Exploring the Mayan World

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too superficial I was somewhat reluctant to purchase "Exploring the Mayan World" because it consists of only eight lectures, but I've always been intrigued by the Mayans, so I ordered it. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that eight lectures do not provide enough time to do justice to the subject. Moreover, the lectures are too breezy and superficial. I was expecting something more scholarly. The host himself is a huge distraction. He spends way too much time in restaurants, bars, and hat factories, and not enough time with the Mayan world. In fact, the entire series of lectures reminds me of one of those phony reality shows that are so prevalent on television these days. In retrospect, I suppose too many National Geographic specials narrated by hosts like the late David Attenborough have spoiled me. Still, this set of lectures by Professor Barnhart is not totally without merit. For one thing, the photography is excellent. For another thing, he filmed everything on location in Yucatan instead of inside a studio, which is a big plus for "travel" videos. Nevertheless, this particular course needs a lot of improvement before it becomes a great course.
Date published: 2020-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful experience Excellent course. I have also watched Dr. Barnhart's more academic courses; this course was a nice supplement. It was interesting because he visited and spoke with modern day Maya people. It gave the viewer a good idea of where to visit in the Yucatan to not only see ancient ruins, but the culture and Maya people too.
Date published: 2020-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging! I felt I was there with Dr. Barnhart! In these times when travel is limited, I felt as though I had been transported to magical places. I highly recommend this series.
Date published: 2020-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mayan World Although the course was informative, I think too much time was dedicated to the culinary arts and local artisans. I was expecting more on the actual Mayan culture. I have been to Yucatan and have visited several archeological sites like Tulum, Chachoben, Altun Ha, and others. I have also visited Teotihuacan in Mexico. The presentation was worth watching, but I must say, I was a little disappointed.
Date published: 2020-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this format We have visited Mayan towns with our 11 year old son and wanted a course to expand on what we saw. I prefer this format to the standard format and hope they make more in this engaging style.
Date published: 2020-09-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I found this course disappointing. I enjoyed "lost worlds of SA" and "Maya to Aztec" and was expecting more than a travelogue. As one example, Dr. B has a great deal of knowledge in the area and could have expounded on David Freidel and Linda Schele's book on the Maya Cosmos with regard to the rituals being performed. Also, you have my email, why are you being so picky about my nickname.
Date published: 2020-09-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not what I expected I expected an updated discourse on Mayan culture. This was more of a modern travelogue of cities where some Mayan people live. It is my fault for not previewing the course, but his others were so good that I assumed. Never assume.
Date published: 2020-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and informative! Both my husband and I have found all Dr. Barnhart's courses informative but particularly enjoyed this one for its blend of the ancient and modern, culture and cuisine, history and things to see and do in the Yucatan. Dr. Barnhart's enthusiasm is contagious and we found ourselves wishing we could be on tour with him to visit these awesome sites and meet today's Mayan people. Our only complaint? The course was too short and ended too soon! We would love to "travel" with him on similar cultural/historic tours of other regions in Mexico and South America.
Date published: 2020-09-19
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Exploring the Mayan World
Course Trailer
1: Mérida

Start your adventures in the Maya world with a trip to Mérida: the capital of Yucatán and the cultural capital of the entire peninsula. You’ll visit a factory in a run-down hacienda where they’re reviving the industry that made the Yucatán so rich more than 100 years ago; explore the mega-mansions lining Merida’s Paseo de Mont; and go shopping for the perfect hammock and guayabera shirt.

27 min
Chichén Itzá
2: Chichén Itzá

First, travel to Izamal, the “yellow city” named after the Maya sky god. Here, you’ll tour the city’s rich history—including a hike up a pyramid as high as a 10-story building and a walk through the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua, designed as a Christian teaching tool for the Maya. Then, venture on to Chichén Itzá, where you’ll get up close and personal with magnificent achievements of Maya architecture, including an observatory, a ceremonial ball court, and a sacred cenote.

26 min
Ek’ Balam
3: Ek’ Balam

Join Dr. Barnhart for a trip to two of his favorite places in the Yucatán: Valladolid and Ek’ Balam. The first is a city established on the foundations of a Maya city called Zací and offers travelers a chance to see a traditional agave distillery and an all-female troop of competitive horseback riders. The second is the well-preserved ruins of what was once a Maya capital, and it’s where you’ll witness fantastic stucco facades and reenactors demonstrating musical instruments and the Maya ball game.

27 min
4: Tihosuco

More fun in the Maya world awaits in this fascinating episode where you’ll accompany Dr. Barnhart as he writes his name in Maya hieroglyphs, talks to howler monkeys, plunges into a geological cathedral, and more. It’s all part of his journey to Tihosuco, home to perhaps the largest episode in world history of an oppressed people fighting for their independence. Sites you’ll visit include the Cenote Suytun, Punta Laguna National Park, the Caste War Museum, and the Iglesia de Santo Niño Jesus.

25 min
5: Mayapán

Around 1250, Mayapán replaced Chichén Itzá as the new capital of the Yucatán—and one founded on a league of representational government. In this episode, you’ll get a chance to explore the rich history and culture of the site and its surrounding region. Learn about the infamous destruction of sacred Maya codices during public acts of faith held by the Spanish friar Diego de Landa, sample delicious dishes of grilled pork and ground pumpkin seeds, and spend some time looking over the shoulder of a ceramic artist working to keep Maya artistic traditions alive in the 21st century through reproductions of ancient pottery.

24 min
6: Uxmal

Discover what makes Uxmal such a marvel of Maya urban planning. Dr. Barnhart walks you through archaeological features, including the Pyramid of the Dwarf, the Palace of the Governors, and the Nunnery Quadrangle. Plus, spend some time exploring the Loltún Caves: a site that was once used for religious meditation and rituals, and where you’ll find handprints dating back 10,000 years. Cap off your adventure with a sampling of hot chocolate—made the traditional Maya way.

27 min
7: Celestún

Your first stop in this episode is Kabáh, the second-largest ruin featuring the Puuc architectural style, where you’ll find over 200 faces of Chaac the rain god and a rare example of literate public art. Next, visit Bécal, famous for producing some of the best jipijapas (or, as tourists call them, panama hats) in the Yucatán. Finally, take a trip to the Celestún biosphere, a wetland reserve spanning some 150,000 acres that’s famous for the thousands of flamingos that flock there.

25 min
8: Labná

Labná, the last of the ancient sites you’ll hit on this trip, is an architectural wonder crowned by the three buildings everyone comes here to see: the Palacio, the El Mirador pyramid, and the Labná Arch. After decoding the cultural messages in these famous works, travel back to Mérida, where your journey began. Here, you’ll follow Dr. Barnhart through the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, watch him sample modern takes on traditional Maya cuisine at a boutique hotel and spa, and catch an evening revival of a Maya ball game in Mérida’s central square.

24 min
Edwin Barnhart

In my own experience as an explorer, it's almost always the case that the locals knew where lost places were all along. The discoverer is just the first person to ask the right questions.


University of Texas, Austin


Maya Exploration Center

About Edwin Barnhart

Dr. Edwin Barnhart is director of the Maya Exploration Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and has over 20 years of experience in North, Central, and South America as an archaeologist, explorer, and instructor. In 1994, Professor Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Maax Na (Spider-Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya period in northwestern Belize. In 1998 he was invited by the Mexican government to direct the Palenque Mapping Project, a three-year effort to survey and map the unknown sections of Palenque's ruins. The resultant map has been celebrated as one of the most detailed and accurate ever made of a Maya ruin. In 2003, he became the director of Maya Exploration Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization. The center leads study-abroad courses for college students and tours for the general public in the ruins of the ancient Americas, among its other research and educational activities. Professor Barnhart has taught archaeology and anthropology at Southwest Texas State University, and currently teaches University of Texas travel courses for college professors on ancient Andean and Mesoamerican astronomy, mathematics, and culture. Over the last 10 years, he has appeared multiple times on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and Japanese NHK Public Television. He has published over a dozen papers and given presentations at eight international conferences.

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