1. New Worlds
The Age of Discovery 500 years ago revealed a broad range of cultures, from the vast
empires of the Aztecs and the Incas to roving bands of hunter-gatherers. This
provided irrefutable evidence that cultures, like biological species, have evolved
independently and on a global scale.
2. The Hearth
Examines how enculturation and economic cooperation have shaped the homes and
families of people, past and present. Remains of houses at archaeological sites and
footage of family life in traditional cultures provide a glimpse into what family life
must have been like.
3. Artisans and Traders
Explores the link between economic and cultural evolution. Hunter-gatherers and
early agriculturalists had simple divisions of labor, but today people make a living in
many ways. The proliferation of occupations and the extreme economic
interdependence of today are the result of increasing job specialization, causing
society to continually undergo restructuring.
4. Signs and Symbols
Unearthing and interpreting the signs and symbols that define us as a species can be
challenging yet revealing. From deciphering ancient scripts to understanding status
symbols, archaeologists use ancient and modern examples to reconstruct the meaning
of the symbols they find.
5. Power, Prestige, and Wealth
Postulates how and why powerful groups or individuals have managed to control
vast holdings from ancient times to the present day. The different methods
archaeologists use to study how rulers gain and keep power are examined.
Reconstructing actual borders of ancient kingdoms is often impossible, but
archaeologists can reveal much of the internal workings of societies and their external
relations by looking at marriage alliances, trade, and warfare.
7. The Spirit World
Archaeologists look at ritual behavior and sacred spaces and objects in archaeological
and ethnographic settings to attribute religious meanings. Examples from
present-day, traditional societies show the complexity of spiritual life and the limits
and possibilities of archaeological reconstruction.
The decline and fall of civilizations captures our interest. Could we be next, going the
way of the Sumerians, the Romans, the Maya? The collapse of Copan, brought on by
overpopulation and overexploitation of resources, is explored along with other
ancient cultures that have faced the problems we confront today.