Science, Technology, and Environment in the Pre-Columbian Americas

HC 231H

Professor: Mark Carey

This course examines how ideas about nature and practices of environmental management shaped pre-modern societies from ancient times to roughly 1450.  Scientific knowledge and innovations—such as Mayan architecture, Inca cosmology, and Aztec botany—were fundamental for the development of ancient societies. Science and environmental knowledge often facilitated political power and imperial expansion, led to cultural change and urbanization, and influenced agricultural and technological innovations.  But the contributions of these pre-Columbian societies (up to the European conquest) have largely been ignored in world histories.  This course seeks to include these neglected groups in a broader history of pre-modern civilizations.  The course is thus globally oriented but focuses on non-western societies, especially those in the Americas and particularly the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs.

Students will finish this course with skills that can be transferred beyond history courses, including the ability to: critically read and analyze documents and texts; write analytical essays; discuss ideas and concepts with peers; and identify and employ specific evidence to support one's assertions, both written and oral.  To refine writing skills, students will write several short papers (1-2 pages) and two longer papers (5-6 pages).  Oral communication skills will be polished through extensive classroom discussion and a group presentation, which will involve a formal presentation to the class.