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American Civilisations: before 1491 and after 1493

October 6, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - November 5, 2020 @ 5:00 pm

£27.00 - £30.00
Our final course about the ancient civilisations of the Americas deals with how things were before and after Spanish intervention in 1492.

These lectures are by Prof Maria Chester.


These lectures are based on the book written by Charles Mann (Knopf, 2005) but with a twist because as an Art Historian my emphasis is on the aesthetics of these ancient civilisations of the Americas. These talks show the complexity, diversity and interconnectedness they had before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. We will be able to review Mesoamerican and Andean civilisations and introduce those of North America. The idea is to have a complete panorama of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus showing that the continent was not empty but well populated and that it had at least two centres of advanced civilisations: Mesoamerica and South America.

1.1 Introduction

1.2 The Origins

1.3 Ancient American Civilisations (Mesoamerica and South America)

1.4 North America: Mississippian Cultures: Cahokia -Caddoan and Plaquemine.

1.5 Amazonia

1.6 Crops and Conclusions


In these lectures, we explore the changes that took place after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. This course is based on two books: The Columbian Exchange by Alfred W. Crosby (1972) and 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann (2011). The Columbian Exchange is considered today as the “first globalization” phenomenon in human history. Most vegetables and fruits we eat today came from the Americas: potatoes, tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, beans, cacao, vanilla, pineapple, peppers, peanuts were all domesticated by the Inca or the Maya. The world ecosystems collided and nothing was the same again. Insects and disease also travelled with Columbus as well as cattle, horses and sheep. Indian societies were destroyed by disease not by swords. Smallpox, hepatitis, measles, pneumonia were unknown. Smallpox travelled fast throughout the continent and to help the disease, the Spanish gave infected clothes to the locals.

1.1 The Columbian Exchange

1.2 Homogenocene

1.3 New Genetics

Lectures will be delivered via Zoom. If you haven’t used Zoom before, please go to www.zoom.us and look at the tutorials. Once you have booked, you will receive a confirmatory email from Eventbrite, including a link to the Zoom invitation. If you can’t find the invitation, please email berwickea@gmail.com.

If you book this course online, we will hold your personal data in accordance with our privacy policy. If you do not wish us to hold your personal data, please book by post (see www.berwickea.co.uk) and do not supply an email address.


October 6, 2020 @ 4:00 pm
November 5, 2020 @ 5:00 pm
£27.00 - £30.00
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