Academic Catalog


Foothill College Course Outline of Record

Foothill College Course Outline of Record
Heading Value
Units: 4
Hours: 4 lecture per week (48 total per quarter)
Degree & Credit Status: Degree-Applicable Credit Course
Foothill GE: Area IV: Social & Behavioral Sciences
Transferable: CSU/UC
Grade Type: Letter Grade (Request for Pass/No Pass)
Repeatability: Not Repeatable

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Students will practice and apply understandings of prehistory in Mexico and Mesoamerica.
  • Students will learn how to critically analyze and interpret anthropological data pertaining to the prehistory of Mexico and Mesoamerica.
  • Students will apply anthropological principles for solving human problems on the local, regional and world scales.


Survey of the origin, spread, and decline of pre-Columbian civilizations in Central and South America with a focus on the Maya, Inca and Aztec. Applies understandings of archaeology and cultural anthropology to examine the dynamic economic, social, political, cultural, and religious systems of Mesoamerica and South America over time. Covers the colonization process by the Spanish and current day indigenous issues in Mesoamerica and South America.

Course Objectives

The student will be able to:
A. understand the various factors contributing to the emergence of early pre-agricultural and village cultures in early Mesoamerica and South America.
B. interpret how the region's geography contributed to cultural developments.
C. distinguish among the major cultures of the Pre-Classic period, to include the Olmecs (2500 B.C.- 200 B.C.).
D. identify and assess the impact of some pre-Columbian agricultural, cultural and political practices on the rise of the Classic Civilizations.
E. understand some of the characteristics of the Classic eras (200 B.C.- 900 A.D.).
F. assess the factors that contributed to the erosion of the Classic cultures and critique the different models of Maya collapse.
G. describe some of the major artistic and religious expressions of the Toltec and Aztecs cultures of the post-Classic eras (900 A.D. - 1521 A.D.).
H. explain how regional and political factors contributed to the rise of the Aztec state.
I. identify the differences between the Early, Middle and Late Horizon in South American prehistory.
J. assess the significance of pre-Inca cultures on the development of civilizations in South America.
K. understand the technological significance of Inca infrastructural developments.
I. evaluate the impact of the Spanish Conquest and Spanish colonial institutions on the cultural, religious, and social conditions of Mesoamerica's indigenous people.
J. assess the impact of ancient culture on modern events and practices, including the current day political uprisings and western medicine.

Course Content

A. Introduction to the geography and major archaeological periods utilized in Mesoamerican studies
B. The first settlers of pre-agricultural Mexico
C. The Archaic period
1. Early Village sites at Tlatilco, Oaxaca and the Western region
2. The origins of plant domestication, early cultigens
3. The impacts of plant domestication, organic interdependence
4. Early social, and political organization and artistic expression
D. The pre-Classic period (2500 B.C. to 200 B.C.)
1. The heartland of Olmec civilization, Veracruz and Tabasco
2. The Olmec as the prototypical early Mesoamerican civilization
3. Olmec "were-jaguarism" in religious thought, artistic expression and origin myth
4. Early Zapotec civilization at Monte Alban and Mitla: cultural, artistic and architectural expressions
5. Izapan civilization
6. Introduction to the debate over the Olmec as a "cultura madre" or mother culture
E. The Classic period (200 B.C. to 900 A.D.)
1. Artistic, cultural and religious expression of the Maya
2. Features of the urban-religious complex at Teotihuacan
3. Urban civilization at El Tajin, the Vera Cruz example
4. Growth of Monte Alban and Mitla, Zapotec-Mixtec religious sites
F. The post-Classic period (900 A.D. to 1521 A.D.)
1. Collapse of the classic states and emergence of the Chichimeca
2. Early Toltec civilization at Tula, Chichen Itza
3. The rise of the imperialistic states at Tula and Tenochtitlan
4. Factors contributing to the rise of the Aztec state
5. Artistic and religious expressions of the Toltec and Aztec
G. The internal (Aztec) and external (Spanish) factors in the Spanish Conquest (1519 A.D. to 1521 A.D.)
H. The geography of South America
I. Early complex societies in Peru (Moche, Caral)
J. First civilizations in the Andes (Wari, Tiwanaku, Chimu)
K. The rise of the Inca and the expansion of the Inca Empire
1. Political organization
2. Economic organization
3. Military tactics
4. Social life among Inca
L. The fall of the empire and Spanish Conquest
M. The "ladinoization" of the Americas, the impact of the Spanish colonial institutions
1. Haciendas and encomiendas
2. Catholic church and Bishop Diego de Landa
3. The Caste Wars of the Yucatan
I. Present day influence of ancient culture on events and practices
1. Zapatista movement
2. Tourism
3. 2012 hysteria

Lab Content

Not applicable.

Special Facilities and/or Equipment

A. When taught via Foothill Global Access, on-going access to computer with email software and hardware; email address.

Method(s) of Evaluation

Methods of Evaluation may include but are not limited to the following:

A. Short answer exams
B. Essay exams
C. Oral contributions to demonstrate an understanding and provide interpretations about topics in class discussion
D. Annotated bibliography, outlines, and final papers on topics determined in class and which may be graded for a rewrite

Method(s) of Instruction

Methods of Instruction may include but are not limited to the following:

A. Lecture
B. Discussion
C. Cooperative learning exercises
D. Field work
E. Oral presentations

Representative Text(s) and Other Materials

Coe, Michael D., and Stephen Houston. The Maya. 9th ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2015.

Adams, Richard E.W. Prehistoric Mesoamerica. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.

Coe, Michael D., and Rex Koontz. Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs. 7th ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Malpass, Michael. Daily Life in the Inca Empire (The Daily Life Through History Series). Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Co., 2008.

McKillop, Heather. The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives. New York: Norton, 2006.


Types and/or Examples of Required Reading, Writing, and Outside of Class Assignments

A. Writing assignment: Students choose a topic of interest from the class lecture or readings. Submit an annotated bibliography in the form of five summaries of peer-reviewed journal articles taken from JSTOR. Submit an outline for the paper. Exchange drafts with another students. Hand in a final paper of 10 pages in length.