In this course we will examine the emergence of social complexity and early state-level societies in West Asia, North Africa, and Mesoamerica. We will investigate the development of primary states and urbanism in each of these regions, as well as the emergence of "secondary" states: civilizations which developed as a result of contact with the primary states. We will also investigate examples of cultures that may provide evidence for non-state level cultural complexity. Discussion section topics include methods of research and theoretical approaches from archaeology, anthropology, history, materials, science and other disciplines. The primary subject of this class will be the archaeological data that provide us with most of what we know about ancient societies. But we will also investigate methods and theories archaeologists use to interpret those data. How can we interpret cultural behavior with only physical remains left to guide us? How can the study of prehistory and past civilizations help gain a critical perspective on the present?