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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Eugene S Hunn
ANTH 418
Seattle Campus

Indian Heritage of Mexico and Central America

Indian civilization of Mexico and Guatemala, their origins and ecological foundations. Contemporary communities of Mexico and Guatemala, focusing on creative adaptation of pre-Columbian traditions to modern national realities. Prerequisite: either one 200-level ANTH course or LING 203.

Class description

Our focus in this course will be on Mesoamerica, a culture area roughly coterminous with the Aztec and Mayan sphere of influence. It includes all but northernmost Mexico, all of Guatemala, and portions of adjacent Central America. We will seek to integrate what is known of the great ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica that fell to Corts with the contemporary realities of genocide, NAFTA, and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation that burst upon the world scene four years ago. Mesoamerica is a great crucible of human culture: The indigenous civilizations that emerged here challenge our Eurocentric notions of the nature of "civilization" itself. The world confrontation set in motion by Columbus voyages of discovery and Corts conquest have had dramatic impacts on the world as we now know it. You cant afford not to know about Mesoamerica. I have personal experiece of ethnobiological field work in Tenejapa, a Tzeltal Mayan community in the Central Highlands of Chiapas, Mexico (1971), and in San Juan Mixtepec, a Zapotec community in the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca (1996-2004).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

The course meets three times per week. At least one class period per week will be devoted to class discussions (be prepared with questions and topics of interest), a second may feature films and/or guest speakers.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The following are the required texts, available at the University Book Store. It is also advisable to obtain a good map of Mexico/Guatemala.

Sheldon Annis, God and Production in a Guatemalan Town Frances F. Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society. Beverly Newbold Chias, The Isthmus Zapotecs: A Matrifocal Culture of Mexico, 2nd edition Michael D. Coe, Breaking the Maya Code George A. Collier with Elizabeth Lowery Quaratiello, Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. Roberto Gonzlez, Zapotec Science: Farming and Food in the Northern Sierra of Oaxaca.. Miguel Len-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. Bernard Ortiz de Montellano, Aztec Medicine, Health, & Nutrition. Tsveten Todorov, The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other.

Several additional readings will be available on electronic reserve through a link to the Odegaard Library from the class webpage.


Grades will be based on:

weekly e-mail contributions (one point per week, for 10 points) two mid-term exams (take-home, mini-essay style; 20 points each, for 40 points) participation in a team poster presentation (10 points for the joint effort; 10 points for your individual contribution; for 20 points) and a short term paper based in part on supplementary readings or research (minimum of eight pages; for 30 points).

Thus the total possible score is 100. Midterms will be due October 25 and December 1. The paper may be on a topic of your choice and may be but does not have to be related to the poster topic, subject to my approval (a list of suggested topics will be circulated during the first week). A one page prospectus will be due by the end of the sixth week (Friday, November 5). The final draft of the paper will be due on Friday, December 10. Posters will be presented to the class during the final two class periods.

The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Abraham T. Cherian
Date: 04/27/2005