Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed

Course No. 3100
Professor Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.
Maya Exploration Center
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Course No. 3100
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn about the three sites where the Olmec lived.
  • numbers Break the code for of the Maya's hieroglyphs, astronomy, and their infamous calendar.
  • numbers Explore the Toltec empire to determine if they were role models - or simply myths.
  • numbers Follow the Aztec empire as it expanded into a thriving nation.
  • numbers Learn about the Caste Wars, which lasted half a century - and continue to some extent even today.

Course Overview

Five hundred years ago, Spanish conquistadors searching for gold and new lands to settle stumbled on a group of independent city-states in Mesoamerica, a region extending for more than a thousand miles from the desert of northern Mexico to the rain forest of Central America. Sophisticated beyond the Spaniards’ wildest imaginings, these people were the Aztecs, the Maya, and related cultures that shared common traditions of religion, government, social organization, the arts, agriculture, engineering, and trade.

In many ways more advanced than European nations, these societies were the equal of the world’s greatest civilizations, with remarkable achievements including the following:

  • Cities: The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was more populous than any city in Europe and featured unprecedented public amenities, among them one of the largest public markets in the world.
  • Time-keeping: The Maya created a calendar that could record their history down to the day over spans of thousands of years—a feat achieved by few other early civilizations.
  • Foods: The most planted crop on Earth today, corn, was domesticated thousands of years ago in Mesoamerica, along with beans, squashes, chocolate, and other foods now consumed everywhere.
  • Writing: Writing was independently invented just five times in the history of the world—once by the Maya, whose elaborate writing system was only deciphered in the late 20th century.
  • Mathematics: Maya mathematics is so complex that we don’t yet know all it can do. The system is among the first ever to use zero, which is indispensible for practical and advanced calculations.

But the ancient Mesoamericans were also deeply mystifying. Their art was filled with strange images of serpents, birds, jaguars, and humans with fantastically adorned headdresses. Their cities were dominated by ceremonial pyramids, thousands of which were built throughout the region. Their most popular rituals included a bruising ball game played to propitiate the gods. And their most notorious practice was human sacrifice, performed frequently and sometimes with hundreds of victims slaughtered in a single ceremony.

Although the Spanish eventually conquered all of Mesoamerica, much remains of the original culture. Beautiful artifacts fill museums. Impressive ruins dot the landscape. And millions of descendants of ancient Mesoamericans still live in their ancestral homes, speaking native languages and practicing time-honored traditions. It’s no wonder that Mesoamerica is a must-see destination for travelers with an urge to step into an extraordinary past.

Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed immerses you in this epic story with 48 exhilarating half-hour lectures that cover the full scope of Mesoamerican history and culture. Your guide is Professor Edwin Barnhart, Director of the Maya Exploration Center and a noted archaeologist, explorer, and teacher, whose exploits include the discovery of a lost Maya city.

The countries from Mexico to Costa Rica include more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites related to the pre-Columbian period, plus scores of other ancient sites that are equally worth a visit. These lectures are the ideal way to plan an itinerary, prepare for a tour, or simply sit back and enjoy a thrilling virtual voyage. You will be surprised at the number of sites to explore—many more than you could possibly see in months of travel.

Experience a Golden Age of Discovery

Among his many distinctions, Dr. Barnhart was a student of the famous Maya scholar Linda Schele, who played a pivotal role in deciphering the Maya script and helped spur a new understanding of this preeminent Mesoamerican civilization. In Maya to Aztec, you hear how the keys to deciphering the Maya hieroglyphs, which had frustrated generations of code breakers, suddenly fell into place at a conference organized by Schele in 1973. Since then, the marvelous world of the Maya has been revealed in far more rich detail, shedding new light on their history, mythology, rituals, monuments, and arts.

These discoveries, plus the exciting revelations of current archaeological work throughout Mesoamerica, make today a golden age of studies in the field and the perfect time to immerse yourself in this entrancing subject.

Maya, Aztec, and More…

The course focuses in depth on two cultures: the Maya, who have been in Mesoamerica for thousands of years, and the Aztecs, who mysteriously appeared late and rose swiftly to power. The Aztecs fell from power just as precipitously; their empire controlled the region for less than a century, until the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s. You learn what these two groups shared and what made them so different. For example, why did the Aztecs use chocolate beans for money yet apparently had gold for the taking, while the Maya had little interest in the metal so coveted by Europeans? And why were the Aztecs so quickly defeated by the conquistadors, while the Maya resisted the invaders for generations? In addition, you will see how the contrasting histories of the Aztecs and Maya continue to have repercussions in modern-day Mexico and Guatemala, helping to explain the complex politics of that part of the world.

Furthermore, ancient Mesoamerica was a crossroads of many different cultures, and you also learn about these major civilizations:

  • Olmec: Famed for colossal stone heads, the Olmecs flourished more than 3,500 years ago and were one of Mesoamerica’s first complex societies. Study their beautiful and inscrutable art for clues about their way of life.
  • Zapotec: The Zapotecs established one of the earliest major cities in Mesoamerica, Monte Alban, located on a strategic mountaintop overlooking the spectacular Valley of Oaxaca. Take a tour of the well-preserved ruins at this fascinating site.
  • Mixtec: In 1932 an archaeologist at Monte Alban discovered a tomb as rich as an Egyptian pharaoh’s. But this was not a Zapotec grave; it belonged to a later people called the Mixtec. Learn about their culture and their powerful ruler called Eight Deer Jaguar Claw.
  • Toltec: Revered by the Aztecs and more recently the purported source of mystical teachings, the Toltecs are one of the great question marks of Mesoamerican history. Investigate what is actually known about this enigmatic culture.
  • Tarascan: A rival power to the Aztecs, the Tarascans have traits that connect them to the Inca in Peru. Discover that they are not the only Mesoamerican civilization with intriguing links to peoples far to the south and north.

Investigate the Controversies

Maya to Aztec is richly illustrated with Professor Barnhart’s own photos taken in the field, along with museum-grade images of artifacts, illustrations recreating ancient cities and temples, maps showing where to find different sites, and graphics that decode Mesoamerican writing and iconography.

Steeped in this subject for his entire professional career, Dr. Barnhart knows the arguments on all sides of the most important controversies, and he often has his own well-thought-out theories to contribute, making this course an exciting glimpse of exploration, theorizing, and discovery in action.

Among the mysteries and controversies you investigate are these:

  • The Maya calendar: The elaborate time-keeping inscriptions of the Maya have sparked many sensational interpretations, such as a purported end of world in 2012. Dr. Barnhart shows that the true meanings involved rebirth, a cyclical view of history, and major turning points in Maya civilization.
  • Human sacrifice: No subject so shocked outside observers, including the ruthless conquistadors, as human sacrifice. The key is to see this ritual in its broader religious context, which included auto-sacrifice—or self-mutilation—practiced by the ruling elite.
  • Ball game: American football has been around for 150 years, but the Mesoamerican ball game has been played for 3,500 years. Explore the debate over the social functions of this risky sport, which used a solid rubber ball weighing as much as nine pounds.
  • Maya collapse: Why would a civilization at the height of power systematically abandon its cities? Dr. Barnhart discusses the leading theories and then looks at evidence that the Maya obsession with cycles of time may have been the decisive factor.
  • Ancient observatory: The massive tower called El Caracol in the Maya city of Chichen Itza is thought to be an ancient astronomical observatory. But how was it used? Are the many celestial alignments connected with it intentional or accidental?

Professor Barnhart also spotlights the momentous encounter that transformed Mesoamerica forever. Near the end of the course, he describes the march of Hernán Cortés and his small army of Spanish troops from Veracruz to the Aztec capital at Tenochtitlan in 1519. There the Aztec ruler, Moctezuma II, welcomed the foreigners with gifts of gold. Heedless of the Aztecs’ vastly superior strength, Cortés waged war and in less than two years defeated the entire Aztec empire. Dr. Barnhart evaluates the conflicting historical accounts of this astonishing conquest, which had a profound impact on the New World and the Old.

One who was affected was the great German artist Albrecht Dürer. In 1520 he visited Brussels and saw an exhibit of Aztec artifacts sent to the Holy Roman Emperor by Cortés. “All the days of my life,” Dürer wrote in his diary, “I have seen nothing that rejoiced my heart so much as these things, for I saw amongst them wonderful works of art, and I marveled at the subtle ingenuity of men of foreign lands.”

With Maya to Aztec, you, too, will marvel at the accomplishments and genius of an exceptional group of civilizations, which were among the greatest the world has ever known.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    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 tour of important places, civilizations, and events in Mesoamerica. x
  • 2
    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 world history. Hear how they were discovered, and investigate three sites where they lived. x
  • 3
    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 carvings, and full-bearded figures depicting men who some think were foreigners from afar. x
  • 4
    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 those from Olmec culture, which raise the question of who influenced whom. x
  • 5
    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, rubber trees, and other products, the native vegetation has had a profound impact on global diet and culture. x
  • 6
    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 amazing religious carvings, and Kaminaljuyu, which heralded the dawn of the Classic Maya period. x
  • 7
    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 discovery and excavation of El Mirador, called the cradle of Maya civilization."" x
  • 8
    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 translation survives. Hear this magical story in captivating detail. x
  • 9
    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 and the role they played in the violent ritual life of the Classic Maya period. x
  • 10
    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 zero placeholder, and test your skills solving problems the way the Maya did. x
  • 11
    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 to their year zero and the special importance of the number 1,195,640. x
  • 12
    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 years. Hear about Tikal's tumultuous history and its dramatic rediscovery. x
  • 13
    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 the script and his own studies with pioneer code-breaker Linda Schele. x
  • 14
    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 with sunlight, creating tricks of light and shadows. Consider what these alignments may have signified. x
  • 15
    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 the timing of solar eclipses. Also turn to its pages on divination, which defied understanding until Dr. Barnhart contributed a key insight. x
  • 16
    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 Palenque, which during the 7th century AD excelled in architectural sophistication, hieroglyphic inscriptions, and astronomical knowledge. x
  • 17
    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 over. Discover how these relate to nature and the practices of other ancient civilizations. x
  • 18
    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 best-selling book, the latter depicts an ancient astronaut on a rocket ship, but Dr. Barnhart decodes its real meaning. x
  • 19
    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 helping to unearth tombs of the city's most notable rulers. x
  • 20
    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 its long history of warfare with its militant neighbors. x
  • 21
    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, and pleased the gods. Investigate where it was played, along with its rules and variations. x
  • 22
    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 see how today's Voladores flying" traditional dance originated centuries ago in this region." x
  • 23
    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 to war, drought, environmental damage, or volcanic eruption. Then hear Dr. Barnhart's solution to the puzzle. x
  • 24
    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 in government, religion, art, and architecture. Focus on the remarkable city of Uxmal. x
  • 25
    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 civilization, which dominated the Valley of Oaxaca for over a thousand years. x
  • 26
    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 along with many other impressive objects, including illustrated codices of their history and mythology. x
  • 27
    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 during the Terminal Classic period. Focus on two prominent cities of this culture: Cholula and El Tajin. x
  • 28
    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 murals, represents the influence of the vanished Teotihuacan and classic Maya cultures. x
  • 29
    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 headquartered at the modest town of Tula and spread influential ideas such as the legend of Quetzalcoatl. x
  • 30
    Chichen Itza: Maya Capital of the Yucatan
    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 do these connections imply about the history of Chichen Itza? Dr. Barnhart presents an intriguing theory. x
  • 31
    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, social structure, and daily life of this new regional capital. x
  • 32
    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 of the course. Learn the names, roles, and origins of the principal deities. x
  • 33
    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 beginnings and the secret of their political, economic, and military success. x
  • 34
    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 world. Modern Mexico City, which is built atop Tenochtitlan, preserves isolated ruins of this grandeur. x
  • 35
    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 commonplace rituals of human sacrifice. x
  • 36
    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 was more like Alexander the Great's than imperial Rome's. x
  • 37
    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 to the origin of the Tarascans, who considered themselves newcomers to Mesoamerica. x
  • 38
    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 the Aztecs and Tarascans to the south? Dr. Barnhart offers a fascinating hypothesis. x
  • 39
    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, and pore over the Codex Mendoza, which is a beautifully illustrated history of the Aztec nation. x
  • 40
    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 Tulum, a Maya seaport that hints at a final Aztec incursion into the region. x
  • 41
    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 of Spanish conquistadors, including Vasco Nunez de Balboa and Hernan Cortes. x
  • 42
    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, aided by native allies and a secret weapon that even he did not know he had: infectious diseases. x
  • 43
    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 wholesale destruction of Maya books and ritual objects by the Franciscan monk Diego de Landa. x
  • 44
    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 after the initial Spanish contact. Discover the stratagem that finally vanquished them in 1697. x
  • 45
    The Caste Wars of Yucatan
    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 a century, ending in the early 1900s. Although Mexico prevailed, the resistance continues to this day. x
  • 46
    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 for thousands of years are now threatened by technologies such as the internet and cable television. x
  • 47
    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 describes his own observations from extensive visits to the country. x
  • 48
    Frontiers of Mesoamerican Archaeology
    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 others are waiting to be discovered. Dr. Barnhart closes by discussing the top three projects on his wish list. x

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Your professor

Edwin Barnhart

About Your Professor

Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.
Maya Exploration Center
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...
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Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 132.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from well rounded I enjoy this instructor, and appreciate the opportunity to learn about the American continent. I have found his lectures well organized and easily followed. Generally, I watch most lectures while doing needlework, and looking up only when there's a graphic that helps to explains the context; however with this course I found myself looking at the screen fairly frequently. The maps and illustrations were necessary to fully appreciate the information given. Altogether an enjoyable course.
Date published: 2020-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The changing world of Mesoamerica In 2008, my family and I spent a day at Tulum, as a “side trip” during a Caribbean cruise. We were fascinated by the architecture and almost melted by the heat. I made a resolution at the time to find out more about the Mayan culture, and it took me until now to follow through by taking Prof. Barnhart’s course Maya to Aztec. I had enjoyed his course about ancient South America a few years ago, and I was not disappointed by this very in-depth survey of Mesoamerica. The course has 48 lectures, making it one of the longest I have ever taken. Forty of them cover the period before the arrival of Europeans, which allows the Prof to set the stage in detail about the various civilizations that rose and fell before “contact.” The final set of lectures will take you through the time of the Conquistadors down to the present. In the earlier lectures, I tried to remind myself of what was going on contemporaneously in European civilization: the time of Charlemagne, the building of the Gothic cathedrals, etc. The achievements of Mesoamericans in art and architecture are truly impressive. Things I learned 50 years ago in grade school Spanish about the Aztecs suddenly came into context. This is a course where the visual aspects are especially important. There are hundreds of photos, illustrations, captions, maps and charts to illuminate the lectures. Prof. Barnhart is an ideal companion on this historical journey, because of his decades of hands-on research and exploration. Some of the discoveries mentioned in the course are ones he made himself, but many of the others were made by his friends and colleagues. You really feel that you’re walking alongside a pro. My major quibble with this course is the lack of closed captioning. Since the course is dated 2015, it’s recent enough for captioning to have been standard procedure. The Prof also occasionally looks a bit disoriented by the director’s insistence that he walk back and forth across the set and “hit his mark.” And then there’s the big question: why does the clock at the desk always stay at 4:55?
Date published: 2020-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I binge watched the Dr. Barnhart's series in order: Exploring the Maya World, Ancient Civilizations of North America and then Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed. I used Andrew Coe's Book Archaeological Mexico: A Traveler's Guide to Ancient Cities and Sacred Sites as a supplemental text. First I highly recommend the video format as there are terrific timelines, maps, graphics, photos that greatly enhance the presentation. I enjoyed watching his series. There is something to be said about becoming familiar with a professor's style of presentation. I thought it was refreshing to hear the perspectives of a journeyman field archeologist from Texas rather than someone who rarely leaves their library or classroom. It sounds like he has done it all, which makes his synthesis seem informed and believable. In some sections of the course he offered a disclaimer that there are several perspectives (sometimes ethnographies) and he would offer the base of his conclusions about these and then summarize 'the story'. This was particularly important expressing the tragic impact of the Spanish first contact with the Aztec and later the Itza. The series is expansive with 48 thirty minute lectures. There are a lot of names that have silent X's and are impossible (for me) to quickly learn and remember. But Professor Barnhart did a good job of emphasizing the principles and connections of people groups, calendars, architecture, pottery, astronomy and trade. So in the end I feel satisfied with a broad and deep understanding. I've read much of Jared Diamond's books and feel that Dr. Barnhart gave a much deeper exploration of why Maya ceremonial cities were abandoned, considering overpopulation, change in local weather, variations in climate and their cyclic view of religion and world history related to 400 year Bak'tuns. There is so much to say. But I'll end by saying that if you watch this series you will be astounded by the breath, depth and duration of North and Meso American civilizations. You will be surprised how the Maya ( and Olmec, Zapotec, and Teotihuacan neighbors) compare favorably in their knowledge of the world, astronomy, architecture and culture with other cultural hearths in the middle east and Asia. As our closest and largest neighbor, I have much more respect for Mexican - Central American history now. In the end one can only wish that the Spanish delayed their contact for another 500 years and the evolved Maya derivative still existed. The world would be richer.
Date published: 2020-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great for Maya-philes My husband and I have traveled extensively in the Yucatan, and have always been interested in Maya civilization. Then covid struck. What to do? Learn more about the Maya, of course. This course filled the bill. We at first were befuddled about Ed's sartorial splendor (one reviewer found this to be a drawback, but we enjoyed it) .... we wound up betting on what color shirt he would wear in the next lecture....the pumpkin one was our favorite. I should say that for this course, Edwin dressed more "formally" with jacket. In another course of his, Ancient Civilizations of North America, he dons more casual attire. Think Indiana Jones ... Harrison Ford is the "actor" version, but this guy is the REAL Indiana Jones. We hated to see the last of the 40-plus lectures end. So we bought another of his courses, "Ancient Civilizations of North America," AND Edwin's "Maya Travelogue." Both became the highlight of our evening TV.
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Maya to Aztec: Ancient Mesoamerica Revealed I have had the good fortune to visit 3 Mayan Ruins. The information learned was just enough to want to learn more. This course was fantastic! It covered so much! I had no idea about the time span and the extent and number of city-states there were. I am 80 years old, and will probably not get to see more ruins. I was happy to have some of them well covered in these lectures.
Date published: 2020-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect Balance between fact, fun, and speculation Professor Barnhart is able to transmit a vast diverse knowledge, in context. He is able to humorously, with a straight face, give us a feel about what the time must have been like Very interestingly, he is happy to go "off script" about the existing knowledge, and surmise what may be proven in the future, but remains careful to point out if it is not yet proven fact. Loved watching.
Date published: 2020-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great resource for writers! I write alternative history novels set in the 11th century. My third novel takes place in the northern Yucatan Peninsula. Dr. Barnhart's course is/was invaluable in getting my facts/descriptions correct of life in that area/time. And this course was entertaining!
Date published: 2020-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Is Fun While I think that Americans in general would enjoy this course, I think that those interested in the classics of Greece and Rome would be particularly interested in this course due to the contrasts. As the title suggests, this is about the civilizations of the Maya and the Aztec in Mexico and Central America. The insights are profound and surprising. In particular, unlike the classics of Greece and Rome, this is a rapidly changing field with new developments constantly popping up. I particularly enjoyed the astronomical aspects of archeology. Dr. Barnhart is clearly knowledgeable in his field and quite excited by it. This excitement carries over to the lectures. He’s fun to listen to. I used the audio version and I think that was a mistake. I think that the video would add significantly to the presentations.
Date published: 2020-08-11
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