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Publisher's Summary

For the past few hundred years, most of what we’ve been taught about the native cultures of North America came from reports authored by the conquerors and colonizers who destroyed them. Now - with the technological advances of modern archaeology and a new perspective on world history - we are finally able to piece together their compelling true stories. In Ancient Civilizations of North America, Professor Edwin Barnhart, Director of the Maya Exploration Center, will open your eyes to a fascinating world you never knew existed - even though you’ve been living right next to it, or even on top of it, for as long as you’ve been on the continent. 

The peoples of ancient North America were exceptionally knowledgeable about their environment, but their intellectual and artistic curiosity went much beyond the immediate need for food and safety. Beginning thousands of years ago, and without benefit of written language, native peoples became mathematicians, construction and soil engineers, astronomers, urban planners, and more. They developed thriving cities, extensive trade routes, canals to bring water to the desert, and earthworks we still marvel over today. 

In 24 exciting lectures, you’ll learn about the vibrant cities of Poverty Point, the first city in North America, built about 3,500 years ago, and Cahokia, the largest city of ancient North America. You’ll explore the many ways in which the Chacoan environment provided cultural and religious focus for peoples of the southwest. And you’ll learn about the Iroquoian source of some of our most basic “American” values. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2018 The Great Courses (P)2018 The Teaching Company, LLC

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A different perspective - civilizations not tribes

The perspective of thinking of the civilizations and nations rather “tribes” of North America is what prompted me to listen to this course. I have been to many of the locations mentioned in the course, particularly in the Southwest, and had managed a small contract archelogy/environmental company for a bit. So, considered myself somewhat conversant. vis a vie educated, in native or first people cultures. I now realize I missed so much on my brief project reviews and visits to some wonderful National Monuments and other historic sites.

This course has provided me with a bit of education and a very different perspective. Barnhart presents history from the arrival of the first peoples across the Bering land bridge to first European contact. The course proceeds through cultural history in a logical manner of regions of North America. Where I saw ruins and interesting mounds, I now see the rise and fall of civilizations just like those of western and eastern world history. He presented broad interconnected picture of pre-contact life in North America.

I see first contact as another period of change and upheaval no more brutal than Alexander’s conquest of Persia, the Saxon conquest of England and so many other conquests from China to Egypt. I’m sure some reading this may disagree; that just fine with me. Perhaps, as I enter my eighth decade of my cycle of life, I see a different perspective. The culture and nation we live in will end at some time just as it did for those who were here long before us. My lens is not so much one of good and bad as it is a lens of that is how things are. This course reinforced that worldview.

The course also made places I have visited like Chaco Canyon come alive. The mystery of roads, equivalent to Roman roads, that lead to nowhere we can understand is fascinating. The accurate astronomical alignments throughout the Chaco region are impressive. particularly since the Chaco nation had no writing language we know of to record decades or even centuries of observations. I want to revisit Chaco Canyon, the Aztec Ruins, and other places.

In summary, the course was interesting, informative, transformative and well worth time to listen to. Barnhart states that was part of his goal in designing the course. Well done, sir.

60 of 64 people found this review helpful

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Left me wanting more in the best possible way.

There are only a couple audiobooks on Audible on the topic of Native American history. Most of those seem to explicitly dwell on the poor treatment of natives in the post-contact world. But I already knew that contact was not just hugs and puppies for the natives after Columbus; what I wanted to know was: who was here before us, and what did they do? This audiobook more than delivers. I just wish it was longer, but I left these lectures with the distinct impression that the archaeology just isn't there yet, due to e.g. modern cities existing on top of the most interesting sites. Still, the first thing I did after finishing these lectures was make a list of friends who live near some of these sites, and start planning some visits. Tl;dr excellent set of lectures, recommend it to anyone with an interest in ancient North America.

62 of 68 people found this review helpful

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This guy is amazing

this is the third one of his that I finished, it was great. His courses on Central and South America were all so wonderful. Highly recommended!

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating

This is a great, substantive as possible overview of native north America mostly before contact with Europeans. The narrator is easy to understand with a speech pattern that is not a monotone nor sing song. I loved it and plan on listening over and over.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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SketchPro

This was absolutely outstanding. I loved this course, I wish there was more to listen to I hope they develop a number of other courses focusing on other tribes and even natives of Canada, and the Caribbean. Or state by state. This was wonderful. Get it already.

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Exceptional Science; Exceptional Subject

Dr Barnhart is an archaeologist by trade, and a story-teller by nature - the perfect person to deliver Great Courses material that is utterly empirical yet still comes to life. I personally could never get enough of his nuanced yet compelling treatment of First Nations / European contact, whether it's his courses on the Aztec, Inca, or here with the Mississippian cultures and de Soto. But the focus here on pre-contact lifeways is even more fascinating, as the stories of cities like BCE Poverty Point and CE Cahokia deserve their rightful pedestals in the halls of history.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A needed addition to Great Courses<br />

After hearing good Courses on South America and Central America, North America stood out. after listening to these lectures it's easier to understand why it has not been done. Thanks seems to be much less information available. It is still important that what we have gets out there. Edwin Barnhart does very well putting a good story together with much less information than with Mezo-America or South America. Now, if the pre-contact history of Africa can only be told. As well as Northern Canadian and Alaskan early America

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Author ruined it by being PC

The Great Courses claims to be for the "Average Man", yet Edwin Barbhart starts off complaining about how history is divided by BC and AD, then drags out a PC version he's going to use for explaining the dates the events occurred. Maybe this works with a written book, where you are able to refer back to his method, but when the book is read to you, his method is a dismissal failure. Spent most of the time wondering where in the historical timeline he was talking about.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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At last North America

This is as great as the other 2 courses Ed has done for the great courses. Well done and this will go on to my repeat listen to list.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Human Sacrifice is Savage.

lecture 23: "They captured a teenage girl from a neighbouring village, tied her naked to post, and shot her with arrows... but they certainly weren't a group of bloodthirsty savages!"
really? REALLY?!
I'm so tired of the portrayal of MY ancestors as bloodthirsty savages while gross barbarities such as cannibalism and human sacrifice are elided over with so much ease. Either judge both sides on equal terms or don't judge them at all.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful