Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed

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48 videos in this collection

The Maya, Aztecs, and Mesoamerica
Survey the geography, cultures, and time span covered in these 48 lectures. Dr. Barnhart discusses the organization of the course and key concepts. Then he takes you on a whirlwind…
Olmec Civilization Emerges
Begin with the Olmecs at the dawn of Mesoamerican civilization. Flourishing from about 1700 BC to 300 BC, the Olmecs represent one of only six cradles of early civilization in…
Olmec Art as the Mother Culture
Delve into Olmec art, searching for clues to who the Olmec were and what preoccupied these builders of Mesoamerica's first great civilization. Explore the mysteries of giant sculpted heads, jaguar…
Olmec Contemporaries
Investigate other cultures that thrived in Mesoamerica at the time of the Olmecs, such as the Zapotecs in the Valley of Oaxaca. Probe intriguing archeological evidence, including artifacts similar to…
Mesoamerican Plants, Cuisine, and Medicine
Learn about the botany of Mesoamerica and how it benefited not just the people of the region but eventually the entire world. From corn and chocolate to vanilla, chili peppers,…
Early Highland Maya - Izapa to Kaminaljuyu
Trace the origin of Maya civilization to a dramatic change in the nature of public monuments. Dr. Barnhart takes you to early Maya highland cities such as Izapa, with its…
Preclassic Maya Lowlands - El Mirador
Travel to the Peten rainforest in northern Guatemala, where hundreds of Maya settlements lie hidden, including some of the oldest Maya cities ever built. Among the spectacular sites, hear about…
The Popol Vuh - Creation and Hero Twins
In 1701 a Spanish priest fluent in Mayan translated a secret copy of the ancient Maya story of creation, the Popol Vuh. The original has long since disappeared, but the…
The Great City of Teotihuacan
At its height around 400 AD, Teotihuacan was the most populous city in the western hemisphere. Explore this vibrant metropolis, focusing on its still-extant pyramids of the Sun and Moon…
How the Maya Mastered Mathematics
Study the power of Maya mathematics, which was a positional, base-twenty system that lent itself easily to calculation and the expression of very large numbers. Learn about its use of…
The World's Most Elaborate Calendar
Unlock the secrets of the Maya calendar, which was unlike any other in the world - with nested cycles of time keyed to human, seasonal, and astronomical patterns. Look back…
Tikal - Aspiring Capital of the Maya World
Chart the rise and fall of Tikal, one of the great Maya cities until it was mysteriously abandoned around 900 AD. Overgrown by jungle, it sat forgotten for a thousand…
Maya Hieroglyphs - Breaking the Code
Maya hieroglyphs are a beautiful and elaborate writing system, bearing messages that were almost a complete mystery until recent decades. Dr. Barnhart describes the detective work that went into deciphering…
Maya Astronomy and Building Orientations
The Maya were expert sky observers. Discover that many of their buildings are oriented to view the rising and setting of celestial bodies, and still others are designed to interact…
The Dresden Codex
Only four ancient Maya books have survived to modern times. Study the most fascinating of these: the Dresden Codex. Focus on its complex calculations of the motions of Venus and…
Palenque - Jewel in the West
Descend down the secret steps of a Maya pyramid to discover the tomb of Pakal the Great, the most renowned ruler of the city of Palenque. Trace the history of…
Sacred Geometry in Art and Architecture
The Maya had no known unit of linear measure, yet their art and architecture reflect a sophisticated understanding of geometry. Investigate the geometric ratios that the Maya used over and…
Illuminating Works of Maya Art
Learn about Maya life through their art, studying such works as the fantastic painted murals at Bonampak and the famous sarcophagus lid on the tomb of Pakal. According to a…
Copan - Jungle Dynasty of the East
Visit Copan, a beautifully preserved city on the edge of the Maya world. This illustrious site has been continuously excavated since the 19th century, and Dr. Barnhart himself did fieldwork…
Calakmul - The Mighty Snake Kingdom
Maya hieroglyphs tell of a mysterious Snake Kingdom, which long eluded archaeologists. We now know that this powerful city was Calakmul, located in the Peten rainforest of southern Mexico. Learn…
The Mesoamerican Ball Game
Created 3,500 years ago and still played today, the Mesoamerican ball game was the New World's first organized team sport. More than just a game, it reenacted mythology, symbolized war,…
Enigmatic West Mexico and Shaft Tombs
Survey the cultures that flourished in west Mexico at the time of the Maya. Their distinctive shaft tombs, pottery, metalwork, and other artifacts have intriguing links to South America. Also…
Classic Maya Collapse - Cities Abandoned!
One of history's unsolved mysteries is why many Maya cities were abandoned in the 9th century AD, bringing an end to the Classic period. Examine theories that trace this collapse…
New Cities of the Terminal Classic - Uxmal
From 800 to 1000 AD, the Maya region went through a transitional phase known as the Terminal Classic. Study the changes that emerged in new Maya cities, which saw innovations…
Monte Alban and Zapotec Rule over Oaxaca
Journey to Oaxaca to explore Monte Alban, one of the most beautiful ruins in all of Mesoamerica. Chart the city plan, monuments, and art of this hilltop center of Zapotec…
The Mixtec Rise - Gold and Epic Stories
Tomb 7 at Monte Alban is a New World version of Tutankhamun's burial chamber, containing an extraordinary number of gold artifacts. Learn about the Mixtec culture that produced these treasures…
The Great Pyramid of Cholula and El Tajin
More massive than the largest Egyptian pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Cholula was one of the astonishing feats of the Veracruz civilization, which flourished in the modern state of Veracruz…
Cacaxtla Murals and Xochicalco
View the fantastic murals at Cacaxtla in central Mexico, arguably the finest in Mesoamerica. Then look at the famous Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Xochicalco, which, like the Cacaxtla…
The Toltecs - Role Models or Myth?
The Aztecs claimed that their civilization descended from the mighty Toltecs. But were the Toltecs as magnificent as the Aztecs believed? Join the hunt for this elusive empire, which was…
Chichen Itza - Maya Capital of the Yucatán
Travel to the best known of all ancient Maya cities: Chichen Itza. Focus on its Toltec-Maya phase, from 1000 to 1200 AD, and the city's striking similarities to Tula. What…
League of Mayapan - Maya New World Order
As Chichen Itza declined, a city named Mayapan rose to power. Mayapan deliberately copied Chichen Itza's monumental buildings and experimented with a more representative form of government. Examine the architecture,…
Mesoamerican Religion
Delve into Mesoamerican religion, tracing the evolution of gods and religious practices from the Olmecs to the Maya and finally to the Aztecs, who are featured in the next section…
Aztec Origins - Arrival and Rise of the Mexica
How did a vagabond group of wanderers become the most powerful civilization in North America? Survey the history of the Aztecs, looking behind their idealized self-image to discover their likely…
The Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan
See the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan through the eyes of a visitor during the height of Aztec power, when the city's quality of life was unrivaled virtually anywhere in the…
Life in the Aztec World
Drawing on contemporary accounts by Spanish soldiers, priests, and literate Aztecs, enter the daily life of a typical Aztec, discovering the culture's social organization, marriage customs, public festivals, and shockingly…
How the Aztecs Expanded Their Empire
By the time of European contact, the Aztec empire was the most extensive in Mesoamerican history. Study the Aztecs' methodical approach to conquest and the structure of their empire, which…
Independent Tarascans - Desert Warriors
Second only to the Aztecs in the extent of their realm were the neighboring Tarascans. Compare their empire and culture to Aztec civilization, and sift through conflicting clues that point…
Paquime - Northernmost Mesoamerican City?
On the frontier between Mesoamerica and the American Southwest stands a mysterious ruin: Paquime, also called Casas Grandes. Was it connected with the Pueblo culture to the north, or with…
Illuminating Works of Aztec Art
Tour some of the masterpieces of Aztec art, including the Calendar Stone and Stone of Tizoc, which were likely platforms for human sacrifices. Then behold the terrifying Statue of Coatlicue,…
Tulum - Aztecs at the Ancient Maya Port City
Archaeologists call the last phase of pre-Columbian culture before the arrival of the Spanish the Late Post-Classic period. Get a snapshot of this waning era by visiting the ruins of…
First Contact with Europe in Mesoamerica
Review the events that brought an improbable expedition led by Christopher Columbus to the New World in search of Japan. Trace Columbus's later contact with Mesoamerica, and follow the arrival…
The Siege of Tenochtitlan
Cortes's defeat of the Aztec empire was one of the greatest military victories in history. Analyze how the enterprising conquistador managed this coup with just a few hundred Spanish troops,…
Conquest of the Maya and Landa's Legacy
Once the Aztecs were defeated, the Spanish turned their eyes to the rest of Mesoamerica. Follow the decades of military campaigns needed to subdue the Maya. This conquest included the…
The Fall of the Last Maya Kingdom - The Itza
Study the fortunes of the last independent Maya kingdom: the Itza. Isolated in the Peten rainforest between two Spanish-dominated areas, the Itza fiercely defended their domain for almost two centuries…
The Caste Wars of Yucatán
Trace the resistance of the Maya to foreign domination, culminating in the Caste Wars of Yucatan, which pitted native Maya people against the Mexican army and lasted for over half…
Echoes of the Past in Mexico
Explore the many areas where native culture still survives in modern Mexico. Focus on the Zapotec, Huichol, and Nahua peoples (descendants of the Aztecs). Learn that traditions which have survived…
Maya Survival and Revival
Despite centuries of assimilation and persecution, Maya culture still thrives. Investigate its survival in Guatemala, where 80 percent of the population is Maya, living largely in traditional ways. Dr. Barnhart…
Frontiers of Mesoamerican Archeology
Explore the current frontiers of Mesoamerican archaeology, looking ahead to the most promising avenues for future research. Many major cities are known but have yet to be excavated, and countless…

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