A Comparative Survey of Ancient Civilizations: A Five-Part Course with Dr. Erlend Johnson - Context Travel

A Comparative Survey of Ancient Civilizations: A Five-Part Course with Dr. Erlend Johnson


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Join anthropological archaeologist Dr. Erlend Johnson on a journey across the ancient world and learn about the ways that archaeologists compare, contrast, and categorize complex ancient societies.

In this five-part course, we will take a comparative approach to understand the unique achievements and characteristics of five major civilizations in prehistory. Each lecture will be devoted to exploring one civilization: Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Khmer of Cambodia, Andean civilizations, and Mesoamerican civilizations.

We will learn about some of the unique achievements and histories of civilizations in each world area. At the same time, each lecture has a broader comparative theme and explores a different hallmark of a complex civilization. Throughout the course, we explore essential concepts such as monument building, the rise of inequality, urbanism and the origins of cities, and the role of trade and exchange in the rise and fall of ancient states By the end of the course, participants will learn to think like archaeologists about themes such as inequality, monument building and political power, and the advent of cities.  

Led by archaeologist, Erlend Johnson, this interactive seminar will give participants a broad background on both the achievements of some of the world’s most impressive ancient societies and on how archaeologists understand and analyze these groups. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of the ancient world, which may inform both future travels and ignite interest in learning more about specific civilizations.

 

Lecture 1: Mesopotamia

In this first seminar, we will explore the rise of the first cities and literate civilizations in what is today Iraq. Our discussions will center on how archaeologists identify cities and what cities are. We will also learn about key sites and technological accomplishments in Mesopotamia.

Lecture 2: Egypt

The second seminar explores the rise and development of ancient Egypt. We will explore how monument and tomb construction can inform our understanding of state formation and the rise of inequality. We will also examine a few of the major cultural and technological accomplishments.

Lecture 3: Southeast Asia

This class will explore later achievements by complex societies in Southeast Asia. Less is known about the early developments of states in this region due to the more limited archaeology there. However, the class will look at what large-scale public works projects and infrastructure can tell us about ancient societies as well as how cities were organized in tropical environments. We will also learn about some of the largest and most impressive religious monuments ever created in the city of Angkor.

Lecture 4: The Andes: Inca and Moche Civilizations

In the fourth seminar, we explore three major civilizations from the Andean region of South America. Our discussions begin on the Pacific coast of Peru, where we will discuss the first large pyramidal structures built in the region in the pre-pottery period. We then will look at how Andean monuments and states continued to develop examining the tombs and monuments of the Moche and the archaeology and history of the Inca. The focus of this lecture will be regional expansion and interaction.

Lecture 5: Mesoamerica: Olmec, Maya, and Aztec Civilizations

The final class will examine three major civilizations from Mesoamerica, the area made up of modern-day Mexico and parts of Central America. We begin this discussion our discussion with the earliest Mesoamerican civilization, the Olmec, but we will also consider the Maya and the Aztec. Our discussions will touch on developing institutions of leadership, as well as the nature of tropical cities in the New World.

Erlend Johnson is an anthropological archaeologist interested in Mesoamerican political organization. He earned his P.hD in Anthropology from Tulane University in 2018, where he currently teaches. His research focuses on the integrative strategies of the Copan polity in the Classic period (AD 200-900) and the changing ways that this intrusive, lowland Maya style polity interacted with and integrated surrounding non-Maya populations over the duration of the Classic period. From 2011-2016 He directed the Proyecto Arqueologico Regional Cucuyagua Sensenti (PARCS) as part of his dissertation research. He has previously completed field research and thesis on Taino landscape utilization in the Dominican Republic for his Mphil at Leiden University.

 

How does it work?

This is a five-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $175 for five lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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