National Geographic - Dawn of the Maya

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Explore Mayan History with National Geographic: Dawn of the Maya

Jan 1, 2012
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Made me feel like I was along for an archeological dig in the Mayan ruins.

Cons:This documentary bounces around a bit.

The Bottom Line: Join a Mayan archeological exploration with National Geographic.

Buried under vegetation in the Guatemalan highlands, archeologists discover the remains of ancient Mayan temples.  National Geographic allows you to put on your Indiana Jones hat or Lara Croft green shirt and shorts and come along on the excavations of some of the most exciting and revealing finds of Mayan civilization.

Uncovering Mayan Ruins

The first part of the program brings us to two amazing Mayan ruins as archeologists explore them.  One of the amazing discoveries is the finding of a huge Mayan murals, the San Bartolo Mural,  that depicts the great Popol Vuh, or the Mayan creation myth of the Maize gods defeat by the Lords of the Underworld.  However, the Hero twins go to the underworld and survive many tests and free their father, who returns to the earth to start time.

One of the recently discovered Mayan pyramids in El Mirador is as large as those in Egypt. With National Geographic you get to visit Mayan ruins in Palenque, Cival and San Bartolo.

The archeologists also discover a history of Mayan Kings that would have lived over 1,000 years before any previously known about.   Where they just myth or where they real?  National Geographic brings you along to discover for yourself.

Diego Delanda & Dechipering the Mayan Language

Diego was a Spanish missionary who was responsible for the destruction of almost all Mayan books and religious iconography. Delando tried to spread Christianity to the Mayans, who at first liked the idea of Christianity.  To Delando's horror, he learned that the Mayans were especially fond of the bloody crucifixtion and sacrifice of Christ, and took to crucifying as a means of blood sacrfices themselves. Delando responded by doing his best to erradicate Mayan culture and religion.   Ironically, Delanda was also responsible for preserving some of the texts and dechiperments that have helped todays scholars interpret the Mayan heiroglyphs.  Delanda had ordered a Mayan to create a Mayan 'alphabet" book.  However, since the Mayan's language isn't analagous to the Roman alphabet or other alphabets that use symbols for each individual sound it wasn't readily understood.    National Geographic covers some of the discoveries about the Mayan Language, although this section wasn't as in depth as other specials focused on the Mayan language. (for more info on that, watch Cracking the Mayan Code)

Limestone Palaces

The show was quite interesting in that it even showed how the elaborate structures were given their preserving coat. It would have been made of limestone that would have had to have been crushed and then heated very hot to form the patina used to coat all the Mayan temples and buildings.  However, like today, it seems that the Mayans were using up the resources of the rain forest at a rate faster than was good for them.


I enjoyed this show. It gives a bit of an overview of the history of the Mayans from an archeological perspective. I felt as if I was along for the ride, exploring the ruins with them.  I gave it four stars.

Related Reviews:

Nova- Cracking the Mayan Code

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