Lesson 3: The Pride of Guatemala: Tikal of the Mayas

Over two thousand years ago Mayas undertook construction of a city deep within the jungles of the Petèn region of Guatemala. For over a thousand years the city of Tikal dominated the countryside and the region with its towering temples, affluent society, and hosts of scientists, engineers, and craftsmen. Host David Yetman accompanies archaeologists who explain the unfolding story of Tikal as new discoveries emerge a daily basis. Yetman visits new excavations within the temples and joins a festival at the home of Maya descendants who live not far away from the ancient site.

Learning Objective

Students will learn more about the history of Tikal, Guatemala and the political significance of its temples.

Social Studies Standards

Culture A, B, C

Discussion Prompts

  • Describe the historical significance of the temples in Tikal.
  • How was political power demonstrated through the design of the temple buildings? What does each temple represent?
  • In your opinion, why is Tikal referred to as the New York of the Mayan world?
  • What do you think it was like to live in Tikal two thousand years ago? Discuss from the perspective of an archaeologist, engineer and craftsman.

Lesson Activities

  • Imagine you are a historian presenting a TV special on Tikal. Prepare a speech or oral report that describes the temples including details such as the purpose of the inscriptions.
  • Research the time of Tikal dominance that took place approximately two thousand years ago and the ways the rulers or kings displayed power.
  • What role did archaeologists play in Tikal? If you were an archaeologist, describe what your job would involve and why your work was so important.
  • Research current life in Guatemala and create an informational report. Share what traditions and customs were preserved from Mayan descendants.


  • affluent
  • archaeologist
  • configuration
  • descendent
  • excavation
  • facade
  • inscription
  • itinerary
  • monument
  • temple