AH 329 Syllabus


Art of the Ancient Americas
Detail of border figures (composite photo), Nasca, Mantle ("The Paracas Textile"), 100-300 C.E., cotton, camelid fiber, 58-1/4 x 24-1/2 inches / 148 x 62.2 cm, found south coast, Paracas, Peru.
Spring 2018
Tuesday and Thursday 1 to 2:15 PM
Instructor: Denise Johnson
Phone: 714.289.3569
Moulton Center 217 A

Office Hours by appointment
2 to 2:30 PM
2:30 to 3:30 PM
10 to 11 AM & 1 to 2:30 PM
10 AM to 11 AM


click here for a printable syllabus



Course Description

This course will consider the cultural expressions, creative products, architecture, spiritual beliefs, social structures, and history of the various civilizations of the Ancient Americas, from the Olmec to the Aztec in Mesoamerica and from the Chavin to the Inca in the Andean region of South America. We will examine ethnohistorical, architectural, and other material evidence to build an understanding of Mesoamerican and Ancient Andean world views and visual systems. This class is geared to students interested in the artistic heritage of Latin America.

During our investigations, a conversational approach will be prioritized during class discussions. Students will be encouraged through assignments and readings to bring a critical eye that is actively engaged in questioning through a shared learning experience. Think of the classroom as your lab, the textbook as your guide, and writing assignments as an adventurous expression of what you’ve learned, and what that means to your own identity.

Objectives & Outcomes
Students who successfully complete the course will:
Demonstrate a critical understanding of the cultural expressions and creative production of prehistoric and ancient peoples in the Andes, Mexico, and South America;
Identify and compare the aesthetic and philosophical characteristics associated with major cultures and periods of pre-conquest art in the Andes and Mesomerica;
Compare, apply and synthesize theoretical texts with material evidence to analyze complex visual expressions;
Critically evaluate the influence of ancient cultures in the Andes and Mesoamerica on western visual culture; and
Conduct scholarly research that informs and supports personal insights and original theses.
Program Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the course will:


Develop the writing competencies used in the discipline of art history;


Locate works of art and visual culture within the context of world art history and articulate the relationship between intended meaning/function and audience response in specific cultural and historical contexts;


Conduct advanced art historical research using the full range of scholarly resources; and


Recognize the theoretical concerns of art history and its allied disciplines, and discuss and apply specific theoretical perspectives to a given art historical context and to their own research projects.

General Education Learning Outcomes
7AI Artistic Inquiry: students compose critical or creative works that embody or analyze conceptually an artistic form at a baccalaureate/pre-professional level.
7SI Social Inquiry: employs theories of how people frame and analyze social and/or historical phenomena.



Instructional Strategies
Students will work toward course objectives through: lectures; student reports on readings, active participation in class discussions; in class partner exercises; reading assignments; writing assignments; exams; viewing images, videos, and audio representations of art from the Renaissance to the beginning of the modern era; and viewing of an off-campus exhibition that will require a commute, and may entail a parking fee, and/or entrance fee.



Instructional Website

This class will be taught from the instructional website The Slide Projector at, www.theslideprojector.com. Lecture presentations, assignments, and other course materials will be available for you at this site and you will need to access it regularly.

Additional essays may be posted on the class Assignments page at www.theslideprojector.com (see weekly schedule).

Required Texts

Miller, Mary Ellen. Art of Mesoamerica: From Olmec to Aztec. Fifth edition. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012. ISBN 978-0500204146

Art of Mesoamerica



Stone-Miller, Rebecca. Art of the Andes. Most recent edition, third preferred. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2012. ISBN 978-0500204153
Art of the Andes



Recommended Texts
Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing About Art. Boston: Pearson Education Inc. (Any edition, 10th or 11th preferred.) ISBN 978-0205708253
Coe, Michael D. and Rex Koontz. Mexico: from the Olmecs to the Aztecs. Seventh edition. New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0500290767
Miller, Mary Ellen and Megan E. O'Neil. Maya Art and Architecture. Most recent edition. New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-0500204221
Pasztory, Esther. Pre-Columbian Art. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998. ISBN 9780297824077
Townsend, Richard ed. The Ancient Americas, Art from Sacred Landscapes. The Art Institute of Chicago, 1992. ISBN 978-3791311883


Major Study Units
This semester, our conversations, assignments, and writing will involve the following subjects:
  • Material evidence vs. Ethnohistorical methodology
The Andes
  • Historiography — the history of the discovery, decipherment, and display of the art of the ancient Americas
  • The Chavín
  • The Paracas and Nasca
  • The Moche
  • Contrasting interpretations
  • Late Intermediate Wari Imperial Styles
  • Mesoamerican world views vs. contemporary culture
  • The Inca
  • The Olmecs
  • Similarities and contrasts between Aztec and Inca societies
    • Mother Culture
  • Western Mexico
  • Contact, conquest, & change
    • Teotihuacán
    • Cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe
    • Classic Monte Albán and Veracruz
    • Differential scholarly treatment of native vs. Spanish
  • Early Classic Maya
  • Late Classic Maya
    • La Malinche
  • Fall of the Classic Cities
  • Casta system and miscegenation
  • The Aztecs
    • Hispanic vs. Latinx vs. Chicanx
    • Esther Pasztory's ideas about the human body as focus
  • Ancient America and western art
    • Aztec knowledge of the past
  • The critical problem of looting
    • Archaizing
    • Testimonies of deserted ancient sites
    • Codices



Methods of Evaluation

Students will be evaluated on the presentation of evidence that they have achieved the course objectives; the frequency and quality of their contributions to in-class discussion; on their ability to make oral and written critical observations about the objects, styles, and concepts presented in the course; on the quality of the writing they present for homework assignments; and on their ability to demonstrate growth in their understanding of the history of the architecture and visual culture in the ancient Americas.

There are 500 points possible, which will be earned through the following graded components:


Class Participation - 15%

Students will earn up to 75 participation points through the following activities:

  • Actively and consistently contributing to in-class discussions and applying theoretical ideas to works to earn up to 25 participation points;
  • Reporting on at least five assigned readings through a post on the class blog that outlines three main points or “take aways” from the reading. Your challenge is to avoid repeating the comments made in previous posts. Each post may earn up to 5 participation points; and
  • Attending one lecture in the Visual Thinker Lecture Series, the Art History Symposium, or the Bensussen Lecture, and submitting a VTLS Report on Blackboard within two weeks of the event may earn up to 25 participation points. Please be reminded that Art, Graphic Design and Art History majors and minors are required to attend all VTLS.

Field Journal 20%

Students are required to maintain a field journal that charts your individual learning path. While it is acceptable to include your class notes in the journal, it is intended to be much more, including the following, but not limited to: definition of new terms; maps; diagrams of complex concepts, styles, and strategies; illustrations of works; and floor plans of complexes and temples encountered in course readings and class discussions. Contents will be evaluated on relevancy to course material, completeness, effort, and demonstration of learning.

Organization of the journal should facilitate its use a reference guide, and demonstrate, or make reference to each student’s contributions to the Compendium of Knowledge (more below). Field Journals will be collected and reviewed twice during the semester, at the close of the midterm and second exam. Each Field Journal review may earn up to 50 points.


Compendium of Knowledge 35%

Students will form small learning communities to collaboratively build Compendiums of Knowledge. Each compendium will include essays introducing select civilizations and their creative cultural products. The essays will offer formal, iconographic, and ethnohistorical analysis. Additionally, each Compendium will include a timeline composed of key events and works. At the midterm, Compendiums will be checked for progress, writing, and understanding. This midterm evaluation will be worth 75 points.


After the midterm, students will organize and direct class discussion of Andean Civilizations either alone or as a pair. Half of class time (about 30 minutes) will be given to student voices. Students may earn up to 50 points for their demonstration and sharing of knowledge.


During our scheduled final exam time, students will be offered a final opportunity to present on a single work that was of significant meaning or impact. Students may choose to craft a poster, Powerpoint presentation, essay, or handout (please forward to instructor at least one day in advance for copying) to convey an understanding of the work's meaning. Students will be evaluated on their demonstration of learning, critical thinking, verbal communication, and visual communication skills. Students will also be asked to submit written documentation of their presentations that include CMS Bibliography notes for sources used in the preparation of their presentations.


Exams 30%

Two exams will evaluate retention and synthesis of information. Each exam will be worth 75 points and will be taken on the course Blackboard page at https://blackboard.chapman.edu. Exams will be comprised of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, matching, identification, true-or-false, and short-answer essay questions. Due to the nature of online testing, and the multi-day duration offered to submit, exams may not be made up. Please use the online class schedule to plan accordingly. However, if you require accommodations, please let the instructor know!


Extra Credit

Students are limited to earning 25 points in extra credit during the semester. Any points earned above this cap will NOT be applied to the final grade.



Points will be earned on writing assignments through committed consideration of the material, demonstration of learned concepts and language, and evidence of critical thinking. In addition to the individual requirements, each writing assignment will earn points based on rigorous analysis through the skilled application of the art historical methodologies, as well as pointed and thoughtful responses to the questions proposed.
100 to 97%
500 - 483 points

Writing demonstrates excellence in both articulation and critical thinking. Art historical methodologies are used thoughtfully and with skill. Questions are answered thoroughly, and discussion is carried beyond prompt with sophistication. Credible scholarly sources are employed to support the author's position, and Chicago Manual of Style citation rules are carefully followed. The written assignment leaves little to no room for improvement, and demonstrates committed interest in the discipline.

A -
96 to 90%
482 - 448 points
B +
89 to 87%
447 - 433 points

Writing demonstrates clear focus and an above average consideration of the subject matter. While all questions have been answered, there is room for improvement by carrying the analysis and discussion beyond a basic response to the essay prompt. Writing exhibits potential for excellence however, a clearer application and understanding of the art historical methodologies is needed. Author has met the requirements for research and citations with few errors. Thesis could be served by additional research.

86 to 84%
432 - 418 points
B -
83 to 80%
417 - 398 points
C +
79 to 77%
397 - 383 points

Most of the material is understood, but the focus is not entirely clear, and analysis is cursory. Question responses could be more fully realized, and the material, more thoroughly examined. Distracting citation issues are present, little research was executed in support of thesis, and/or sources are not credible or academic. There are issues with language that make the writing somewhat difficult to understand.

76 to 74%
382 - 368 points
C -
73 to 70%
367 - 348 points
D +
69 to 67%
347 - 333 points

Writing demonstrates little understanding or connection with the material and is flawed in content and form. Question responses do not provide evidence of critical thinking. Major citation issues are present, no research was executed in support of thesis, and/or sources are not credible or academic. Issues with language make the writing very difficult to understand.

66 - 64%
332 - 318 points
D -
63 - 60%
317 - 298 points
< 59%
297 - 0

Work fails to meet any requirements satisfactorily.



Assignment is incomplete but shows potential. Student is offered one additional class day to revise, add to, and re-submit the assignment.



Instructor Policies
Commitment to the Conversation

Conversation and debate will be central to the learning experience this semester. Art historians do not work in secluded spaces that are entirely disconnected from the world around them. Given the importance of engagement, students will be expected to fully commit to in-class dialogues and will agree to refrain from sleeping, texting, emailing, and completing out-of-class or other class assignments during Art 464 class meetings. Distracted students may be asked to leave class until their full attention can be directed to our course.

Respect is Key
We may consider provocative, challenging, even vulgar subject matter in this class. It is assumed that each of us undertakes this learning endeavor with honorable intent and a commitment to understanding diverse perspectives and histories. When this is difficult for us, we agree to keep an open mind and to respect all views and identities, even those with which we do not personally agree. While engaging in class activities, we agree to refrain from using derogatory, inflammatory, or otherwise disrespectful language. We do so, fully committed to the principles of academic freedom outlined in the 2016 Chapman University Faculty Manual, holding “that the widest possible scope for freedom of expression is the foundation of an institution dedicated to vigorous inquiry, robust debate, and the continuous search for a proper balance between freedom and order,” “that censorship is always suspect, that intimidation is always repugnant, and that attempts to discourage constitutionally protected expression are antithetical to the central focus of the university's mission: education and discovery of new knowledge,” and that these principles are “accompanied by a corresponding principle of responsibility.”

Regular attendance is mandatory. You are permitted two unexcused absences without damage to your grade. More than two missed classes will potentially lower your grade, and missing four or more classes will put you at risk of failing the class.

Please also be punctual! Students arriving 15 or more minutes after class begins should expect to be marked absent for the entire class.

Letting the instructor know that you will be absent by email is always appreciated! Please understand, due to the large number of emails received, the instructor may not be able to reply. The instructor will maintain a simple record of attendance that will not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. If you are not present, you are not able to participate. The circumstances that prevented you from being able to attend class do not change this.


Please submit all coursework on Blackboard before class begins, on the day the assignment is due, whether you will be absent or in attendance. If you encounter a problem submitting on Blackboard, please notify the instructor via email as soon as possible and attach the completed assignment.

Late Assignments
You may submit one assignment, one class day late. The late assignment will not be marked down, however any assignments turned in more than one class late, or in addition to the one accepted assignment, will only receive credit at the discretion of the instructor.



Chapman University Policies
Academic Integrity Policy
Chapman University is a community of scholars which emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith. Students are responsible for doing their own work, and for submitting coursework completed this semester, for this class. Academic dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated anywhere in the university. Academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor/administrator and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including expulsion. Please see the full description of Chapman University's policy on Academic Integrity at www.chapman.edu/academics/academic-integrity/index.aspx
Students with Disabilities
In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning of the term. Upon recommendation of the Center for Academic Success, adaptations of teaching methods, class materials, including text and reading materials or testing may be made as needed to provide for equitable participation.
Equity and Diversity Policy

Chapman University is committed to ensuring equality and valuing diversity. Students and professors are reminded to show respect at all times as outlined in Chapman’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy: at www.chapman.edu/faculty-staff/human-resources/eoo.aspx. Any violations of this policy should be discussed with the professor, the Dean of Students and/or otherwise reported in accordance with this policy.


Writing Center
All Chapman students are welcome to meet with Writing Center tutors, who can help you with any part of the writing process, from understanding the assignment and finding a significant topic to editing your final drafts. The Writing Center is located in DeMille Hall 130. To guarantee time with a tutor, call (714) 997-6828 or email tutor@chapman.edu to schedule an appointment.
Food Pantry
Students in need of access to the food pantry should contact Sherri Maeda-Akau in the Office of Residence Life and First Year Experience at maeda@chapman.edu.
Sexual Assault
If you have been sexually assaulted, make sure you are in a safe place. Call 911 in an emergency, Chapman University Public Safety at (714) 997-6721 and, Chapman University’s Sexual Assault Information Line at (714) 744-7000. Contact Orange PD at (714) 744-7444.
Student Psychological Counseling
If you are in need of help or support immediately you can contact:
CU Student Psychological Counseling - (714) 997-6778
Suicide Prevention Hotline - (800) 273-8255
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Hotline - (800) 662-HELP
National AIDS/STD Info Hotline - (800) 458-5231



Class Schedule and Required Reading
This is a tentative schedule that may change. Assignment directions and due dates will be posted on The Slide Projector and on Blackboard. Updates will be announced in class, on lecture presentations, and modified on the Syllabus page of The Slide Projector.
Discussion Theme & Field Trip
Assignment & Reading Due
January 30
February 1
The Archaic Period in Mexico
Miller: Preface
February 6
The Olmecs

Miller: Chapter 1 & 2

February 8
Mesoamerican Calendar & Long Count
Miller: Chapter 3
February 13
Guest Lecturer, Andrea Medina
Compendium Groups Formed
Andrea Medina Talk, Equity in the Maya World: from traditional healing to supporting students of color in STEM fields, AF 201 4 to 5:30 PM
February 15
Miller: Chapter 4
February 20
Monte Alban
Miller: Chapter 5
February 22
Compendium Plan Check
February 27
Early Classic Maya
Miller: Chapter 6
March 1
Maya Royalty
March 6
Late Classic Maya
Miller: Chapter 7
March 8
Rival States
Miller: Chapter 8
Claire Dederer, Beckman 404 at 7 PM
March 13
The Aztecs
Miller: Chapter 9
March 15
The Great Temple
Field Journal, Compendium Progress Due
Exam 1 Due
March 20
Spring Break
March 22
March 27
The Triple Alliance Empire
March 29
Contact and Conquest
April 3
Cult of the Virgin
April 5
Ancient Andean Culture
Stone-Miller: Preface & Chapter 1
April 6
Art History Symposium, AF 209, 11 AM to 5:30 PM
April 10
Chavín de Huantar
Stone-Miller: Chapter 2
April 12
The Paracas and Nasca
Stone-Miller: Chapter 3
April 17
The Moche
Stone-Miller: Chapter 4
April 19
Moche War and Sacrifice
April 24
Tiwanaku and Wari Empires
Stone-Miller: Chapter 5
April 26
Late Intermediate
Stone-Miller: Chapter 6
May 1
The Inca
Stone-Miller: Chapter 7
May 3
Conquest, and Post-Conquest Inca
May 8
The Motorcycle Diaries
May 10
Compendium Prep
Exam 2 Due
Field Journal Due
May 16
Compendium of Knowledge Presentations 10:45 AM - 1:15 PM



Important Dates
Late Registration
The last day to add this courses is Friday, February 9.
Drop Deadline
Students wishing to drop the course without record must do so by Friday, February 9. The last day to withdraw from a course, or change grading option to P/NP is Friday, April 13.
Final Exam
The in-class final for this course is mandatory, and will not be offered at an alternative date, except under extenuating circumstances. The instructor understands that the end of the academic year and travel come with much urgency and pressure. Nonetheless, the hours set aside for the final exam are a part of your earned credit and as such, are an important component of your grade.
Grades will be available no later than Monday, May 28.



Sun Stone, late post-classic Mexica sculpture, c.  1502 - 1521.