University of Minnesota Duluth block M and wordmark

  A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z
~ Google advanced
~ Google scholar
~ Google books
~ Google images
~ Google Translate
~ Google URL Shortener
~ Blenco Search
The World Fact Book -- CIA
UMD Library Main Catalog

Anthropology in the News

  TR HomePage    TR Courses
  Home f2024

Ancient Middle America

Spring 2019 Calendar

 map: topographic
  map: Mesoamerica and Its Cultural Areas
 Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica

OWL logo, Online Writing Lab, Purdue University.
class slides on-line
(free PowerPoint Viewer 2010)

Ancient Middle America Course Information

Search the troufs Site
(all TR courses and web pages)

Thursday, 13-Jun-2024 19:49:18 GMT

Map of Major Mayan Archaeological Sites

Map of the
Mayan World


to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index

Lost Kingdoms of the Maya

60 min., 1993, VC No. 2163


Abstract Terms / Concepts Notes
Cultures Sites Individuals Resources

Other Maya Sites

National Geographic:
Lost Kingdoms of the Maya. 1993

Lost Kingdoms of the Maya videotape.

lMaya stelae of Copán, Honduras, Frederick Catherwood, 1839

Maya stelae of
Copán, Honduras,
Frederick Catherwood, 1839

"An exploration of the forests of Central America and Mexico on the trail of the ancient Maya. Distinguished scientists unearth artifacts, reconstruct cities and decipher the hieroglyphics of an extraordinary civilization."

"Long before Columbus, the Maya established one of the most highly developed civilizations of their time in the jungles of Mexico and Central America. Yet this advanced society of priests, astronomers, artisans, and farmers suddenly and mysteriously collapsed more than a thousand years ago. Accompany archeologists to Copan, Dos Pilas, and other spectacular Classic Maya ruins as they unearth artifacts and huge temples of incredible beauty. Recently deciphered hieroglyphics and other new discoveries offer astounding clues to the lives of these ancient people. You'll hear the startling story of one kingdom's downfall and its final desperate hours of violent warfare. Through spine-tingling recreations, witness ancient rituals reenacted on sites where they originally occurred. And meet the enduring Maya who still maintain many of their ancestor's traditions. You'll hear the voices of a magnificent civilization as you uncover LOST KINGDOMS OF THE MAYA."

"Who were the Mayans? The answer depends on who you ask. Legend has it that the gods made them from corn. Armchair cultural critics with little more than a page-long encyclopedia entry's worth of knowledge see them as a ritualistic, dynastic people with a strong penchant for boulder hackysack. Take an hour-long tour of Lost Kingdoms of the Maya with host Susan Sarandon, however, and you'll see a culture that defies any handy categorization. Composed of a web of several hundred Central American kingdoms at the height of its powers, the Mayan empire was a cosmopolitan center of art and science that also had a taste for battle."

"So what exactly happened to make the Paris of its time suddenly vanish? Puzzle along with archeologists and epigraphers as they try to piece history back together, one building and astrological codice at a time. Don't expect any pat answers, however. While a few educated guesses endure (overpopulation? deforestation? an out-of-control thirst for war?), the true reason for the Mayan fate might be best summarized in the true if not elegant words of one Mayan expert: 'Civilization is a complex phenomenon, and we can screw up.'" --Bob Michaels

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index

Terms / Concepts:

  • GOK pile ("God Only Knows")

  • codices

  • cylindrical vases

  • eccentric flints (flint = fire stone)

    • 9 flints were found

      • does 9 correspond to the 9 Mayan Lords of the night?

      • placed there in ca. the 7th century A.D., when the site was at its peak

  • chacmool

  • blood sacrifice

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index
  • huipil

    • dress identifies people as Maya and from a particular village

    • "Tree of Life"

  • belt loom

  • dream world -- the world where the gods are

  • "The Place of Fright" = the underworld

    • Xibalbá

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index


  • "While Paris was still a village, they [the Maya] were carving cities out of the Jungle."

  • Scientific excavation first began at Copán.

  • "If Tikál were like New York, Copán was like Paris."

  • The hieroglyphic stairway is the largest inscribed text in the New World.

  • "For the Maya certain spaces were sacred, so they built their tombs and buildings one on top of the other."

  • "The universe worked in cycles, some very long, some very small."

  • "It is a rare thing when people develop a historical consciousness and begin making a record of what they do."

  • "The weavers have always said that their weaving came from the beginning of the world."

  • Ca. A.D. 400 Copán began rapid development

  • In the spring of A.D. 562 Caracol attacked Tikál and defeated it

    • during the upheaval that followed in Tikál, members of the royalty moved to the jungle

  • It was once thought that the Maya were a contemplative, peaceful people. "Now we know that the Maya were one of the most warlike peoples in the New World."

  • Starting in the 8th century A.D. ritualized religious warfare began to change to campaigns of expansion (warfare for conquest).

    • The kings of Tikál began to seize sites along the Pasión River
to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index
  • In A.D. 761 the king of Dos Pilas is captured and killed, and from that point on there are no more hieroglyphic inscriptions

  • In the middle of the 8th century, throughout the Mayan world, the power of the kings was waning

    • in the 8th and 9th centuries at Caracol, and throughout the Mayan world, there was great change, with the escalation in warfare

    • slowly, one by one, the great Southern cities are abandoned

    • disease and huger are becomming commonplace

  • A.D. 799 is the last written date at Palenque

  • A.D. 819, 20 years later, Copán falls silent

  • A.D. 859 Caracol stops recording

  • A.D. 879 Tikál stops recording

    • Only a handful of sites in the southern Mayan area survived into the 10th century A.D.

      • The northern cities of the Yucatán peninsula, places like Uxmal, Chichén Itzá . . . lasted a few hundred years longer, but they were no longer ruled by divine kings

      • gradually the old way of building, and writing, and worshipping slipped away
to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index
  • "While the Classic Mayan civilization may have disappeared, the Maya people have not. . . . The Maya didn't 'collapse, they evolved. They're still with us.'"

    • many Mayan pople do not like it when people talk about their "collapse"

  • For 3000 years they have survived the ambitions of their leaders, and once again they are under assault

    • In Guatemala 100,000 Maya were killed and another 40,000 disappeared in recent years

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index



  • Copán (1839; Honduras)

    • Scientific excavation first began at Copán.

    • "If Tikál were like New York, Copán was like Paris."

    • The hieroglyphic stairway is the largest inscribed text in the New World.

    • Rosalila Structure (Copán)

      • on the highest point in Copán

      • buried within the core of Structure 16, the central building of the Copán Acropolis

      • the building was "mummified" when it was buried

        • nothing was broken or destroyed when the later stages were added

  • Uxmal (Northern Yucatán)

  • Chichén Itzá (Northern Yucatán)

  • Palenque (Chiapas)

  • Dos Pilas

  • Caracol

    • Remarkable for the scores of tombs discovered here

      • Ordinary people were usually buried under their homes

      • The elite were placed in tombs

  • Tikál

  • Bonampak (murals)

to top of page / A/Z index   to top of page / A-Z index


  • 16 Rabbit
  • Frederick Catherwood
  • John L. Stephens (1849 Copán)
  • Alfred Maudslay
  • Barbara Fash
  • Bill Fash (Director of the Copán Acropolis Project)
  • Robert Sharer
  • David Stuart (epigrapher)
  • Linda Schele (epigrapher)
  • Ricardo Agurcia (Rosalila Structure, Copán)
  • Walter F. (Chip) Morris, Jr. (weaving)
  • Arlen Chase (pottery expert)
  • Diane Chase (human bone expert)
  • Arthur Demarest


  • Stuart, Gene, and George. Lost Kingdoms of the Maya. National Geographic Society, 1993.
© 1998 - 2023 Timothy G. Roufs — All rights reserved     Envelope: E-mail
Page URL: http:// /cla/faculty/troufs/anth3618/video/Lost_Kingdoms.html
Last Modified Sunday, 13-Nov-2011 23:21:21 CST
Site Information / Disclaimers ~ Main A-Z Index

View Stats