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History’s Mysteries

The Maya and Lost Legends

The Maya were one of the most prominent indigenous groups in Mesoamerica, stretching from southeastern Mexico all the way through what is now Guatemala, Belize, and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. What can their temples, stone carvings, and even recipes teach us about how they lived?

Much of what we know about early Maya civilization today comes through the architectural and artistic relics that have survived thousands of years. Today, we’re going to the Americas to understand one of the most powerful and influential ancient societies in the region.

what you’ll need

  • A computer, tablet, or mobile phone and access to the internet
  • Paper
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils



Ask About Today

If you were an ancient Maya (living 1,000 years ago), what do you think you would like most about your life? What do you think would be most challenging?

Dinner Discussion

Create Maya glyphs for the whole family over dinner: What would each person's look like? Talk about the details and how the glyph reflects pieces of each family member.

Skip the Ads

Unfortunately, online videos often start with short advertisements. Remind your campers to click the "Skip" button as soon as they can to move ahead to the video.


30-60 minutes

These videos and virtual tours will take you inside ancient Maya civilization.


Virtual Field Trip

Start with this video from Virtual Field Trips to learn about the many contributions Maya civilization made in art, astronomy, mathematics, and more.


Visit Chichen Itza

Next up, head on a self-paced 360 degree tour of some of the most important and impressive architectural relics of the Maya.


The Kohunlich Ruins

If you love virtual tours as much as we do, visit the Kohunlich Mayan Ruins next.

For younger explorers

Meet the Ancient Maya

Start with this animated BrainPOP video about the ancient Maya.

For younger explorers

All About the Maya

Next, head over to DK FindOut! to explore more.


15-45 minutes

The Maya kings often used art to help them commemorate (or remember) important events in their lives. Not a bad idea, right?


Write Your Own Memory Story

What is an important event in your life? Write and illustrate a story about that event that would help someone many years in the future to understand what happened.

For younger explorers

All About Glyphs

The Maya created a system of writing called "glyphs." The Maya writing system had about 700 different glyphs. Click on the link to learn about Maya glyphs. Then, pick your favorite glyph, recreate it on a piece of paper, and write a story about that glyph.


15-30 minutes

Did you know that what you eat now could help solve a mystery hundreds of years from now? (No? Neither did we.)


What's In a Tooth?

Find out how scientists used “isotopic analysis”—looking at the teeth enamel of skeletons—to solve an ancient mystery.


Corn and Cacao

If you’d rather read about food over crime, learn about the Maya’s extensive cuisine, where both corn and chocolate were staples.

For younger explorers

Bug Tacos?

Yes, please.


15-30 minutes

Let's do some Maya math.


Maya Math

The Maya developed a numerical system that allowed them to express very large numbers and perform complex calculations using only three symbols to represent numbers. In their system, a dot represents 1, a bar represents 5, and a shell represents 0. Here are the numbers from 0 to 19.

Ready for Maya math? Spend some time practicing your basic number skills—five practice rounds will teach you all the rules of Maya math. When you know the rules, move on to the math game.


30-60 minutes

Get ready for a workout, ancient Maya style.


Climb Kukulkan

The Maya built many temples, but the most famous one is the Temple of Kukulkan, or El Castillo, located in Chichen Itza. It has 365 total steps, which matches the number of days in a year. To find out how it would feel to climb to the very top of the Temple of Kukulkan, find some stairs and see if you can go up and down 365 times. (Don’t have stairs? Try 365 high knees instead!)

For younger explorers

Climb and Count

As you climb, try getting to 300 by counting out three chunks of 100 each. You’re almost there!

more to explore

15-30 minutes

Want more of the ancient Maya? Explore some more!


Exploring the Maya World

Visit the Maya world and explore some of their ancient artwork and more.