Lost Worlds of South America

Course No. 3120
Professor Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.
Maya Exploration Center
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4.7 out of 5
155 Reviews
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Course No. 3120
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is well illustrated and features over 400 illustrations, maps and portraits. There are captivating pictures of the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon; photographs of Moche ceramics and the terraced gardens of the Wari; detailed maps of South American regions and sites including Machu Picchu designed to help you better grasp the complex geographies of these lost worlds; and portraits of fascinating South American kings like Atahualpa, the last great ruler of the Inca. There are on-screen spellings and definitions to help reinforce material for visual learners.
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What Will You Learn?

  • Learn about the sites of Kotosh, El Paraiso, and Caral - the first cities in the Americas.
  • Study the Andean Moche culture in-depth, including its art, roads, and warfare.
  • Examine the communities of the Wari and determine if their expansion was about empire building or cultural diffusion.
  • Walk the Machu Picchu estate and explore the solar-aligned Torreon and Inca cosmology.

Course Overview

The dramatic terrain of South America is one of the great and thrilling frontiers of archaeology. Buried by the centuries on soaring mountain slopes and beneath arid deserts and lush jungles, the remains of extraordinary, majestic civilizations—many completely unknown until recent decades—are now coming to light and raising tantalizing questions about what else may be awaiting discovery.

These newly uncovered sites, as well as previously known ones such as Cuzco and Machu Picchu, are by no means those of simple, “primitive” cultures, but show astonishing sophistication in large-scale architecture, agricultural systems, art, and urban organization, together with technological ingenuity that dazzles the imagination.

As one of only six places on earth where civilization arose spontaneously, this region offers a fresh and revelatory look at how human societies formed, from the earliest organized communities to cultures of huge complexity. They paralleled, yet were absolutely different from, the ancient cultures of Greece, Egypt, and others that we know so much better. In these sites you witness, with vivid clarity, the unfolding of one of the true cradles of civilization.

Now, in Lost Worlds of South America, Professor Edwin Barnhart, director of the Maya Exploration Center, leads you on an adventurous trek of discovery through the wilds of South America to the great, mysterious civilizations of the ancients. In 24 eye-opening lectures, you’ll take an in-depth look at the emerging finds and archaeological knowledge of more than 12 seminal civilizations, giving you rich insight into the creative vision and monumental achievements of these wellsprings of human life.

A Startling New Glimpse of the Ancient World

The ancient South Americans show us striking models of how societies can function and organize themselves. The technologies and social structures seen here were wholly invented, using no preexisting models, as these dynamic peoples struggled to tame their environment and carve out societies and empires.   

Recently unearthed marvels include

  • elaborately prepared and adorned mummies that predate Egypt’s by 2000 years;
  • imposing palaces, solar observatories, and dramatically decorated pyramids;
  • massive irrigation systems, aquaducts, and canals;
  • brilliantly engineered road systems covering thousands of kilometers;
  • stunning art objects in gold, turquoise, lapis lazuli, and ceramic; and
  • evidence of huge urban civilizations in the Amazon.

In their amazing sophistication and scale, the sites reveal some of the most remarkable ancient artifacts found anywhere in the world. These cultures rank among the greatest early civilizations, providing an extraordinary window on the development of human societies—and we’ve seen only the beginnings of these archaeological discoveries.

Encounter an Astounding Legacy of History and Culture

In many cases, the finds you investigate are so new that the only way to follow them is through primary sources: the archaeologists and scholars working in the field, and the materials they have brought to light. As an archaeologist, explorer, and passionate advocate for these cultures, Professor Barnhart invites you to join him at the latest excavation sites and to discover this hugely exciting field.

As a key point of the course, the professor elucidates how the iconic Inca civilization was only the tail end of a long, unfolding progression of cultures, and that the Inca stood on the shoulders of other great civilizations such as the Nazca, Moche, Wari, and Chimú. Your journey covers numerous illuminating facets of these cultures and ways of life, including these:

  • Earliest cities in the Americas: Explore the first urban complexes in the New World, dating to 3000 B.C.—their remarkable architectural features of platform mounds, sunken plazas, great pyramid-like structures, and irrigation channels, and the means by which these cultures supported large populations.
  • Wonders of ancient technology: Throughout the series, grapple with the amazing technological innovations of the early South Americans, including the astronomical observatories of Chankillo, the complex hydraulic engineering of the Nazca, the anti-seismic architecture of the Wari, the “raised field” agriculture of Tiwanaku—and the Inca’s technique, centuries ahead of its time, of freeze-drying vegetables.
  • Mummies, headhunting, and fanged deities: In cultures from the Paracas and Wari to the Inca, discover the religious underpinnings, cosmology, and significance of cultural practices such as mummification, ancestor worship, severed heads, human sacrifice, and ancient “brain surgery.”
  • The great Moche civilization: In three lectures on this visionary people, reckon with their towering pyramids, adorned with brilliant color murals; their fabulous tombs—the richest and most lavish in the New World—and their elaborate practices of shamanic healing.  
  • Glories of Andean art: Drawing from the many cultures you visit, witness the mastery of metallurgy, textiles, and ceramics, and the rich iconography seen in sumptuous ritual objects, jewelry, clothing, and personal adornment.
  • The magnificent Inca: In six lectures, learn how the Inca forged an empire of 10 million people, organized it through a system of “labor taxation,” ended hunger in their world, and built the glittering city of Cuzco—laid out in the shape of a crouching puma and boasting grand avenues, fountains, palaces, and temples with walls of hammered gold.

A Richly Colorful Journey 

Professor Barnhart enhances the history with stories of his own adventures and firsthand accounts of the sites and regions in question. You join him by video at the site of the fascinating Nazca geoglyphs to learn how the Nazca people etched vast geometric designs into the earth. You hear of hair-raising incidents pitting archaeologists against daring looters, and of Professor Barnhart’s own work of attempting to penetrate the enigma of the Inca’s “impossibly” perfect stonework.

The ancient cultures come alive through hundreds of original photographs, taken by Professor Barnhart and other archaeologists working in the field, illuminating the architecture, artifacts, and artworks, as well as 3-D models that vividly reveal the sites themselves.

A Story beyond Imagining

Armed with a probing investigative spirit, Professor Barnhart takes you deeply into the mysteries of these civilizations, raising compelling questions about how these peoples lived, worked, prayed, and thought. 

He leads you on an investigation of cryptic iconography on Moche ceramics and imagery suggesting that Moche priests incarnated or “channeled” the culture’s creator deity. With his expert guidance, you’ll probe what may have underlain the mass sacrifice of young women in the Sican culture. And you’ll trace startling connections between the ways of life of the ancients and those of present-day peoples in South America.

You’ll be riveted as you delve into one of the last unbroken ancient codes—the system of writing in knotted strings called “khipu”—and learn how the early South Americans shared meals with their mummified ancestors. And you’ll be amazed as you track huge canal systems, mounds, raised causeways, and fish farms indicating wide-scale civilization in the “untamable” jungles, all made possible by recent dramatic discoveries in the Amazon.

In Lost Worlds of South America, the breathtaking valleys, mountains, and deserts reveal wonders that rival anything we know of the ancient world. Travel with us to a lost and splendorous past—a fountainhead of civilization that speaks unforgettably of human striving, vision, and the indomitable will to endure.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    South America's Lost Cradle of Civilization
    Consider the remarkable evidence for South America as one of the true wellsprings of human civilization. Grasp the diversity of early South American cultures, from the Andean civilizations to the desert and Amazon regions; what these cultures shared; and their extraordinary innovations in agriculture, architecture, handcrafts, social organization, and religion. x
  • 2
    Discovering Peru’s Earliest Cities
    The first cities in the Americas date to 3000 B.C. Investigate the means of subsistence of coastal and inland valley cities, and evidence for trade in marine and agricultural products. Learn about the sites of Kotosh, El Paraiso, and Caral and their striking features of architecture, including plazas, pyramids, and solar observatories. x
  • 3
    South America’s First People
    The earliest evidence of humans in the Americas comes not from North America, but from Chile. Investigate the important Monte Verde site and its view into everyday life 15,000 years ago. Learn also about “Quilcas” cave art, the astonishing Chinchorro mummies—predating Egypt’s— and evidence of early agriculture and trade at Huaca Prieta. x
  • 4
    Ceramics, Textiles, and Organized States
    Observe pivotal changes in northern Peruvian societies in 1800–900 B.C., such as the architectural styles of the southern and northern valleys, which indicate the rise of a state identity. Note the area’s earliest evidence of metallurgy and weaving, and stone sculptures reflecting the first warlike violence seen in South America. x
  • 5
    Chav'n and the Rise of Religious Authority
    The Peruvian site of Chav'n marks the emergence of religion as the focus of public art. Study Chav'n’s distinctive architecture, with images of its characteristic “fanged deity.” Learn about later religious iconography and artifacts at Chav'n suggesting that it was the center of a cult that spread to other sites in the region. x
  • 6
    Cupisnique to Salinar—Elite Rulers and War
    With the waning of Chav'n’s culture, striking new elements appear in the region’s archaeological record. Here, encounter the Salinar culture, a new settlement pattern showing no ceremonial architecture and the first “elite” housing. Examine the evidence of defensive citadels and what may have triggered warfare and emerging social hierarchy. x
  • 7
    Paracas—Mummies, Shamans, and Severed Heads
    Investigate the fascinating Paracas tombs of the 1st millennium B.C., which contain richly adorned mummies, and grasp the significance of mummification. Study the elaborate iconography of Paracas textiles, the meaning of the supernatural beings they depict, and the practice of head hunting as a means to control the spirits of the dead. x
  • 8
    The Nazca Lines and Underground Channels
    The Nazca are yet another South American people of striking accomplishments. Learn about their remarkable irrigation system of underground aquifers, aqueducts, and wells, and their fine polychrome pottery and textiles. Penetrate the mystery of the “Nazca Lines,” massive geoglyphs scratched into the earth, which may be the result of ritual pilgrimage. x
  • 9
    The Moche—Pyramids, Gold, and Warriors
    In the first of three lectures on the Andean Moche culture, chart this civilization’s outstanding features. Discover the immense pyramids, adorned with brilliant color murals, road systems, and sophisticated art. Examine the evidence of extensive warfare, both in the art and in excavated weaponry and sacrificial victims. x
  • 10
    The Moche—Richest Tombs in the New World
    The Moche tombs offer compelling evidence of the culture’s social structure and cosmology. Investigate the sumptuous contents of the three principal tombs of Sipan—the enigmatic buried figures and dazzling costumes, jewelry, and surrounding objects. Contemplate who these buried people might have been, with relation to imagery in Moche art. x
  • 11
    The Moche—Drugs, Sex, Music, and Puppies
    This lecture investigates the dramatic iconography seen on Moche ceramics. First, learn about the complex rituals and practices of modern South American shamanism. Then study images on Moche pottery usually interpreted as depicting victory in war, and indications that they actually describe an elaborate culture of shamanic healing. x
  • 12
    Enigmatic Tiwanaku by Lake Titicaca
    Lake Titicaca is the site of one of South America’s most impressive civilizations. Discover the huge urban complex of Tiwanaku and its cultural connections to Chav'n de Huantar. Explore Tiwanaku’s mysterious architecture and its “raised field” agriculture, an engineering feat that allowed for the support of a large population. x
  • 13
    The Amazon—Civilization Lost in the Jungle
    Recent discoveries indicate the presence of massive ancient civilizations in the Amazon. Survey the evidence, starting with the Beni region’s elaborate systems of mounds, causeways, and canals. Continue with the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, noting wide areas of human-enriched soil, towns ringed by moats, geoglyphs, and pottery dating to 6000 B.C. x
  • 14
    The Wari—Foundations of the Inca Empire?
    Here, track the remarkable innovations of the Wari culture, highlighting its walled cities, paved road systems, large-scale livestock herding, and ingenious form of terraced agriculture. Examine the evidence of satellite communities of the Wari and the question of whether Wari expansion constituted empire building or a more benign diffusion of culture. x
  • 15
    The Chimú—Empire of the Northern Coast
    This lecture introduces a culture of warrior kings who became conquerors, second in influence only to the Inca. Learn about the Chimú’s extraordinary royal citadels, urban organization, and intervalley irrigation technology. Investigate their subjugation of neighboring cultures, their imperial administration centers, and what may have motivated their conquest. x
  • 16
    The Sican—Goldsmiths of the Northern Coast
    Contrasting with the Chimú, Sican civilization comprised a confederation of equal and independent city-states. Study the apparent Moche influence in Sican pyramid building, elaborate burial styles, and extensive human sacrifice. Observe the unique qualities of Sican art in the mastery of metallurgy and stunning ritual objects in ceramic, gold, and copper. x
  • 17
    The Inca Origins—Mythology v. Archaeology
    Begin your study of the great Inca civilization by tracing the culture’s origin myth, featuring a creator deity who made the cosmos and charged the Inca to found a kingdom in a fertile valley. Compare the mythology with archaeological evidence that suggests that the myths were based in part on historical truths. x
  • 18
    Cuzco and the Tawantinsuyu Empire
    The city of Cuzco stands as the supreme achievement in architecture and aesthetics of pre-Columbian South America. Study the city’s astounding features, such as its hydraulic engineering, anti-seismic construction, and its perfectly fitting stonework that defies explanation. Learn also about the culture of ancestral mummies, the golden Coricancha temple, and other architectural marvels. x
  • 19
    The Inca—From Raiders to Empire
    In charting the rise of Inca civilization, follow the pivotal reign of Pachacuti, the 9th Inca, whose vision to unify the Andes led to large-scale conquest. Learn how his heir, Tupac, doubled the imperial territories, and how the empire was ultimately torn apart by civil war and disease. x
  • 20
    The Inca—Gifts of the Empire
    As a glimpse into how the empire functioned so effectively, learn about the Mit’a, a system of labor taxation, noting the services subjects provided to the empire and how they benefited in return. Grasp the Inca’s ingenious technology of road building, suspension bridges, and freeze-drying vegetables, and how they eliminated hunger. x
  • 21
    The Khipu—Language Hidden in Knots
    The Inca used a complex system of records encoded on knotted strings. Study what is known of the khipu, starting with Spanish accounts of their use and the “khipucamayuq” who recorded and read them. Learn how numbers were encoded, and review evidence suggesting that the khipu may contain a form of writing. x
  • 22
    Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley
    The mountainside complex of Machu Picchu was a royal estate of Pachacuti, the 9th Inca. Walk the site, entering at the Sun Gate, and explore the causeways, terraces, and many rooms of undetermined function. Study the solar-aligned Torreon and other astronomical structures of the site, and their significance in Inca cosmology. x
  • 23
    Spanish Contact—Pizarro Conquers the Inca
    In one of history’s most unusual incidents, the Inca empire was defeated by a Spanish force of 168 men. Study the events surrounding the capture and demise of Atahualpa—the last true Inca ruler—the destructive conquest by Francisco Pizarro, and the following struggle within the empire against Spanish rule. x
  • 24
    Remnants of the Past—Andean Culture Today
    The Andean civilizations have left a remarkable legacy in the modern world. Investigate the many ways in which contemporary peoples in South America maintain ancient ways of life, seen in agriculture, community organization, traditional lifestyles, and astronomical and religious observances, and contemplate what these practices mean in our own time. x

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Your professor

Edwin Barnhart

About Your Professor

Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.
Maya Exploration Center
Dr. Edwin Barnhart is director of the Maya Exploration Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and has over 20 years of experience in North, Central, and South America as an archaeologist, explorer, and instructor. In 1994, Professor Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Maax Na (Spider-Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya period in northwestern Belize. In 1998 he was invited by the...
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Lost Worlds of South America is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 155.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lost Worlds of South America I bought this after traveling to Peru to learn more about the pre-Inca cultures and art. The course if very informative and kept my interest. I've listened to some lectures more than one time.
Date published: 2017-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best Archaeology Courses I've Heard I have listened to this alone and with several of my colleagues in the lab while we work. We are all southeastern US archaeologists. Some of us have training in Mesoamerica, but none of us have any academic background in South America. This lecture series has become a perennial favorite that gets played again and again, and inspired one of us to spend 3 months visiting sites in Peru. The organization, thematic unity, diction, and clarity of delivery are seamless. (Though we sometimes laugh at Barnhart's thick American pronunciation of place and culture names, the delivery is actually very clear and charming.) This course is suitable for people who are interested in a fairly immersive dive into South American prehistory, and who are familiar with the typical, deep-time chronological approach of most archaeology courses. This is not a highlights real. Little time will be spent in Machu Picchu. Instead, expect an expansive, cross-regional treatment of prehistory with many tangents and rabbit holes of personal interest. I've read some reviews on this site from students who were critical of Barnhart's pet interests and speculations about prehistoric South American religion and construction methods (btw, no one mentioned his unorthodox views on Moche blood sacrifice or his sanguine belief in the existence of a quippu knot language). These reviews motivated me to write my own. Because I feel that his pet interests and brief moments of conjecture actually enhance the course. 1) On balance, there is very little speculation beyond the four I listed above. 2) He is forthright in exposing his own biases and speculations, which he makes clear in the first lecture. 3) South American prehistory is an immense subject and Barnhart actually uses some speculations about religion as a framework to organize 10,000+ years of cross-regional prehistory. 4) Many experts believe, just like Barnhart, that placing the origins of South American cultures in the Amazon basin (not on the coast) is one of the most exciting ideas in archaeology. 5) When a professor has pet theories about a subject (based on evidence), they can expose you to some of the passion that drives research and new ideas. And Barnhart is infectiously passionate about this subject.
Date published: 2017-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! I really enjoyed this course. I looked forward to getting into my car so I could continue to listen to the CD's. They were very informative and the instructor did a good job of covering different areas and different aspects of the lost worlds. I will listen to this course again.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding lecturer - truly a GREAT course! My wife and I have bought and gone through many Great Courses over the past 20 years -- dozens. This lecturer, Dr. Ed Barnhart, is one of the very best. Because he doesn't have all the answers and is willing in speculate, to lead you to wider vistas of understanding. The DVD is full of EXCELLENT photos as examples, VERY helpful. This is one of the best Great Courses we've experienced.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must see before you visit Peru. My wife and I just completed a 10 day Smithsonian trip to Peru. Dr. Barnhart's lectures gave us a firm foundation of information to make trip a rich experience. The history of the peoples of Peru is complex and varied. I would not have wanted to visit this vast landscape without some prior knowledge.
Date published: 2017-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lost Worlds of South America I found Dr. Barnhart to be an excellent instructor. I like the fact that he moves about while teaching, not standing behind the podium. I also like his use of pictures and other audio visual aids. He has taken a class that could be dry and held my attention. Several years ago I traveled in the Andes and Amazonian area. I wish that I had taken the course prior to my trip.
Date published: 2017-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from After this course, Peru is on my "must visit" list Professor Barnhart is a passionate speaker and was able to give us the latest on discoveries of old civilizations of South America. I learned so much from his lectures and found them extremely interesting. One of the top three courses I have viewed.
Date published: 2017-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lost Worlds of South America I have begun download of this & other courses to my computer. This is sure a nice way to do these courses. This one is excellent. I have been to Peru several times but have never visited these sites in Northern Peru. This course has stimulated my interest & I may try to visit them in the future. I also have this teachers disc set on Maya & Aztec history & have visited many of those sites. He is an excellent teacher & really knows his subject.
Date published: 2017-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! This is a great course on a topic we generally do not study much. I wish I can seen it before my trip to Peru a month ago. I also bought his course on Mesoamerican. An excellent instructor. I did want for the price to drop.
Date published: 2017-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! I didn't like history very much in school. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed this course on early South American civilization. It is told as a story of people in a certain place and time...not like we all remember those boring classes in high school and college. I have also enjoyed the courses on the ancient world and on Mesoamerica. I highly recommend them all!
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great One of the most interesting courses I have taken!!
Date published: 2017-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Positively exciting Very interesting how archeology partners with historians to tell us the story of ancient civilizations up to the current times. It tells us our heritage and why things are the way they are. This is a good study to follow after the Maya to Aztecs revealed.
Date published: 2017-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Insights into South American prehistory Very informative with lots of new information from recent archeological work and excellent analysis and comments by professor Barnhart.
Date published: 2017-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Who knew! My husband, the techie, is as glued to these information-packed lectures as am I, the 1970 history major. Prof. Barnhart has opened a New World for us to explore from the comfort of home. It is exciting to learn of the depth of the cultural, agricultural and archaeological accomplishments of these ancient people. We appreciate the use of photographs as talking point aids during the lectures. Typically, we view only one course lecture at a sitting - not this time, we are doubling up our viewing time, but, woe, we will finish the course twice as quickly. Excellent job!
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lost Worlds of South America I was a Fulbright Scholar in Perú 50 years ago. It is amazing how much new scholarship has been developed in the interval. This excellent, engaging course brought me up to date and suggested further reading that I am sure to enjoy. Dr. Barnhart confidently bridges the space between archaeology and cultural history, something that I'd like to see more often. Some of the presentation was nostalgic for me. I heard the same legends about Cuzco and the founding of the Inca Empire that Professor Barnhart relates. In the case of controversial topics Dr. Barnhart makes it clear when he is injecting his personal theories and points out the varying opinions of other archaeologists. This course was, for me, an update on a favorite topic, thorough, well presented and coherent. I'd recommend it for anyone who has an interest in archaeology, South America, or cultural history. I had a blast and binge watched the course. I was sorry when it ended.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Lost Worlds of South America The audio presentation left a lot to be desired. It faded in and out throughout the presentation. Also, it would hvae been great to have more visual aids.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course with minor distractions I have now completed 2 of Dr Barnhart's courses and would purchase another. Excellent coverage of the topic with great photos, maps, and discourse. His Mayan course was scholarly where this course would be characterized as more of the commentary of an educated traveler. As such, his use of the course as a platform for promoting his theories (Fanged Deity, Amazonian influence) were a distraction. But not so much that I would not highly recommend this course. I have added to my bucket list of must see places in South America.
Date published: 2016-12-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from a great adventure but keep your wits about you this is a nice overview of the rich and diverse history of pre-columbian south america. the course is well organized, with each cultural group getting a lecture of its own, and somehow it all seems to fit into just 24 sessions. unsurprisingly the vast majority of what’s covered is in the andean region, but the digressions into the amazon—essentially uncharted territory archaeologically—offer some of the most intriguing provocations of the course. now it’s true that the professor is less rigorous and impartial than i would have preferred, but happily he’s not nearly as unreliable as some reviews caused me to fear. his main weakness is that he seems inclined to lead the evidence rather than follow it, so that sites and civilizations can be larger, more spectacular, and above all older than they might actually be. on the other hand he usually is pretty good at letting you know what is generally accepted and what is his own pet theory. it’s true that he does have quite a few of the latter, and as i’ve said elsewhere i don’t think that an introductory course is the place to be arguing for your own personal interpretations. nonetheless i did feel like the bulk of each lecture was sound, and i was usually able to tell which claims were more idiosyncratic. in my view the most consistently unreliable part of the course is its coverage of religion, specifically the professor’s pet theory that the south americans were monotheists. as far as i know no other authority believes this, and if it were so it’s hard to understand why the spanish wouldn’t have mentioned it. indeed, once we reach the one andean people for whose religion we have ample testimony, the inca, he is conspicuously silent about this theory. furthermore, to assume that images with similar features must represent the same deity is a patently false methodology. if one were to suggest that every image from india of a blue man with four arms was the same god, or that every greek image of a stately woman in a peplos was the same goddess, one would be wildly mistaken. indeed, in some tibetan statues of celestial buddhas the only feature that distinguishes one from the next is the position of the hands. it’s entirely possible that in the andes fangs, goggle-eyes, and serpents are simply standard attributes of deities in general, rather than signs of the same figure crossing multiple cultures and millennia. for these reasons it seems safest to assume the obvious: that the people of south america were polytheists just like everyone else in the hemisphere. and if this is so then this course offers us less understanding of these religions than it might have. the professor is also not a linguist. his pronunciation of spanish leaves one wondering if he even speaks that language, while at least two quechua words are misspelled, regardless of which orthography one prefers. but with all that said, don’t let my caveats put you off this course. it provides a very complete overview of the many different peoples and periods of andean history, and for the most part i thoroughly enjoyed it. it’s this comprehensiveness that sets it apart from the documentaries you might find on tv, or even from many books on the subject. so if you’re able to think on your feet, this course will give you a good foundation for wherever your andean interests might lead. absolutely buy the video version. unlike earlier teaching company videos, this one is full of helpful images, from art to sites to maps to scenes of contemporary life. you don’t want to listen to the discussions of paracas textiles or moche ceramics without being able to see what he’s describing. and you won’t be able to come to your own assessment of his theories about the fanged deity if you can’t see the evidence for yourself.
Date published: 2016-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Survey This is a superb survey of pre-Columbian South America. It covers a 5000 year period of North and Central Andean civilizations leading up to the Conquest. If you are not already a specialist in this area there are many new things to learn from these lectures. Edwin Barnhart is a wonderful and engaging lecturer and fits in well with the Great Courses team. Highly recommended. His Companion lecture course "Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed" is also highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Review of a little known topic A comprehensive review of a part of our American history that probably few know. The lecturer has a manner of presentation which is easy to follow and understand.
Date published: 2016-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic A really fantastic course. So much detailed information about so many civilizations, of which the Incas are only one very late comer. The tidbits about civilizations in the Amazon were amazing and so surprising. I hope there is more information about these quickly developing discoveries soon so that Professor Barnhart has the opportunity to do a series about this topic also! This series needs to be translated into Spanish. People in Latin American should have easy access to this wonderful course!
Date published: 2016-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing course! I have wanted to purchase this course for several months and am pleased with the delivery, content and quality of the course. It is all I hoped for and more. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2016-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great eye opener I greatly enjoyed the introduction to the ancient past of South America. This course provided a very understandable timeline and some most interesting connections between archeology sites. I think the story of ancient South America is just starting to unfold and future discoveries will be fun to learn about. This course has increased my interest in ancient civilizations of South America.
Date published: 2016-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Entertaining Saga As I was completely unfamiliar with the subject, the material presented in this lecture was novel and engrossing. The professor was personable with an enthusiastic, unpretentious approach. The photographs, maps and graphics were of high quality and the material was given in a very concise, logical manner. As one who was quite senior to the presenter, I found some of his language usage unfamiliar, and he definitely was not an "academic type" from my generation. However, he brought energy and clarity to a topic which covered thousands of years, and kept me intrigued to the very end. There is much still to be discovered in this field, but this lecture series was very good introduction to the material available to date.
Date published: 2016-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course, opens up completely unknown -for the most of us - world of various civilizations living in S America. It presents a contrarian view to the most common views about relatively non sophisticated tribes preceding inkas
Date published: 2016-07-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Recommended for archeology enthusiast I persevered through 22 of the 24 lectures. I am planning to travel to South America and thought the course would be interesting to watch while doing my daily exercises. He certainly knows his subject but my mind would wander. I tended to get confused among all the cultures which he describes before the Inca, specifically which valley had with culture at which time. I found it interesting to see the size of some of the early structures and learn that the Inca managed their empire using a system on knots. If you have a real interest in the history of south america it might be a good course for you.
Date published: 2016-07-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Recommended for archeology buffs, not for others I struggled to get through the first 2/3 of this course, which was structured in a way that confused me - not historically or chronologically but around different archeological sites or areas. The last third of the course, covering the period from contact with the West to today, was much easier to follow. The professor had a way of using an unfamiliar term and then defining it a minute or so later, which also added to the confusion at times. A few sections of the course I liked a lot, such as his discussion of shamanism, the khipu "documents" made of knots (definitely worth the whole lecture he devoted to it), how the Inca were conquered and the persistence of Andean cultural elements today. What I found disturbing was the degree to which he mixed in pet theories of his that were sometimes little more than hunches or whims. True, he was candid about which points were guesses or unproven hypotheses, but I would have preferred less of that. The most shocking thing in the whole course was a passage where he deliberately did not dismiss the theory that aliens had landed in South America in ancient times. This is not what I would expect from a college professor, unless he was able to give real evidence for this possibility, which he did not. I listened to the audio version and found the professor's diction very clear and fluid. If you're a stickler for grammar, you might find the professor's speech annoying as he used words wrongly from time to time - "conquested" instead of "conquered," for example, and "bad" where it should have been "badly." Overall, I am not sure he deserved selection for a "Great Courses" course. He certainly wasn't up to the standard of the typical tenured professor who had won multiple teaching awards, which is what we get in most other "Great Courses" courses.
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Overview We purchased this course prior to a trip to Peru. While it was not directly related to the areas we were visting, other than Machu Pichu and Cusco, it gave us a good overview of the history, civiiazations, and cultures of what became primarily Peru. It was well worth the money and added to our understanding of the places we visited,
Date published: 2016-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Eye-Opener Learning about all of the complexities and transitions in South American civilization history has been a truly enlightening experience; hearing it from an instructor so passionate and knowledgeable about the subject made it that much better.
Date published: 2016-06-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The only course I've returned I have been buying Great Courses for many years and this is the first one I've returned. The value of the Great Course to me has been the quality of scholarship from the presenters. Presentation styles have varied greatly from the entertaining to the very dry and sometimes I have disagreed with the views presented. However, I have alway felt that there was an underlying depth of knowledge and that opinions were clearly identified with opposing views examined. Unfortunately, it was not the case with this course. Although there was a lot of interesting material, I was never convinced that I was getting a real college level course. One of the central ideas he puts forward is the idea of a single deity that appears consistently throughout the region and over time but it came over more as an idea he had had one day, rather than a researched, academic conclusion. The fact that he had done work with the Discovery Channel may give a clue - their productions are hardly top quality university standard. The presenter was clearly uncomfortable with the format as he was stumbling over words and breaking sentences in unusual places, making things harder to follow. In fairness, this may well be due to the more recent Great Courses approach of making the speakers move, often in a specific pattern. It really detracts even from more polished presenters. Although this may be an aberration, I am suspicious that with the MOOC challenges Great Courses may be trying to change their target audience.
Date published: 2016-06-09
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