Lost Worlds of South America Course

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24 episodes in this series

Episode 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…
Episode 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.…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 5 Chavín and the Rise of Religious Authority
The Peruvian site of Chavin marks the emergence of religion as the focus of public art. Study Chavin's distinctive architecture, with images of its characteristic "fanged deity." Learn about later…
Episode 6 Cupisnique to Salinar—Elite Rulers and War
With the waning of Chavin'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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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.…
Episode 9 The Moche—Pyramids, Gold, and Warriors
In the first of three episodes 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.…
Episode 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,…
Episode 11 The Moche—Drugs, Sex, Music, and Puppies
This episode 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…
Episode 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 Chavin de Huantar. Explore Tiwanaku's…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 15 The Chimú—Empire of the Northern Coast
This episode introduces a culture of warrior kings who became conquerors, second in influence only to the Inca. Learn about the Chimu's extraordinary royal citadels, urban organization, and intervalley irrigation…
Episode 16 The Sican—Goldsmiths of the Northern Coast
Contrasting with the Chimu, 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.…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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,…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…
Episode 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…

Related videos

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.
Early Americas: Resources and Olmecs
Shift your attention to North and South America. These were among the last regions humans would settle, and you follow their progress from nomadic hunter-gatherers to the civilizations that would be defined by geography and available resources, beginning with the Olmecs of what is now Mexico.
Culture and Empire in South America
Part of the Series: The Big History of Civilizations
Round out your study of the Americas with a journey down the Andean spine and up the Amazon River to discover the many civilizations of South America, including the Nazcans, the Mochicans, and the Incas. Tour archaeological sites, and then step back to consider the Big History of the Americas…
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…
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 Chavin de Huantar. Explore Tiwanaku's mysterious architecture and its "raised field" agriculture, an engineering feat that allowed for the support of a large population.
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.
Cupisnique to Salinar—Elite Rulers and War
With the waning of Chavin'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.
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…
The Sican—Goldsmiths of the Northern Coast
Contrasting with the Chimu, 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…
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.
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…
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…