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Lost Worlds of South America

Trek through the lost worlds of South America and discover exotic civilizations in this course on the culture, architecture, and history of these ancient peoples.
Lost Worlds of South America is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 210.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am a Peruvian, I born in the country of Peru and I know the history of the Incas Empire and the other before the Incas. I love my country and I know all the Civilization Chavin,Paracas,Nazca, Mochica, Chimu,and the Chancas the Inca enemies. The arquelogy MrEdwin Barnhart so far he is correct what he said in his videos. I did not finish jet all DVDs but and happy he is saiys the truth. Sincerely Luis Zavala
Date published: 2022-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is a must for anyone interested in history. We hear so much about Europe but very little about South America,and this is a real shame. Their history is more fascinating than you can imagine and we can all learn a great deal. The instructor delivered the information in a clear, concise and interesting manner.
Date published: 2021-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great but a problem I love the courses and the presentation but some of the courses will not play!! Also the course is from 2012 and proably outdated
Date published: 2021-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly entertaining and informative. This is the most entertaining and informative of all the Great Courses I have taken. I have watched it over and over. I have it downloaded on my phone and listen to it on my daily walk. Of the 100 or more Great Course I have completed this is my favorite. My interest in Native American culture was piqued when I read Richard Halliburton's account of the Inca and Machu Picchu 65 years ago. Now Professor Barnhart has revealed in an interesting lecture all the knowledge that has been gained over the years. I have visited some Aztec and Mayan ruins but old age and poor health will prevent me from physically seeing the sites of the Moche or the Incas. professor Barnhart has given me a view of an ancient world. THE BEST
Date published: 2021-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating!! I learned so much from this course. Dr. Barnhart illuminates the relationships and timelines of the first civilizations of South America. I have long admired and read about the art and architecture of the Chavín, Moche, Inca and other civilizations. This course clearly shows the development and movements of culture and religion. His observations and theories make a lot of sense. I have visited a few of the ruins and seen artifacts in museums, but the guided tours and museum notes just did not show how the different cultures evolved.
Date published: 2021-11-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Decent content, condescending professor Decent content, especially in the later lectures about the Inca, which were the most engaging. I found the professor to be fairly condescending with a North American / Euro-centric attitude that was kind of irritating to watch, especially when attempting to describe aspects of historic and modern cultures. For someone doing their life's research in South America, I would have expected him to at least know how to pronounce names of places in Spanish and Portuguese properly. Also, the course focused on civilizations around modern-day Peru (which he has done research on), but I was surprised he didn't even mention contemporary civilizations in other parts of South America. Overall interesting content, but certainly not comprehensive. He had some discourses about how the field of archeology won't take seriously the stories and insights from actual descendants of the people being discussed, which was important, but it felt like a sidenote. I would have liked to see more time spent on modern-day cultures, their stories, and their connections to their past.
Date published: 2021-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Learned a lot of information about the South American history and culture that I didn't even realized was out there. Would love another lecture with more up to date finds since this aired.
Date published: 2021-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent series Excellent series. It was well-informed, I learned at lot, and I liked the occasional humor. I appreciated the diligence of Dr. Barnhart in explaining when he was making an argument that was his own and not part of the more accepted story. I am a university history professor.
Date published: 2021-10-23
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As one of only six places on earth where civilization arose spontaneously, South America offers a fresh and revelatory look at how human societies formed, from the earliest organized communities to cultures of huge complexity. They paralleled, yet were absolutely different from, the ancient cultures of Greece, Egypt, and others that we know so much better. In these sites you witness the unfolding of one of the true cradles of civilization. In Lost Worlds of South America, Professor Edwin Barnhart, director of the Maya Exploration Center, leads you on an adventurous trek of discovery through the emerging finds and archaeological knowledge of more than 12 seminal civilizations, giving you rich insight into the creative vision and monumental achievements of these wellsprings of human life.


Edwin Barnhart
Edwin Barnhart

In my own experience as an explorer, it's almost always the case that the locals knew where lost places were all along. The discoverer is just the first person to ask the right questions.


Maya Exploration Center

Dr. Edwin Barnhart is director of the Maya Exploration Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and has over 20 years of experience in North, Central, and South America as an archaeologist, explorer, and instructor. In 1994, Professor Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Maax Na (Spider-Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya period in northwestern Belize. In 1998 he was invited by the Mexican government to direct the Palenque Mapping Project, a three-year effort to survey and map the unknown sections of Palenque's ruins. The resultant map has been celebrated as one of the most detailed and accurate ever made of a Maya ruin. In 2003, he became the director of Maya Exploration Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization. The center leads study-abroad courses for college students and tours for the general public in the ruins of the ancient Americas, among its other research and educational activities. Professor Barnhart has taught archaeology and anthropology at Southwest Texas State University, and currently teaches University of Texas travel courses for college professors on ancient Andean and Mesoamerican astronomy, mathematics, and culture. Over the last 10 years, he has appeared multiple times on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and Japanese NHK Public Television. He has published over a dozen papers and given presentations at eight international conferences.

By This Expert

Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed
Ancient Civilizations of North America
Lost Worlds of South America
Exploring the Mayan World
Lost Worlds of South America


South America's Lost Cradle of Civilization

01: 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.

30 min
Discovering Peru's Earliest Cities

02: 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. Learn about the sites of Kotosh, El Paraiso, and Caral and their striking features of architecture, including plazas, pyramids, and solar observatories.

30 min
South America's First People

03: 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 ago. Learn also about "Quilcas" cave art, the astonishing Chinchorro mummies-predating Egypt's- and evidence of early agriculture and trade at Huaca Prieta.

30 min
Ceramics, Textiles, and Organized States

04: 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.

28 min
Chavin and the Rise of Religious Authority

05: Chavin and the Rise of Religious Authority

The Peruvian site of Chavín marks the emergence of religion as the focus of public art. Study Chavín's distinctive architecture, with images of its characteristic "fanged deity." Learn about later religious iconography and artifacts at Chavín suggesting that it was the center of a cult that spread to other sites in the region.

28 min
Cupisnique to Salinar-Elite Rulers and War

06: Cupisnique to Salinar-Elite Rulers and War

With the waning of Chavín'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.

27 min
Paracas-Mummies, Shamans, and Severed Heads

07: 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 of the supernatural beings they depict, and the practice of head hunting as a means to control the spirits of the dead.

29 min
The Nazca Lines and Underground Channels

08: 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 pilgrimage.

30 min
The Moche-Pyramids, Gold, and Warriors

09: The Moche-Pyramids, Gold, and Warriors

In the first of three lectures 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. Examine the evidence of extensive warfare, both in the art and in excavated weaponry and sacrificial victims.

28 min
The Moche-Richest Tombs in the New World

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, jewelry, and surrounding objects. Contemplate who these buried people might have been, with relation to imagery in Moche art.

28 min
The Moche-Drugs, Sex, Music, and Puppies

11: The Moche-Drugs, Sex, Music, and Puppies

This lecture 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 interpreted as depicting victory in war, and indications that they actually describe an elaborate culture of shamanic healing.

35 min
Enigmatic Tiwanaku by Lake Titicaca

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 Chavín de Huantar. Explore Tiwanaku's mysterious architecture and its "raised field" agriculture, an engineering feat that allowed for the support of a large population.

33 min
The Amazon-Civilization Lost in the Jungle

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 Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon, noting wide areas of human-enriched soil, towns ringed by moats, geoglyphs, and pottery dating to 6000 B.C.

28 min
The Wari-Foundations of the Inca Empire?

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 communities of the Wari and the question of whether Wari expansion constituted empire building or a more benign diffusion of culture.

29 min
The Chimu-Empire of the Northern Coast

15: The Chimu-Empire of the Northern Coast

This lecture introduces a culture of warrior kings who became conquerors, second in influence only to the Inca. Learn about the Chimú's extraordinary royal citadels, urban organization, and intervalley irrigation technology. Investigate their subjugation of neighboring cultures, their imperial administration centers, and what may have motivated their conquest.

29 min
The Sican-Goldsmiths of the Northern Coast

16: The Sican-Goldsmiths of the Northern Coast

Contrasting with the Chimú, 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 copper.

30 min
The Inca Origins-Mythology v. Archaeology

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 in a fertile valley. Compare the mythology with archaeological evidence that suggests that the myths were based in part on historical truths.

30 min
Cuzco and the Tawantinsuyu Empire

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 its perfectly fitting stonework that defies explanation. Learn also about the culture of ancestral mummies, the golden Coricancha temple, and other architectural marvels.

31 min
The Inca-From Raiders to Empire

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, Tupac, doubled the imperial territories, and how the empire was ultimately torn apart by civil war and disease.

29 min
The Inca-Gifts of the Empire

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 benefited in return. Grasp the Inca's ingenious technology of road building, suspension bridges, and freeze-drying vegetables, and how they eliminated hunger.

28 min
The Khipu-Language Hidden in Knots

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 recorded and read them. Learn how numbers were encoded, and review evidence suggesting that the khipu may contain a form of writing.

34 min
Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley

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 rooms of undetermined function. Study the solar-aligned Torreon and other astronomical structures of the site, and their significance in Inca cosmology.

30 min
Spanish Contact-Pizarro Conquers the Inca

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 true Inca ruler-the destructive conquest by Francisco Pizarro, and the following struggle within the empire against Spanish rule.

29 min
Remnants of the Past-Andean Culture Today

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 agriculture, community organization, traditional lifestyles, and astronomical and religious observances, and contemplate what these practices mean in our own time.

31 min