Lesson 804: Ancestors of the Ancient Mayas

David Yetman travels with researchers from University of Arizona to the city of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico where there are archaelogical ruins from the Maya civilization. We learn about Palenque’s natural resources and monuments and why it’s considered a national treasure and a tourist attraction. The team shares discoveries from archaeology digs that provide a wealth of information about Maya civilization.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the ancient Maya city of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico and the historical contributions of the Maya culture.

Social Studies Standards

Time, Continuity & Change: B, C, D

Discussion Prompts

  • If you visited Palenque, what would you be most interested in seeing and learning? Explain why. 
  • What are the recent technological advances explained in this video and how do they help to “revise history”? What are the benefits of these techniques in terms of time, efforts and environmental protection?
  • What can future generations learn from the way native people lived in harmony with nature and their interactions with the environment? How has our relationship with the environment changed in contemporary times?
  • What happened to the rainforest canopy and how does this affect the howler monkeys that live there? Think of a short-term and long-term solution to help the monkeys and rebuild the canopy other than the idea mentioned in the video.

Lesson Activities

  • The state of Chiapas has selected you as the tourist guide. Create a manual that highlights the monuments and natural resources of the ancient Maya city of Palenque. Showcase why it’s considered a national treasure.
  • You are hiring a new archaeologist for Palenque and have advertised internationally. You’d like to find out candidates’ schooling, skills, knowledge and make sure they are up to the physical challenges of the job. They must have an understanding of the Maya civilization and appreciation for their culture and contributions. Write five interview questions that will reveal this information then write responses from your ideal candidate.
  • Create a drawing, poem or story that includes at least five historical facts about Maya culture and contributions learned from the archaeological site in Palenque, Chiapas.
  • In a two-way Venn Diagram, compare Maya culture with current times. List at least five similarities and five differences of the social and political society to our current society.


  • charismatic
  • constructed
  • emblem
  • harmony
  • prehistoric
  • ritual
  • sarcophagus
  • sophisticated
  • throne
  • topographic


In the Americas Season 8 Lesson Episode 4