Remains of a Thriving Civilization

Remains of a Thriving Civilization

The ancient Maya city called Xocnacah [Shoke-nuh-kay] was a massive city with a central platform structure that rose 91 meters (30 feet high) and held thousands of people in an area the size of four football fields.


5 - 12+


Anthropology, Biology, Earth Science, Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography, Social Studies, World History

The classic Maya period of civilization in Central America–living in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and its surrounding regions, including Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala–lasted until about 900 C.E. The Maya themselves, however, still inhabit many of the same regions as their ancient ancestors. Scholars have thought for more than 100 years that Maya culture originated in the northern reaches of what is now Guatemala around 600 B.C.E., migrating north to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico beginning around 700 C.E. Throughout the film Quest for the Lost Maya, a team of anthropologists finds evidence that the Maya have been in the Yucatan more than a thousand years longer than believed.

This segment of Quest for the Lost Maya discusses Xocnacah [SHOHK-nuh-kay], a massive, ancient Mayan city. The construction of the city's center plaza would have required enormous human effort, including the work of architects, mathematicians, engineers, masons, and accountants, overseen by kings and their appointed leaders. Such a labor force suggests that a very well-organized, highly sophisticated Mayan civilization inhabited the Yucatan as early as 600 B.C.E.

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Hannah Herrero
National Geographic Society
Anne Haywood, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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