course
The Rise of Civilization

Apr 2017

I have such mixed feelings about this class. I am just finishing the fall 2017 semester of this class and i think at different times in the semester i have both loved and hated the class. let me break it down for you: The Lectures: The lectures are literally going to be your least favorite part of the class. The professor is pretty much just going over slides. There is always an outline of the lecture given ahead of time so you can follow along as well as all power point slide shows. These don't serve as a good representation of the all the information thrown at you in this course though. Professor D'altroy knows his stuff. He throws a huge amount of information at you in each lecture in large part just from the massive amount of knowledge he has in his head. he clearly is passionate about the subject and extremely knowledgeable. This format of sitting for an hour just looking at slides listening to someone speak is indeed incredibly boring, but its also the most important part of the class to ensure your success. if you want an A you need to attend because there is no source wether it is the book, recitations or all the youtube videos on the web that are going to encapsulate what you need for the exams as well as terrance's lectures. Take notes every lecture, ask questions and try your best to stay attentive and you will be fine. The readings: they were a mix of fairly interesting to incredibly boring. there were a ton of readings provided broken into different levels of importance, but truth be told if you pay enough attention in lecture and take good notes then most of the readings largely wont even be needed. youll need to draw upon them for the papers but beyond that you can easilly do well without them. Overall: honestly i feel like i learned alot in this class. It goes from a very laid back feeling to a very hectic class around midterms/finals because all of a sudden you need to contextualize thousands years worth of information and it can seem overwhelming. very little direction is given in terms of what exactly to study for exams and it can be stressful, but usually if you just study an overview of everything and few important sites/people from each region you will be set for the exam. dont take this class lightly, if you slack off too much you will find yourself lost.

Jun 2015

When I took this class, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information presented in every lecture. But you know what, getting an A in this class is possible. People, this is not a joke class, so take it seriously. Don't slack off. Come to class; make sure you go to recitation. Also, pay attention to the stuff in the review sheet (especially for finals). The TAs were great this semester. If you have questions regarding the essay prompts, e-mail/meet with them. Stop complaining about this class, and do the work.

May 2015

I am warning you, do not ever take this class. It is the most boring class you will ever sit in, and on top of that Professor D'Altroy is the least funny person on the planet. He tries to make it interesting but to be honest it does not really work. The midterm was super easy, just two civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia and the papers are easy if you put 1-2 hours into them. I did find the context interesting but Professor D'Altroy needs to figure his stuff out. Now the way he grades is very unique. I received a B- because I got a low B...that does not make sense. He was not sympathetic in a grade change. Do not take this class, it is way too boring, I watched television in class and did other class work. And the final is kind of difficult, it pulls on literally everything, the topics are very broad so you can sometimes BS but it depends what TA grades it.

Jun 2014

I'm a Neuroscience major. I was looking to fulfill the global core requirement. This was probably the most boring painful class i've ever had to sit through. The lectures (on material that could actually be very interesting) are extremely monotonous, the slides have very few explanations on them--only pictures, and a lot of the time the objectives of the course, what you're expected to know, etc is very unclear. If you like anthro/history it might be a bit more interesting to you but like the lecture portion of it at least i felt was poorly executed. That being said it was like extremely easy. I did no reading, (except for pulling some quotes out of the text for papers) literally 0 work aside from the days before an exam or a paper was due, and turned out absolutely fine. I guess if you're looking for a global core with very minimal work, go for it, but don't expect to be enlightened or even slightly intellectually stimulated. I think the best thing that happened to me in this course was when I beat 2048 that fateful wednesday afternoon.

Jun 2014

This class blew my mind...when I was awake. Prof. D'Altroy is funny, intelligent, and has a drone in his voice that could put even the most caffeinated Columbian to sleep. Beware. The class, however, is enjoyable in the sense that I gained a new perspective on time by learning about Civilizations from 5000B.C. onward. When I was on Ritalin, I gained the most from this class because I was able to absorb Prof's deceptively fast-paced lectures. Take notes. You chiefly draw from lectures on exams. Read the texts, even though you dont *have* to, it helps you with the papers. T.A. section seminars are there to answer your questions, grade your papers, and serve as a guide to the course--yet, half the time I was watching futbol, and playing 2048... What is the real killer is that if you cant stand museums, this class is basically a tour of museums and historical landmarks, in a dimly lit lecture hall. When we were talking about anthropology, however, my interest was captivated. I could've taken better advantage of this class, but thus far it has been my favorite class at Columbia because of how it expanded my horizon of how society develops and has come to where it is today. Oh, and I got a B- for the course. First paper: 76 Second Paper: 96 Midterm Exam: 73 Final Exam: 82

May 2014

The Rise of Civilization Anthropology V1008y This course is loaded with a vast amount of theory and knowledge. Some of which becomes a bit redundant, but for the most part will hold your attention. If you struggle with putting all the pieces together, as I do, rest easy knowing that there is a group of TA's that are just as well-educated as the professor (some give a few lectures). Matthew Sanger being one of them, made himself available almost 24/7 to help. His discussion sessions helped point out the important aspects of each civilization, and his well informed guidance is invaluable. This is a great course and worth taking to fill that global core requirement.

May 2014

Matt is amazing! He took what is otherwise a very dry subject and made it sooooooo much better. his lectures were great, he was always available, and he was a very fair grader. If you take this class MAKE SURE you get Matt as your instructor as I hear the other grad students are not as good. The class goes through a tremendous amount of information - everything from China to Egypt to South America - plus a bunch of social theories from Marx and other writers. It is difficult to keep everything straight, especially by the end as all of the different cultures tend to get mixed together in my head. But Matt did a great job in using concept mapping and flowcharts to help us study and keep everything together.

May 2012

It's an OK course. This course is required for archaeology/anthro so there's really no way around it if that's your major. It's very well run-- TAs respond quickly to e-mails and grade quickly. The lectures are interesting enough if somewhat boring at times (especially when some of the TAs pseudo-guest lecture while d'altroy is absent). You really don't need to buy the books, just read through them at Butler and take notes before the midterm/final. D'altroy holds a review session before every exam and doesn't write the exam until the night before which seems fair. Strangely, D'altroy facilitates and seems to enjoy that half the class never attends as he always posts the powerpoint and in depth lecture notes. Don't be fooled though, I think he only does this in order to encourage some kids from attending in order to make the curve easier to create/maintain etc. It's not a course that you will worry about, but it's also not a joke course that you never have to put any work into. Primarily because the papers that were originally 1-2 page responses without any sources are now 7-8 page research papers despite containing the same prompt... kind of a cheap way to make a course more challenging but whatever. Some of the TAs are amusing, some are sleep-inducing boring, but it's kind of a lottery based on when you can actually fit one into your schedule... Easy enough to do well if you put the work in and try to do it. D'altroy was a bit self-indulgent with the jokes, innuendos, and elitism, but overall an entertaining lecturer.

May 2012

I seriously do not think Professor D'Altroy is a good professor. The way he comes off is seriously pretentious and I honestly went away with the impression that he did not care about the course, which affected the way I prioritized it, and my grade suffered accordingly. One of the most egregious aspects of his poor performance as professor is the fact that there were, to my knowledge, at least 6 lectures which he was absent for. To be fair, one of the times was scheduled, as the head TA (Darryl Wilkinson) was assigned with that day's material on Sub-Saharan Africa, and actually did a fantastic job and gave what I think was unquestionably the best lecture of the entire course. The other 5 occasions, as far as I could tell, were cases of Professor D'Altroy clearly prioritizing other endeavors of his above the course; two consecutive sessions (i.e. an entire week's worth of classes) were missed in the week immediately following Spring Break, because of supposed problems scheduling the return flight from Peru (which, to be quite honest, I completely did not believe, especially in light of the absences that followed; he clearly wanted an extra week of vacation / study in his “area of expertise” - truly shameful). He missed another entire week of classes because, obviously, going to a conference at Oxford was more important to him than teaching the introductory course in the department he used to chair. This goes right in line with his arrogant, pretentious attitude that he brings into every lecture, in which I honestly felt I was not getting very detailed information, due to his preference for bashing Western European intellectual historiography. I think as long as Professor D'Altroy heads the course it's doomed, because there’s no way there can be a serious exploration of the rise of civilizations around the world in any level of useful detail, when the course is headed by an academic who cares more about a pseudo-intellectual agenda obsessed with bashing the West and its historical epistemological approaches than in the actual civilizations being studied or in the students who are trying to learn about them. I’m embarrassed that this is the largest class at Columbia; it’s a real shame. I overall had less problems with my TA, Dianne Scullin, than I did with Professor D'Altroy, but I felt she also failed to inspire intellectual interest in the material. Her feedback on my second paper (which I got what I honestly feel is an undeservedly low grade after my hard work had been rewarded on the first one), was almost nonexistent, despite the fact that my work merited barely above a C in her eyes. Her only annotations on my paper were ones saying "good" toward the beginning, then on the last page she wrote 80 / B- and a terse note saying that I didn't address the prompt, without explaining why or how. I put just as much work into that paper as I did the first one, which I got a solid A on. I would have felt comfortable asking her about it, except for the fact that she consistently failed to cultivate an atmosphere in which I would have been comfortable interacting with her; she blatantly ignored an e-mail I sent to her early in the semester regarding a scheduling conflict with her discussion section, in which I very politely asked to switch into one that met in the same room the hour before our time. As a result of her unwillingness to respond to the e-mail, I felt uncomfortable asking her anything (including for elaborated feedback on my second paper), and had to forego a job opportunity I would have been able to take in that time slot. She also led the discussion section with a listless, disinterested, and passionless flat affect that could not possibly inspire any intellectual curiosity. The assignments and materials for the class perfectly mirror the content: overly generic, poorly explained, and not worthwhile. The two papers are on topics that are superficial and broad, and that leave no room for academic creativity. In addition, they don't in any way productively contribute toward learning anything in any level of detail that is asked of us on the midterm or final, so they were just pointless. Also, the grading (as has been mentioned) was completely inconsistent. I got a solid A on the first paper, and then nearly a C on the second one, and I put the same amount of work and thought into both of them. The readings are obviously pointless, as neither the professor nor our TA ever addressed them besides saying that they were all required, which is obviously false, which is reprehensible for causing everyone to waste tons of money on expensive materials that aren't even incorporated. I think as long as Professor D'Altroy heads the course it's doomed, because there’s no way there can be a serious exploration of the rise of civilizations around the world in any level of useful detail, when the course is headed by an academic who cares more about a pseudo-intellectual agenda obsessed with bashing the West and its historical epistemological approaches than in the actual civilizations being studied or in the students who are trying to learn about them. I’m embarrassed that this is the largest class at Columbia; it’s a real shame.

Apr 2012

It's fairly easy, but it's also a bit of a drag if it's not something you're interested in. You do actually have to learn things, and there's a heavy emphasis on discussing archaeological evidence to prove your claims. DO go to class, it's boring but if you can manage to stay awake and pay attention you won't need to buy the book, and the details you use in your paper will reflect your attendance which will put you on the graders good side (they don't have to do the reading...but they DO have to go to every class). Go to recitation. You'll get a higher grade. You're trying to get a good grade, right? Honestly, attendance + a semi-decent amount of attention and study = doing well in this class. That said, plenty of people DO NOT do well in this class. Why do you think that is? Keep in mind that it is an actual class, and that Professor D'Altroy and the TAs don't see it as a joke as much as you might. Show some respect and you've got this, no problem.

Apr 2012

Even though this class is probably the easiest global core option here, I'm so tempted to say I don't recommend the class at all because it's such a pathetic, miserable excuse for a lecture.  Professor D'Altroy is painfully pretentious and all of his lectures exhibit a shockingly paradoxical combination of pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, post-colonialist nonsense on the one hand, with embarrassingly  superficial lack of substantive information about anything on the other.  There's almost nothing genuinely insightful to be gained from this course.  All each lecture essentially would be is a tangential polemic against how bad Western civilization is and how vastly culturally rich all the ancient civilizations were.  But then he goes on to anachronistically label them as "proto-imperialist/colonialist" just so he can use them to proxy-bash western civ...  All at the expense of any possibility of actually learning about said culturesz  It's mind-blowing.  The only thing redeeming about it is the few minutes of actual detail he has hidden away in his sideshows and the chance that your TA might further elaborate on it and be genuinely enlightening.

May 2011

JUST TAKE IT AND STFU. If you put the work, easy A. I went to all the classes and took notes until before the midterm. I regret taking these notes, as really, just reading his notes online are enough (and even then, skimming them and getting the main idea should be fine). Reading his notes should be enough to tackle the essays in the midterms/finals (and seriously, short answers in the exams should be freaking cake... C'MON, HE GIVES THEM TO YOU BEFORE THE TEST). Just make sure you know the main ideas, and evidence for trends (like you get bunch of people together, then they grow, people start caring bout religion, those w/greater religious status n stuff become more powerful, they rule, standardize society, all along social structure was getting more stratified, BAM YOU GOT AN A). Try to get Jen Van Tiem as your recitation leader, trust me, she's awesome. and an easy grader. Trust me, these recitations don't matter. SO YEAH, TAKE IT, GET AN A WITHOUT MUCH WORK. i just regret during finals caring a bit more about this class than others... Let me give you my quick advice for the final... just know in depth one civilization from the new world (I'd say do the ones from mesoamerica) and one from the old world (I'd say China). poom u got an A broski

May 2011

If you are in CC, chances are you'll end up taking Rise of Civ to fill your Global Core requirement. Why? Because it's easy. Why else? Because on paper, it sounds like it would be in an interesting course. Unfortunately, only the former is true. It is very easy to get an A in this class, so by all means, you should take it (especially if your GPA needs a little bump). However, D'Altroy is not a very interesting lecturer. Some time around the end of January, I stopped going to class entirely, with the exception of the midterm and the class before it. He doesn't exactly make it essential that you go to class, either. All of his lecture notes are posted online (hint: there are way too many of them. Dude doesn't know how to write an efficient outline. But hey, all the more help to slackers like myself?). All of his powerpoints are posted online. Don't print these. He saves them at the highest quality possible, so they take forever to print. And there's literally more slides than there are minutes in of lecture. Most of the time, if you do actually go to class, the people around you will be doing one of three things: eating lunch, talking to their friends around them, or dicking around on the internet. All that said, DO go to your recitation section. And if you have the option, take the section with Kaori Hatsumi. She's adorable, and doesn't have great command over the English language, but she's an easy grader, and she, too, will post all of her notes from discussion section online. They're usually a boiled down version of whatever D'Altroy was talking about in class, and are often more useful than his lengthy outlines.

May 2010

this class was boring. not much more, not much less. he basically goes through a bunch of slides(most of which are pictures) during class while frequently going off on tangents. he's a nice guy but its hard to stay awake during class. the recitations were just as boring(they were pointless to be honest). recommended if you're trying to get your global core requirement out of the way. its really not that hard. i didnt do a single reading, only showed up half time(and when i did show up i messed around on my computer), and got an A-. he posts the lectures online and they contain all the information you need(they were literally the only thing i studied from for the midterm and final). there are three 'papers'. the first two are like 2-3 pages and the last one is 3-5. keep in mind the papers only constitute 10% of your grade.

May 2010

Terry is a great guy and a decent professor. His lectures could be boring at times, but at least he doesn't put a bunch of text on a slide and read off it. He shows you images and then explains them, which makes it a lot easier to remember the concepts. The material is not overly interesting to me, but as a Global Core option, this is the best class out there. There is practically no work (the textbook readings are worthless, I'll admit). There is only one thing you have to do in order to get an easy A in the course: GO TO CLASS! This simple act is something probably 85% of the class did not do. Most people think it's unnecessary since he posts all his lecture notes online, but the problem with his notes is twofold: 1) He doesn't cover everything in the notes AND sometimes something that only gets a bullet point or two in his lecture notes is talked about for 20 minutes in lecture and then appears on the exam and 2) it's incredibly difficult to interpret and understand the notes without any sort of explanation, and virtually impossible to memorize any of it. Just show up to lecture and jot down some of the main ideas and you're golden.

May 2009

I didn't find the course that bad at all. Meredith was a very kind and approachable professor. She was always open to talk after class and during office hours, and I found her to be very friendly. I do agree, however, that she was very nervous as a lecturer in the first few weeks of the class, but as the course went along, I could tell she was becoming much more comfortable. There definitely was a lot of information given, but I think one of the most important parts of the course was finding what was significant and then comparing it to what happened with other civilizations. I did find, however, that the lectures were with information that was interesting, but not necessarily important for the exams or papers. There were a few times where I found my mind wandering off (or checking CULPA and Facebook on my laptop), but I did enjoy looking at pictures of excavations sites and learning about the different civilizations of the past. It reminded me of the time when I wanted to become an archaeologist after my 6th grade history unit on Egypt. The reading was totally unnecessary. I didn't look at the textbook once (what a waste of money). I found that the tests were inappropriately graded because of TAs. The instructions on exams of what they were looking for was a bit ambiguous so I recommend spilling out as much information as you know - better be safe than sorry. I exercised the option of writing a paper to lower the weight of the exams. She was a fair grader in terms of the paper.

May 2009

Complete joke. It's more shockingly elementary than 5th grade social studies. Atrocious class, maybe because Sev Fowles teaches the preceding course. Linn just finished the grad program and was clearly petrified the first couple of class, I don't think she made eye contact with the room until about three weeks into the course. I went to, oh, maybe 4 or 5 classes total for the first half of the course and got an A on the midterm. 'Nuff said. Easy A, but for those actually interested in anthro/archeology it's complete fluff

May 2009

I don't know why the other review is so negative. I had minimal interest in anthroplogy but found the class relatively interesting. Who doesn't like Ancient Egypt? Yes, ceramics are horribly boring, but I have a notoriously poor attention span and could stilI could keep awake and taking notes. At first it might seem like information overload, but the exams are more conceptual based anyway. You'll never need to look at pictures of bowls and match them to civilizations, don't fret. Don't expect to spend hours memorizing dates, the class is more focused on overall trends of civilization (the interplay of religion and society, how people viewed their leaders, daily life, causes for rise and fall of cultures etc). She gives you a study guide term list for exams, which is uber-helpful. And she, while maybe not the most comfortable yet in front of a class, is cute and likable. Cracks jokes, albeit somewhat awkwardly. But it is her first year I think, so that is to be expected. She's actually relatively organized for a first-time lecturer. Notes/power points posted online, but you'll get into a mess if you don't keep up somewhat since the class goes through a lot of civilizations. Great choice for major cultures, honestly. No paper, optional attendance, relatively not-dull subject matter. Would you really rather sit in a small seminar, doing weekly papers while some old man drones about medieval China?

Apr 2009

ATTENTION: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS! IT IS SOOOOOO BAD!!! IF YOU TAKE IT YOU WILL WANT TO GO BACK IN TIME AND CHANGE THE COURSE OF HISTORY JUST TO MAKE IT LESS BORING! THIS IS NOT, I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT EVEN A SERVICEABLE CLASS BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION!!! phew. i've been waiting all semester to write that. for real though, c'mon, I thought I went to columbia. this class made me feel like i was in 7th grade. for one thing, professor Linn seems like a nice lady and all, but she needs to not be teaching this class. she was a TA in the class last year, and this was so obviously her first time teaching i almost felt bad for her. the first couple of lectures i see her shaking. then once she got more comfortable, she would consistently trudge through unbelievably excruciatingly dry (like seriously, I couldn't stay awake, and the class was at 4 pm) and usually irrelevant material for the first hour of the class. i was looking at my phone to check the time every 30 seconds. then she would often rush through things that seemed at least mildly important (all though still torturously boring) and relevant to know for say, a test, in the last 15 minutes. oh, and she would ALWAYS go at least 5 minutes overtime, which doesn't sound that bad, but when all of the testable information about "the fall of such and such civilization" is packed into the 5 minutes when you're supposed to be walking to another class, it sucks. oh and the classroom was always really dark and hot. AHH I HATED THIS CLASS THERE ARE SO MANY INTERESTING GLOBAL CORE CLASSES.... DON'T TAKE THIS ONE!!!

May 2008

This course blows. The lectures itself were very dry, out of the 6 times I go to class, I cannot help but fall asleep everytime. He goes through an endless number of slides, leaving me to think what is the point? If you are thinking about taking this class to fulfill a requirement, think again. It isn't worth it. I admit that I have no interest in anthropology, but I studied hard for this class. He gives you the notes (about 250 pages worth for the entire semester) but they are somewhat incoherent and overly verbose. I took notes of the notes to help with memorizing, but the process of studying was agonizing. If you are interested in anthropology, go for it. Otherwise, stay far away. All my friends regret taking this class.

May 2007

This is the dumbest class ever; I never went, mostly skipped the reading, and got an A. And it meets the ridiculous Barnard Anthro requirement! WOOOOO!!!

Mar 2007

This class sucks. Do not take it unless you're absolutely fascinated by a never-ending series of slides- archeological digs (they're all the same!) and beads (ditto) I've been to this class five times all semester and every time I wonder why I bother. All the lecture notes are online, and he recites them- verbatim. Then he shows slides and spends a good five minutes discussing the measurements of the different bricks used in the Indus River Valley baths. Why do we CARE??? And I can't even begin to describe how boring and pretentious D'Altroy is. There are truly no words. Maybe he is a nice guy. But I don't trust anyone who thinks that it's okay to waste people's time and forty-thousand a year on this.

May 2006

I found this class difficult. I just did not enjoy lectures and it totally turned me away from anthropology. D'Altroy is humorous at times and incredibly detailed, but so dry. I found myself and many others falling asleep in class. The midterm and final were a bit difficult because of the depth of knowledge we were expected to know. Plus, there's always those older "I've actually been here and seen that" students that throw off the curve.

May 2006

Prof. D'Altroy was greattt!!! The class was cool, though not too many people went. It was basically a more indepth look at the major ancient civilizations: Mesoptamia, Egypt, Indus River Valley, China, MesoAmerica and Andes civilzations. Class consists of one to three power point presentations, while Prof. D'Altroy reads his notes - both the power point slides and his notes are posted online (which is why most people didn't bother to go to class). While class was really unneccessary, as were the readings (HONESTLY, you don't have to read anything to get an A in this class), going to class and doing the readings are worthwhile. Discussion was optional and there were sections that met I think every day of the week (maybe not Wed. though). If you're lucky enough to have optional sections, I highly highly recommend going to Felipe's section - he's great and makes these awesome review outlines right before the test (that you only get by going to his section). Take this class!! I got an A.

May 2006

This is a great class. The reading is not light, but it's definitely manageable. There is only a midterm and a final, and an optional paper. This makes the grading a little risky, but if you go to lecture, do the reading, and take advantage of the notes posted online, you'll do fine. You might also want to take advantage of the optional discussion sections, since I found that the TAs were extremely knowledgeable. Professor D'Altroy is an engaging lecturer. He's not the most entertaining, but he has a genuine enthusiasm for the subject matter. He is also a very nice guy, very easy to talk to and happy to answer questions. The Price and Feinman text is overpriced and pretty useless, but the Wenke is excellent. The Wenke text, and the class as a whole, made me decide to change my major to archaeology. Whether you're an anthro or history major, or just need a class to fill major cultures, there's a good bet you'll enjoy this class.

May 2006

Loved him. TD is good at hitting the main points within thousands of years of cultures around the globe. It's a lot of reading, but more like a lot of skimming the readings and seeing what he hits upon in the lectures...which are online anyway. He works hard to make an info-heavy course as easy to get through as possible. A couple complaints: The textbook is useless, his lecture notes are good enough on their own. Also, he tends to spend a few too many slides on burial crafts. Sure, spend a few minutes on King Tut's sweet loot, but when every single early civilization had rich people with graves full of cool stuff, after a while he could've just said so and moved on. TD covers each culture from a basic set of perspectives to establish a good comparative base of knowledge about early civilizations. Very informative, somewhat repetitive. He knows a lot of really interesting stories and details. Basically, he's perfect if you're interested in the subject matter; very knowledgeable, can put together a good lecture, VERY approachable, sort of funny. Just prepare for lots of pottery slides.

May 2006

Terrance is a really nice guy when you talk to him. He's so passionate about his work and he's really dedicated to his students. I enjoyed his class, and it fulfilled my major cultures requirement. I think its pretty hard if you're taking it as a requirement because he kinf of assumes that everyone in the class really wants to be an archaeologist when they grow up, so he really thinks you're going to be into it and wants you to know your stuff.

Jun 2005

The material for this course was very interesting. Prof. Gifford is sweet and funny and cool - a lovable man. But his teaching style borders on boring-He basically teaches the course from a printout of notes that contain a lot of facts about the culture you are discussing (though of course there is no actual discussing in this lecture class). Yes, class definitly was boring at times. But, look, I honestly learned some really great, interesting things that i will probably remember for a long time. it's a pretty decent way to fulfill your major cultures requirement, especially if you don't have a specific culture you want to focus on. This class will give you a nice overview of 6 different cultures, mostly ancient ones, but the things you learn about them are very relevant to the current culture of each area. Don't make the mistake i did by not doing the reading AND not going to recitation sections. You should pick one, and i definitly think that going to recitation is more helpul and time-efficient. The best way i found to navigate this course (and i tried several ways) in order to get the most out of it without wasting your time, is to go to class and to recitation (which will basically just review the important (i.e. test-relevant) material)--and then you dont have to do the reading. its just too much reading to do when you have a full course-load.

Jun 2005

I enjoyed this class for the first few weeks of the semester, but after a month or so the lectures became increasingly boring and disorganized. Professor Gifford is extremely approachable and a nice guy, but he lacks a cohesive teaching style. My notes were always a mess and while the class readings helpeed to clarify things I still felt screwed come exam time. Gifford will tell you that he doesn't care about details, but believe me, he does. Especially when he wants you to compare and contrast 4 different civilizations and every minute detail surrounding their rise and fall. There was an overwhelming amount of information and the TA sections were no help at all as they couldn't teach worth a dime. If you love archaeology and are detail oriented, this class could be for you. I'm an anthropology major and I think I will stick to those courses from now on.

May 2005

Prof Gifford is a passionate professor who has a contagious enthusiasm for anthropology/archaeology. He teaches a good class, but is very spacey and tends to go off on tangents, which is often frustrating. The reading for both classes was VERY light, and most of it was not necessary- all the exams basically ask you to regurgitate everything he said in class. That said, if you go to class, you will do fine. He is a fair grader and offers assignments (like optional papers or projects) that will boost your grade. The TAs for this class were useless- don't bother going to section. Overall, these classes were enjoyable and relatively easy.

May 2005

I have taken 2 courses with Chad, the one listed above as well as Origins of Human Society. Chad is very knowledgable of the topics he teaches as he has first hand experiance with them. He has run digs all over South America and is currently working on one now (wait for his shameless yet interesting advirtisment of it in class). He is very personable and can relate to students well. He understands that not everyone taking his class is an anthropologist and therefore tailors the class for non-anthro majors to understand. That said, if you are an anthro major you can certainly challenge yourself on tests, as there is much room for detail oriented work that the average student wont take advantage of. Lectures are pretty interesting and Chad usually tries to add humor to them which is great. Fun class, great teacher, would reccomend to anyone.

Jun 2004

First of all, Professor D'Altroy is a really nice guy. Not a pushover, though. His lectures are really packed with a lot of information and the pace is very fast. He clearly outlines the basic themes of the course at the beginning...how to sythesize and approach the material. If one keeps these points in mind when taking notes and studying, it really is not an overload. I felt this semester was heavier on theory than I anticipated from reading past Culpa reviews. We were encouraged throughout to utilize the "big picture." Before the exams, D'Altroy gave out example essay questions and I found this helpful. There is a manageable amount of reading - not light (if one does all of it), but certainly not horrible. Plus, in the final crunch, the outlines supplied by D'Altroy are what I relied on for exam preparation and fleshed this out with class notes. This course can appear overwhelming, with a moderate effort combined with strategic studying, it is not that hard to get an A in this course. I felt that the very nature of the course whas such that I felt we kind of skimmed over the cultures...(despite the fact that D'Altroy speaks very fast and really tries to cram as much in as he humanly can). It is a fair overview and comparison. One high compliment for D'Altroy: If he doesn't know something (he admits that China is not his strongpoint), he will honestly and refreshingly say "I don't know." But this guy knows a whole lot. He's not an armchair intellectual having spend decades in the field. His area of expertise is South America especially Peru. I recommend this course.

May 2004

The guy is incredibly nice. Just really nice. The lectures are straightforward. He even posts them on courseworks for the many students that don't attend the lectures even so his lectures are sold via a copy center, so there really is no need to attend the lectures and many students don't. Though I regret not going to most of the lectures, because I was pretty stumped on the final. I suggest going to at least 75% of them. I wish I did have a chance to get to know D'Altroy more, his dry humor makes it all worth it. But I guess if you aren't the type to stare at pictures of skeletons and old archaeology sites, don't take the class.

May 2004

In accordance with the majority of the other reviews, this class is essentially information-overload. It can't be denied, the lectures are horribly interesting and some of the slides are breathtaking. The conceptual analysis required on the midterm and final, however, is not mentioned until the class before. Attention to minute detail suddenly becomes intensely theoretical I believe that if Prof. D'Altroy could strike a balance between the detail and the theory, he would really have quite a class. But until that point, this class is recommended only to those with the drive to a) continually pack away a load of information or b) execute a massive pre-exam cram session. The stuff is really interesting, though. Recommended to those who enjoy reading every panel in the Museum of Natural History displays.

Oct 2003

One of the most intense classes i've taken at columbia, meaning you had to constantly keep up to date on the readings, the quizzes (there are 8 or so over the semester) and the midterm and final were really really hard and required massive studying efforts. if i hadn't taken this second semester senior year when i was taking only one other class for a grade and one pass/fail i do'nt how the hell i would have juggled this along with another class with even a mdoerate workload. i personally didn't find the material that interesting but you can decide for yourself before registering if you think ancient civilizations are something you'd like to study. taking notes in class isn't really necessary since he just repeats the stuff exactly as it appears in the readings, and he's also a really nice guy generally but a little aloof, so get in good with your TA early on cause you will need their help

May 2003

The weekly readings were lengthy and dense and the quizzes were challenging. That being said, I have to say that Professor Maca was one of the most enthusiastic and interesting professors I've had. His lectures done a la powerpoint style can seem daunting at first, but if you take down just the salient dates and sites, it's not difficult at all. Contrary to previous reviewers, this is definitely not one of those classes where you can just not show up and expect to get the same out of the course. (and make sure he does the howler monkey imitation for the class for when he covers the section on Mesoamerica! ) He was extremely knowledgeable of not just the site that he studies in Mesoamerica, but all the other major ancient civilizations we covered in class. His talk on his study of Copan was brilliant, and concise. (which is unlike some other professors who tend to drone on when it comes to talking about their own academia sphere). All in all, he was one professor who definitely wants everyone to do well, with exhaustive opportunities for extra credit. The only drawback to this course was the way in which the recitation sections were organized. I lucked out and got a really great TA, who used the recitations to help us prepare for our quizzes and tests, and overall was a very fair grader. Some people were not as lucky and it definitely could result in a big difference when it comes to grading of papers and exams.

May 2003

Allan is really a great guy. If I had known how cool he was from the start, I would have come to lecture a lot more often (out of respect). He knows his material and is really, sincerely interested in your doing well in his course and actually learning something. There are no tricks. This is a great way to get part of the major cultures requirement out of the way.

May 2003

He is the best teacher I have ever had in my 19 year life. He is funny, interesting, accesable, amiable, smart, and most of all a great teacher. I was one of the lucky few to have him as my recition teacher as well. He takes the trouble to remeber as many of the 70 odd students names as possible. It is impossible not to get excited about the material when you see a professor who is so interested in it and in teaching it. It is true that his quizes were hard at first, but he went to great lengths to see that people understood how they were to be approached. His inputs make the quizzes much easier than they first appear and also give them meaning. The other reviewers clearly didn't bother going to lecture or paying attention to him or they would have seen this as well. Follow this man to every class he teaches!!

Apr 2003

This introductory course was one of the worst I have ever taken in my three years at Columbia. Prof. Maca's lectures, while delivered in a boyish, engaging style, weren't particularly informative and consisted mostly of slides with too much information on them, such as 5x8 cell tables impossible to copy down in the 2 minutes he spends on them, or slides with nice landscapy pictures on them depicting modern China, modern Egypt, etc. These, while nice, had absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the material the class has to learn. In my year, people basically stopped coming to class when they realized their lectures were going to be mostly vapid and ultimately useless in the face of the 10% quizzes given at the beginning of every unit. The mandatory recitations were similarly useless, and the information provided by the TAs was often extremely vague. They might as well have said, "Well, everything I know about this unit comes from your readings, so you might as well check the book if you want answers. I can't clarify what the book says because I don't know anything more than what it says. Can't you go online or something?" I'm sure the recitations would've been as empty as the lectures had they not been worth 10% of the overall grade. The quizzes themselves required the study of 50 or so vocabulary words which seemed to have been chosen mostly at random from our readings. Often, they were mentioned only once or twice in the text, and sometimes they were utterly irrelevant to the subject at hand. In addition, we were often asked to provide dates for terms like "The Yellow River." What in the hell were we supposed to answer for that? Precambrian on? Geologically speaking, I'm sure that knowledge would be significant, but it had very little relevance in a course on archaeology. In sum, the quizzes did not test the material that was presented in lectures and in recitations, and many students just gave up trying to do well on them. If you have to take this course, try not to take it with Prof. Maca. He's the kind of professor who knows there are three different systems used to spell Chinese names, and yet gives us a map with names in Wade-Giles while asking us to identify places spelled using Pinyin. Many of the places he told us to know were not even marked on the map given us. You can imagine for yourself the kind of confusion this created in class.

Feb 2003

Prf. Maca we can tell is new at this. He makes lecture intriguing, and the readings are quite interesting, but his quizzes are ridiculous. How are we supposed to read 50+pgs and define and memorize 90+ words in like a week in a half? And thw worst part of it all is that he chooses only a handful of these words for us to define on the quiz, as well as maps for us to memorize and pinpoint important geographic spots. Did I mention these quizzes are worth only 5% of the total grade?

Jul 2002

I completely disagree with the reviews below--and I'm not even an Anthro major. Terence D'Altroy is a very good teacher because he's passionate about his subject. Where I think people get tripped up is that his passion weirdly enough takes the form of some of the driest humor that I've ever encountered. He said some of the most hilarious things with a straight face and deadpan delivery so if you're nodding off, of course you'll miss it. Once, when the TAs forgot the slides for half of his lecture, he just cycled through using the same slides but lecturing on a different civilization--it was hilarious to hear him make these off the cuff jokes, self depreciating comments and and brilliant reaches that managed to related the slides and a totally different idea. But most those who were asleep later freaked out when they discovered that their notes and the slides didn't match--what a great litmus test for a teacher to figure out who's paying attention... He has negative tolerance for stupidity (hear that, Third Row Guy with the Jaguar fetish?), and even less tolerance for bullshit ("But its so much memorization!" just doesn't fly with this class; do it or drop it. Or better yet, talk to the TAs. They know their shit and do an amazing job of breaking it down to bite size pieces. Make friends with them--I didn't do this but I should have). That said, D'Altroy has admitted that every year he tries to strike a balance between concepts and memorization, and usually he inadvertently leans to one side or the other. My semester, it was towards memorization. If you do the reading (which I skimmed the few days before the final exam) and attend the sections (which I didn't--I was a first semester freshman and no one had told me about them, so you're not dealing with someone who's always on top of things), then you should definitely be able to manage a decent grade; I got an A-. Also, its a big class so if anonymity is your thing, then this is probably a good choice. Though D'Altroy probably has only the vaguest idea who I am, I nevertheless credit him with helping me choose my Urban Studies major. Quite a bit of Rise of Civ deals with emergence of urbanism. The info is interesting; it *is* manageable; moreover, it gives a great non-western perspective of what was going on at the same time as half of the lit hum & cc syllabus (Those of you who bitch about the core--do us all favor and transfer to Brown). Similarly, its really useful your second List A major cultures, because you'll have a solid background from which to work with there as well. I'd recommend this to anyone who's interesting in actually getting something out of their classes. If you want a comfy seat in class to sleep, and a professor to hold your hand and give you an A anyway, you could probably do it too; but why would you want to when you've got a good guy like D'Altroy to teach you?

May 2002

I agree with the rest of the reviewers - overwhelming amounts of information for a 1000 level class, and studying for the final was a nightmare - you really don't know where to begin and when to end. Don't take this class unless you're fascinated by pictures of skeletons, pottery, and stones that somehow represent a temple. Some of the info is admittedly interesting, but it's just a constant stream of names that you can't pronounce, people, dates, and so on. Another thing that makes it hard is that all the civilizations resemble each other so much that it's difficult to memorize them well without getting confused.

May 2002

As an anthropology major, I thought Rise of Civ would be an easy introductory class to fill a requirement. And while the grading may be easy (he curved the midterm twice to make it as high as he wanted), the class was a waste of time. As other reviews have pointed out, there is just way too much information covered to A) make it at all interesting or in-depth or B) understand it. I went to recitation with the TAs who seemed to know nothing about the subject, my TA couldn't even find the answer to my question with the book in front of him. But, if you're good at memorizing thousands of things you will never ever have a use for for the rest of your life, then maybe you want to take this class. D'Altroy seemed very interesting although the lectures were ridiculously boring (he even brought us coffee and tea to the final) so maybe a seminar would be better. Just beware wasting your semester memorizing the city layouts of ancient civilizations . . . not even useful enough information for cocktail parties.

Apr 2002

Oh dear oh dear... don't take this class for the core. Take it only if you have interest in archeology and learning about 5 major cultures in one semester. Needless to say, notes are overwhelming and you'll never quite get it all. Readings are interesting, but too bad they don't help for the tests. Class is pretty boring, moves very fast and you'll forget everything you heard as soon as you walk out. Which means studying for tests is a beastly job. I read everything all over the night before the exam and I still barely managed a B+.

Aug 2001

D'Altroy is kinda bland and you may not always get his jokes but he means well. As another review said there are over 18,000 years of history to cover during the course and doing it throughly is impossible. Having the lecture notes already available is great and eliminates the need to do almost any reading at all. However, one thing that is not done well and is also essential for the midterm and final is tying all the infomration together and making connections. This is what the class is all about and D'Altroy does nothing to help you get there. That means that you are on your own to put all the pieces together. With that said... The class is not graded to harshly and if you can sit thorugh D'Altroy's lectures it might not be such a bad class.

Jan 2000

D'Altroy is a good man and an alright teacher. I think that the negative aspects of the previous reviews are based more on class content, which is pretty much 3000 years of cultural history for 6 different cultures; that's the equivalent of roughly 18000 years of history, folks. It's slightly overwhelming. Keeping track of the details is very difficult. I talked to him about this, and he said that he tries to strike the balance between data and theory but usually it's too strong on one side or the other (I had a data-strong class). On the plus side, he's pretty entertaining and shows lots of slides of himself in the field (which, according to his haircut, must have been in the 70s). The class notes are prepared for you--major bonus to cover for the minutae. Readings are neither difficult nor very long. And the recitations are optional--though show up for at least one, you get to see all sorts of neat stuff.