassic Maya Lowlands.
  6. Classic Maya World 1: Tikal-Calakmul.
  7. Classic Maya World 2: Palenque-Toniná.
  8. Classic Maya World 3: Copan-Quirigua.
  9. Teotihuacan 1.
  10. Teotihuacan 2.
  11. Rio La Venta Archaeological Project.
  12. Epiclassic.
  13. Early Postclassic. Tula and Chichén Itzá.
  14. Late Postclassic.
  15. Mexico-Tenochtitlan.


Students that participated in classwork must study the volume

Domenici, Davide, Il linguaggi del potere. Arti e propaganda nell'antica Mesoamerica, Jaca Book-Clueb, Milano-Bologna 2005. The pdf of the volume can be downloaded for free from the teaching materials of the course. The students that already studied this text for another exam of prof. Domenici should make contact with the teacher in order to select a different volume.

Beside the said volume, they will also have to study a collection of english articles that will be uploaded among the on-line didactic materials.

Students that didn't participate in classwork, beside the abovementioned texts, must choose one of the following volumes:

Prem, Hans, Gli Aztechi, Il Mulino, Bologna 2000

Riese, Berthold, I Maya, Il Mulino, Bologna 2000


Students interested in a more specific English or Spanish bibliography are invited to contact the teacher



Tuesday, h. 15-17, Aula Capitani, P.za San Giovanni in Monte 2

Wednesday, h. 15-17, Aula Capitani, P.za San Giovanni in Monte 2

Thursday, h. 15-17, Aula Capitani, P.za San Giovanni in Monte 2


Lessons starting on January 29th, 2019

Teaching methods

The frontal lessons, in which discussion of new findings and publication will be stimulated, will be integrated by discussion sessions and speeches aimed to inform the students about the ongoing field researches.

Assessment methods

he final exam will be an oral one, with questions aimed to verify the student's knowledge of the themes discussed during frontal lessons (only for students that participated in classwork) as well as those treated in the program's texts. The questions will deal with general themes, and in his answer the student should show his capacity to go into specific details. Among the elements that concur in the final evaluation there are: detailed knowledge of the book's content, property of language, and especially the capacity of organizing the information – also deriving from different sources – into complex answers showing expositive and critical skills.  

Proper language and the ability to critically speak about the books' content will lead to a good/excellent final grade

Acceptable language and the ability to resume the books' content will lead to a sufficient/fair grade.

Insufficient linguistic proficiency and fragmentary knowledge of the books' content will lead to a failure in passing the exam.

To sign up for the exam, please use the Almaesami website.

Teaching tools

The frontal lessons will be supported by Power Point presentations in order to visualize elements that, due to their "exotic" character, are scarcely known to the students. The Power Point presentation will be uploaded in the “Teaching materials” section of this website.

Office hours

See the website of Davide Domenici