This course is excellent on so many levels. Professor Barnhart is obviously very knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, and delivers a series of lectures that simultaneously paint with broad and detailed strokes a history that spans from over 30,000 ago right up to last year.
I think this course would be indispensable for someone about to take a trip to explore the cultures of the Andes, as it helps bring life to places that may seem plain and even unremarkable today. I learned a tremendous amount about all the civilizations that existed before the better known Incas rose to power - how the oldest known pyramids and mummies on the Earth are found there, and how these cultures had basic common and unifying aspects - such as architecture, art, food, clothing and religion which have continued to the present day.
I especially like the way Professor Barnhart ties the religious traditions and symbolism of the Andean cultures to their Amazonian basin roots, and how entheogenic plants (hallucinogens) played a primary role in their religion. It is refreshing to have archeology finally willing to see the deeper spiritual meanings expressed in the often bizarre and confusing symbolism of the past. (I'd love to see a Great Courses series of lectures on this specific subject of the entheogenic influences on the development of the basic human drive for meaning.)
Professor apparently has a bunch of pet theories which he uses this course as a platform to express. And I'm a bit surprised that some of these aren't more widely accepted.
I listened to the audio course, and so missed the visual which were part of the original lectures, yet due to the vivid descriptions I didn't feel I missed much. The course guidebook also seemed especially detailed and the inclusion of some photos is a nice touch.
Overall, this is a quality course that, with a fast pace and pleasant conversational style, covers a tremendous amount of ground with fascinating detail. Now I can't wait to go and see what he was talking about!