ANTH 0536-Mesoamerica Before Cortez


Prof. Bondar

Email:  ghb2 at

Office and Mailbox: FOB 135

Office hours: Monday 3-4pm, or by appointment.

When the Spanish Conquistadores landed in Mexico in 1519, they found the land occupied by the Aztec, an empire as fully complex as any in Europe. Yet, in only a few years, this native empire lay vanquished by a Spanish force of less than a thousand. This course examines the structure and cultural development of the native civilizations of Central America at the time of the Spanish Conquest. Focus will be on the culture of the Aztec and Maya, and their prehistoric antecedents in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras. In this course, we will try to understand the evolution of these societies from the Paleo-Indians of the Ice Age, through the occupation by the Spanish, and examine how developmental differences led to European dominance of the New World.

My expectations are that none of you have prior college course experience in anthropology, archaeology, or other social or biological sciences. However, just because this is an introductory class does not mean that I will only expect you to simply memorize "facts" and then regurgitate them back at me on the exams. Instead, I want to strongly encourage critical thinking as the key to understanding the concepts that we will cover in this course. Anybody can memorize and repeat a barrage of "facts" from the Discovery Channel. I want you to understand how specific processes operate and why scientists believe certain things. To get the most out of this class, constantly ask your self "why is that so?" or "how does this process work?" or “why am I writing this on my exam paper?” To do well in this class, you will need to be able to explain and support concepts demonstrating that you understand these contexts. This kind of reasoning is applicable in every other subject that you will study. If nothing else, even if your mind is completely devoid of thoughts about Quetzalcoatl and hieroglyphic writing as you hand in your final exams, I hope that you will continue to question and seek to understand both the "facts" of others, and your own experiences.
Textbook: Ancient Mexico and Central America (2004), by Susan Evans (ISBN 0-500-28440-7)
Other materials will be posted as needed to CourseWeb:

Grading Policies: Your final grade will be composed of the following components:

Grades will be assigned via the typical scale of:

 40 %  Exam I and Exam II; 30 %  Exam III (cumulative)

A-= 90-93%, A = 94-100%

 10 % Literature Review

B-= 80-83%, B = 84-86%, B+= 87-89%

 10 % Homework\Quizzes\In-Class Exercises

C- = 70-73%, C=74-76%, C+= 77-79%

 10 % Participation

D- = 60-63%, D=64-66%, D+=67-69%


F = 0-59%

1) 70% The exams will consist of a choice of two essay questions, possibly supplemented by matching, short-answer, or map questions. The exam grades will not be curved unless the average grade is below 70%. No make-up exams will be given. The points for missed exams will be added to the next exam the student takes. No absences will be allowed for the CUMULATIVE final exam, except for documented conflict with other exams in other classes, or for extreme reasons, such as medical emergencies (travel reservations are not a valid reason), with the permission of the Chair of Social Sciences, Dr. Scanlon.
2) 10% The literature review will be a 3-6 page review of a scholarly article about early Mesoamerica. See assignment sheet for specifics.
3) 10% Homework, in-class exercises, and quizzes will occasionally be assigned to highlight key points on the assigned readings. No late papers or make-ups will be accepted.
4) 10% Your participation grade will be based on your active, tactful involvement in class discussion--involvement based on your thorough reading of the text, articles, and viewing of the films. In order to receive full credit for the participation component, you will need to stay up-to-date with the readings so that you can make informed, thoughtful, and relevant contributions to the class. Each student should make ten contributions throughout the course. Option: suggest by email two essay questions from that day’s class (which you must have attended) for possible use on the exam.

Attendance and tardiness: While attendance will not be demanded apart from the participation grade and in-class exercises/quizzes, good attendance will be rewarded. For your own sanity, do not miss two consecutive classes. If you know you will be absent from a class, please send me an email before that class. Attendance will be recorded for every class, and each student will earn extra points added towards their total course grade based on the following scale:  
No or one absence: +3 pts;  Two or Three absences: +2 pts;  Four or more: +0 pts.
To count, you must be present in the classroom by the beginning (4 pm), and through the end of class (5:15 pm).


If you wish to be excused during a prolonged period of absence due to your own documented illness, please contact the Director of Health Center, Patty LaMantia (724-836-9947), and the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Jamison (724-836-9988), who will notify all of your instructors.


BEING NEIGHBORLY: While a lecture or film is in progress, talking, leaving the classroom, using a cell-phone, reading the newspaper, or other distracting behavior, will be actively discouraged. Please be aware of the effect you may be having on those around you. Please tell me before class if you will be leaving mid-way through.
Academic Integrity Statement: Unfortunately, a few students in every class are tempted to try to "beat the system" by dishonest means. Needless to say, such behavior will not be tolerated. If you feel desperate about your progress in this course, please talk with me before resorting to such self-destructive behavior. My job is to help you learn, not to make you fail. Academic integrity is defined as the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. All students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Acts of academic dishonesty may result in failure of assignments, and/or failure of the entire course, depending on the severity of the offense.
Learning Resources Center: UPG has a Learning Resources Center (FOB 104, 105) that offers free tutoring, drop-in help for composition, information about study skills and test taking, a variety of software, disability services for those who qualify, and handouts. For more information, call Lou Ann Sears (724) 836-7098, stop by FOB 105, or email