Segments in this Video

Introduction: Ancient Maya Metropolis (02:03)


Ancient Mayans developed a sophisticated civilization in a jungle environment, with pyramids, temples, and cities spanning across Mesoamerica. They were master astronomers, engineers and farmers. Archaeologists have questions about who ruled them and why they left their tropical urban expanse.

Ancient Maya and Descendants (03:19)

The Maya’s lived in southern Mexico and Central America, mostly in lowland tropical regions. Excavating since 1987, Archaeologist Francisco Estrada Belli has discovered that hundreds of thousands lived in the area. Descendants like Archaeologist Iyaxel Cojti Ren seek to discover more about their culture.

Technology Reveals Caracol (11:30)

Archaeologist Jaime Awe works with Jorge Can to preserve Mayan culture; working class homes remain largely undiscovered. Laser technology has revolutionized previously laborious mapping tasks, finding 7,000 household structures at Caracol and evidence of citizen prosperity.

Prosperity to Abandonment (05:07)

Caracol had access to goods, offering markets with temples at the center. Divine kings ruled all Mayan cities, but they formed alliances and trade agreements, creating a mostly peaceful existence. From 250 to 700 AD, populations peaked; by 900 AD, all southern areas had been abandoned.

Mayan Decline (12:06)

Decline started around 750 AD. Yok Balum cave speleothem studies reveal that extreme weather conditions created prolonged drought and led to social disruption in an increasingly corn dependent civilization. Divine rulers attempted to bring rains by increasing ritual activities and blood sacrifices.

Komkom Vase: Describing Mayan Conflict (11:44)

After 750 AD, war accelerated, contributing to social unrest. Discovered in 2015, the Komkom vase described 799 conflicts between Yaxha and Naranjo cities near the time of their abandonment. Ren reads and teaches its glyphs, hoping to revive the culture destroyed by Spanish conquerors.

Mayan Civilization (04:15)

Over 100 years, ancient inhabitants left southern cities. Caracol had a large middle class during its Classic Period, but at time of abandonment, its political system demanded much from citizens. Archaeologists believe the civilization moved to northern areas.

Credits: Ancient Maya Metropolis (01:11)

Credits: Ancient Maya Metropolis

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Ancient Maya Metropolis

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Around 800 CE, the ancient Maya abandoned the magnificent cities they had lived in for centuries. NOVA investigates new scientific evidence for droughts that pushed cities already stressed by overpopulation and warfare beyond their limits.

Length: 54 minutes

Item#: BVL276803

Copyright date: ©2022

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