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Civilizaciones Precolombinas: Reference Shelf

Reference Spotlight

The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas consists of three volumes, each split into two parts.

Volume 2, Part 1 contains chapters that survey the major ethnic groups of ancient Mesoamerica. The survey is broadly divided into the cultures of the Mesoamerican Highlands (Cuicuilco, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Tula, Mixteca, Maya Highlands, and Aztec) and Lowlands (Olmec and the Gulf Coast, Maya Lowlands, West Coast, and the Southeast Frontier).


Art Encyclopedia


Encyclopedia articles dealing with the arts of ancient Mesoamerica can be found in Oxford Art Online.

Ancient Mesoamerica: Reference Works

Scholars develop familiarity with the literature on ancient Mesoamerica only after years of study. Most undergraduates assigned to write a research paper have neither the time nor the inclination to develop such familiarity. What to do? Consult a reference book!

By consulting the reference books listed below -- dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and other tertiary works -- students can easily track down expert-generated sources of background information. Scholarly encyclopedia articles help students to contextualize their topics and in turn begin to ask the right questions. After all, researchers cannot elicit relevant search results from a database of journal articles if they don't know which keywords (or search terms) to employ. Encyclopedia articles frequently contain bibliographies that lead researchers to the most important primary and most respected secondary works on their topics. Finally, browsing the articles in an encyclopedia can help students to refine and even choose a research topic.

Of course research papers require more than presenting what is already known about a topic. Academic writing must take a position and then make a cogent and persuasive argument. The baseline information contained in encyclopedia articles cannot substitute for the in-depth scholarly analysis found in secondary journal articles and books. In fact, tertiary sources are themselves based on secondary works and are therefore two steps removed from the primary-source material. Each class of information -- primary, secondary, and tertiary -- serves a different but vital purpose in the research process. I strongly recommend consulting one or more of the following reference works before moving on to secondary sources such as journal articles and books that analyze and interpret the primary record of ancient Mesoamerica.

    Chicago Manual of Style

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