Exploring the Mayan World

Pack your virtual bag and immerse yourself in the astounding past-and present-of the Mayan world.
Exploring the Mayan World is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 79.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting and well done This was my first class of The Great Courses. I enjoyed it very much especially because my daughter-in-law is from Merida and I've never been there. I think Edwin was a very good narrator, and very knowledgeable about the Mayan Culture and the Yucatan. If there was anything I would add to the class it would have been some discussion about the how the Mayan were actually able to build the structures. That is why I gave it a four. It was well done in terms of the video quality. I really liked it!
Date published: 2021-01-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from EDWIN or ETWIN ? In Episode 4, the professor wrote his first name in Mayan. He showed it as ETWIN. But the prof's first name is actually Edwin. Why the ETWIN when it is written in Mayan? Yes, it is true that those looking for academic contents, this course was not designed for you.
Date published: 2021-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatest Presenter & Fun We have watched 3 other courses by Dr. Barnhart, and this will be the fourth. He is one of the best presenters, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about his material. He has a love for the mayan culture and people, which he communicates well to the viewer.
Date published: 2020-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fun Travel Show with our Favorite Professor! This travel show with Dr. Barnhart was such a great idea! After watching a significant portion of his lectures on the native cultures of North, Central, and South America, getting to see Barhart out in the field doing interviews and demonstrations was just what we needed for context and a great supplement to what we learned in his lecture series. We want to see Great Courses make more shows like this, if the lecturers are up for it!
Date published: 2020-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from World of the Maya This course is a great travel adventure that takes you into both the modern and ancient world of the Maya Peoples. I would highly recommend these lectures to anyone interested in Mesoamerican history and culture.
Date published: 2020-12-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from If you like travel logs... This could be interesting for anyone who likes video travel logs. If found it a tad to superficial for my tastes. I found Dr. Barnhart's other courses to be excellent, so I guess I was expecting this one to be more like his previous offerings. This course was mildly interesting to me, but there was a lot of time spent on arts and crafts, eating in restaurants, swimming in cenotes, and cursory looks at some culture of the modern Yucatan. There are some very nice, but brief tours of Mayan archeological sites, and sidebars into Mayan history. Ti o me, it comes across as a disjointed collage of factoids interspersed with some brief visits to classical Mayan ruins. I admit, I look for more of an academic approach to Great Courses offerings, but this particular video may appeal to anyone who really likes cursory travel logs. So keep that in mind as I make a recommendation with caveats.
Date published: 2020-11-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A bit hokey but worth buying My first (of many) Great Courses was one of Dr Barnhart's lecture series. The scholarly and in depth coverage of the Mayan history hooked me on the format. This series is more of a Rick Steves imitation of exploring the Yucatan. Superficial visits to interesting ruins and cities with Dr Barnhart eating, diving, trying on hats, blowing on a conch shell, and conducting interviews with friends and colleagues. If you enjoy the Maya this short course is ok but do not expect college level scholarship.
Date published: 2020-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful History Through Fun Travel My high school-level homeschoolers and I love Professor Edwin Barnhart's approach. His knowledge of his subject matter is deep and his enthusiasm is infectious. We loved getting to "visit" so many fascinating Mayan sites and were inspired by the present-day Mayan people he profiled. This course is a great vehicle for history without feeling heavy-handed.
Date published: 2020-10-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too superficial I was somewhat reluctant to purchase "Exploring the Mayan World" because it consists of only eight lectures, but I've always been intrigued by the Mayans, so I ordered it. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that eight lectures do not provide enough time to do justice to the subject. Moreover, the lectures are too breezy and superficial. I was expecting something more scholarly. The host himself is a huge distraction. He spends way too much time in restaurants, bars, and hat factories, and not enough time with the Mayan world. In fact, the entire series of lectures reminds me of one of those phony reality shows that are so prevalent on television these days. In retrospect, I suppose too many National Geographic specials narrated by hosts like the late David Attenborough have spoiled me. Still, this set of lectures by Professor Barnhart is not totally without merit. For one thing, the photography is excellent. For another thing, he filmed everything on location in Yucatan instead of inside a studio, which is a big plus for "travel" videos. Nevertheless, this particular course needs a lot of improvement before it becomes a great course.
Date published: 2020-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful experience Excellent course. I have also watched Dr. Barnhart's more academic courses; this course was a nice supplement. It was interesting because he visited and spoke with modern day Maya people. It gave the viewer a good idea of where to visit in the Yucatan to not only see ancient ruins, but the culture and Maya people too.
Date published: 2020-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging! I felt I was there with Dr. Barnhart! In these times when travel is limited, I felt as though I had been transported to magical places. I highly recommend this series.
Date published: 2020-10-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mayan World Although the course was informative, I think too much time was dedicated to the culinary arts and local artisans. I was expecting more on the actual Mayan culture. I have been to Yucatan and have visited several archeological sites like Tulum, Chachoben, Altun Ha, and others. I have also visited Teotihuacan in Mexico. The presentation was worth watching, but I must say, I was a little disappointed.
Date published: 2020-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this format We have visited Mayan towns with our 11 year old son and wanted a course to expand on what we saw. I prefer this format to the standard format and hope they make more in this engaging style.
Date published: 2020-09-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I found this course disappointing. I enjoyed "lost worlds of SA" and "Maya to Aztec" and was expecting more than a travelogue. As one example, Dr. B has a great deal of knowledge in the area and could have expounded on David Freidel and Linda Schele's book on the Maya Cosmos with regard to the rituals being performed. Also, you have my email, why are you being so picky about my nickname.
Date published: 2020-09-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not what I expected I expected an updated discourse on Mayan culture. This was more of a modern travelogue of cities where some Mayan people live. It is my fault for not previewing the course, but his others were so good that I assumed. Never assume.
Date published: 2020-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and informative! Both my husband and I have found all Dr. Barnhart's courses informative but particularly enjoyed this one for its blend of the ancient and modern, culture and cuisine, history and things to see and do in the Yucatan. Dr. Barnhart's enthusiasm is contagious and we found ourselves wishing we could be on tour with him to visit these awesome sites and meet today's Mayan people. Our only complaint? The course was too short and ended too soon! We would love to "travel" with him on similar cultural/historic tours of other regions in Mexico and South America.
Date published: 2020-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Introduction to the Region This course piqued my curiosity since I’ve been privileged to visit this part of Mexico a few times. As many have noted, Professor Barnhart is a knowledgeable and engaging guide and presenter. His respect for the Maya, their culture and civilization is evident throughout. I especially enjoyed seeing the archaeological sites through his eyes and those of his archaeologist guests. The drone views of those sites and the cityscapes were an excellent way to portray their grandeur. However, in my opinion too much time was taken up with topics that while interesting, could have been well-covered in less depth e.g. the visit to the sisal hacienda and guayabera-shopping. A visit to one cenote would be sufficient, as would one look at the Maya ball game. This would provide time to look at bit more closely at Merida and the towns that were mentioned in an attempt to give the viewer a somewhat better understanding of the daily lives of a cross-section of Maya and others in the region today. I thought that too much time was taken up with the recaps as well. Nonetheless I would recommend this course to those who are contemplating a trip to the Yucatan since it gives an idea of the diversity of activities for visitors to the area. I believe that those who have an interest in archaeology and ancient civilizations, especially of the Americas, would likely enjoy it as well.
Date published: 2020-09-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not much Mayan In Exploring the Mayan World I expected to learn about Mayan History and Civilization. It was more of a travelogue on the Yucatan and its Hispanic culture. Maybe my fault for having higher expectations
Date published: 2020-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Travelogue We enjoyed this so much, we are planning a trip to the Yucatan to visit many of the places covered in this course!
Date published: 2020-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Prep for a visit We thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Barnhart's down to earth talking and approach to the subject. Learned a lot about the area and now want to visit. We are fans of his having really enjoyed his "Ancient Civilizations of North America" course. His respect and admiration for the Indigenous Peoples of America shows in both courses. Myrna and Jim PEI, Canada
Date published: 2020-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Travelogue of Yucatan and the Mayans I watched this via Great Courses Plus streaming on my smart TV. Fantastic! I really enjoyed this short introduction to the Mayan culture on the Yucatan peninsula. The Professor was NOT boring and was a lot of fun in addition to being very knowledgeable. Viewers should keep in mind that this is NOT an in depth study of the Mayan people, culture, beliefs or society. For that you want to watch his other, longer courses! This would be a great presentation for anyone about to travel to Yucatan with plans to visit the Mayan sites. TGC has done a high quality production with a lot of great onsite video and graphics. Big improvement in production quality from many years prior. My curiosity is now stimulated and I plan to view some of the Professor's longer and more comprehensive courses on MesoAmerican and Incan societies.
Date published: 2020-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Travelogue and History of the Yucatan Maya This short series combined travels through the northern Yucatan with the history of the ancient Maya, in a style similar to a Rick Steve's European trips. Dr Barnhart takes you on a fun and educational trip combining the history and architecture of the ancient Maya, the colonial period, and the modern Maya that are keeping their traditions alive. For more lectures by Dr Barnhart about the Maya, Aztecs, and Incas I highly recommend his 2 series on Ancient Mesoamerica, and South America civilizations.
Date published: 2020-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life is a journey…enjoy the ride! While Dr. Ed Barnhardt is a highly accomplished scholar, he is also a delightful and entertaining person. This course was my third course with Ed via Great Courses, and I emerged from it with a vast and comprehensive understanding of the gracious Mayan people, their customs, food, and country…in addition to the “travelogue format” of this course “transported” me to fascinating towns, cenotes, and archeological wonders as if it was a foreign tour Simply put, it was a charming online tour with a master teacher! It goes without saying that Ed is a “walking encyclopedia of Mayan history!” Like a hospitable tour guide, he takes you on a journey to many different towns in the Northern Yucatan and introduces you to his numerous and diverse friends. This course shares the warm and welcoming personality that is Dr. Barnhardt. Sure, he’s one of the world’s experts on the Mayans, but he is also, fun-loving, adventurous, charming, and very funny…the kind of the person with whom we’d all like to visit the Yucatan. A great travel-mate! The filming of this course was spectacular, panoramic, and, yet, very personable. His camera crew takes you underwater, high above the jungle floor by drone, and into his one-on-one conversations with lovable, beautiful folks throughout the countryside. I fell in love with the country and its people! Dr. Barnhardt is just the kind of person with whom you’d love to sit in a Mexican bar with and sip that incredible tequila. Bright, witty, and charming. Looking for a dry boring classroom lecture? This would not be your course! However, if you love to learn “on the go” with a “tour guide” who is brilliant, fun, and adventurous, this is one course you must take! I give it the highest of recommendations! Life is a journey…enjoy the ride!
Date published: 2020-09-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from background music annoying I would like to hear the commentary, but not the music. The music only distracts from the presentation.
Date published: 2020-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course! The Yucatan is a special place and Dr. Edwin Barnhart conveys its uniqueness in this excellent course/travelogue. While he visits most of the main Maya sites, he also includes local cultural stops to visit with some of his favorite people, restaurants, and shops. He also presents an excellent overview of modern-day Maya within an historical context. This course will whet your appetite to visit the Yucatan or to book another trip. My husband and I have visited the Yucatan many times over the years, both for work and as tourists, and are likely to visit again. The only drawback of this course is that the producers didn’t design it to be longer so we could have visited other sites, such as Coba and Dzibilchaltun. There is so much to see and, with his expertise and knowledge, Dr. Barnhart gives us a representative glimpse of the wonderful Maya people and their beautiful land. I recommend this course highly and hope the Great Courses will offer future travels throughout Mayaland with Dr. Barnhart.
Date published: 2020-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved Exploring the Mayan World with Ed Barnhart! Really enjoyed the new travel format - lots of fun and very entertaining. Ed is a wonderful host - very knowledgeable about Mayan history and culture. You can see how much he loves the Maya people today! I hope there will be another series of episodes with Ed traveling in the Maya lands!
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good travelogue places were interesting. Very beautiful gave me a sense of the power of the Mayan people and land
Date published: 2020-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Seems Like a Tour Led By a Friend This course is an enjoyable travelogue, but more than that, too. If you are intending to visit the Yucatan, you will be prepared to get more out of both the famous and less well-known Mayan sites there. If you are primarily focussed on understanding Mayan history, this new Great Course builds nicely on another of Dr. Edwin Barnhart’s Great Courses (#3100 © 2015) by revealing how the present-day descendant community has proudly kept alive cultural elements and detailed background stories from the past. I wish I could gain insights like these to augment my studies of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Dr. Barnhart guides the tour with a light and personal touch. He obviously respects and admires the Maya, and a number of the locals who appear in the eight episodes of this series are his long-time friends. One can appreciate both the professor’s knowledge and his individuality. Whether he is explaining archeologists’ techniques, choosing Mayan clothing to buy, or enjoying a traditional meal, he seems to share both scholarly and private enthusiasms. Visits are paid to sites where retrospective manufacturing and artisan crafts are impressive. Creative cinematography and beautiful music are additional admirable elements of the course, which I am pleased to recommend. My only criticism is that no guidebook was provided. Even with a short course, a guidebook enables me quickly to locate parts of the video I wish to review, generally lists supplementary readings, and helps me learn new terminology.
Date published: 2020-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview by Ed Barnhart We viewed this through Great Courses Plus. The content was great--Dr. Barnhart provided an informative overview of Mayan culture and artifacts and the photography was excellent. This virtual course reminded us of the personal travel adventures we have enjoyed with Dr. Barnhart--they were great learning experiences. However, the streaming was not consistent. We have started having problems with Great Courses streaming and hope that the problems are corrected soon.
Date published: 2020-08-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing course approach I was totally absorbed by Dr Barnhart’s previous Great Courses, which included trips to archeologic sites and not sure what to expect from this course. It is not the typical academic courses; rather an educational trip with an enthusiastic docent to meet the people and learn their history. In the time of limited ability to travel, it was a great trip.
Date published: 2020-08-23
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Overview

Join a practicing archaeologist for a spirited virtual tour of the past, present, and future of Maya civilization in the northern Yucatan.

About

Edwin Barnhart
Edwin Barnhart

In my own experience as an explorer, it's almost always the case that the locals knew where lost places were all along. The discoverer is just the first person to ask the right questions.

INSTITUTION

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 Mexican government to direct the Palenque Mapping Project, a three-year effort to survey and map the unknown sections of Palenque's ruins. The resultant map has been celebrated as one of the most detailed and accurate ever made of a Maya ruin. In 2003, he became the director of Maya Exploration Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization. The center leads study-abroad courses for college students and tours for the general public in the ruins of the ancient Americas, among its other research and educational activities. Professor Barnhart has taught archaeology and anthropology at Southwest Texas State University, and currently teaches University of Texas travel courses for college professors on ancient Andean and Mesoamerican astronomy, mathematics, and culture. Over the last 10 years, he has appeared multiple times on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and Japanese NHK Public Television. He has published over a dozen papers and given presentations at eight international conferences.

By This Expert

Exploring the Mayan World

Trailer

Mérida

01: Mérida

Start your adventures in the Maya world with a trip to Mérida: the capital of Yucatán and the cultural capital of the entire peninsula. You’ll visit a factory in a run-down hacienda where they’re reviving the industry that made the Yucatán so rich more than 100 years ago; explore the mega-mansions lining Merida’s Paseo de Mont; and go shopping for the perfect hammock and guayabera shirt.

27 min
Chichén Itzá

02: Chichén Itzá

First, travel to Izamal, the “yellow city” named after the Maya sky god. Here, you’ll tour the city’s rich history—including a hike up a pyramid as high as a 10-story building and a walk through the Convent of St. Anthony of Padua, designed as a Christian teaching tool for the Maya. Then, venture on to Chichén Itzá, where you’ll get up close and personal with magnificent achievements of Maya architecture, including an observatory, a ceremonial ball court, and a sacred cenote.

26 min
Ek’ Balam

03: Ek’ Balam

Join Dr. Barnhart for a trip to two of his favorite places in the Yucatán: Valladolid and Ek’ Balam. The first is a city established on the foundations of a Maya city called Zací and offers travelers a chance to see a traditional agave distillery and an all-female troop of competitive horseback riders. The second is the well-preserved ruins of what was once a Maya capital, and it’s where you’ll witness fantastic stucco facades and reenactors demonstrating musical instruments and the Maya ball game.

27 min
Tihosuco

04: Tihosuco

More fun in the Maya world awaits in this fascinating episode where you’ll accompany Dr. Barnhart as he writes his name in Maya hieroglyphs, talks to howler monkeys, plunges into a geological cathedral, and more. It’s all part of his journey to Tihosuco, home to perhaps the largest episode in world history of an oppressed people fighting for their independence. Sites you’ll visit include the Cenote Suytun, Punta Laguna National Park, the Caste War Museum, and the Iglesia de Santo Niño Jesus.

25 min
Mayapán

05: Mayapán

Around 1250, Mayapán replaced Chichén Itzá as the new capital of the Yucatán—and one founded on a league of representational government. In this episode, you’ll get a chance to explore the rich history and culture of the site and its surrounding region. Learn about the infamous destruction of sacred Maya codices during public acts of faith held by the Spanish friar Diego de Landa, sample delicious dishes of grilled pork and ground pumpkin seeds, and spend some time looking over the shoulder of a ceramic artist working to keep Maya artistic traditions alive in the 21st century through reproductions of ancient pottery.

24 min
Uxmal

06: Uxmal

Discover what makes Uxmal such a marvel of Maya urban planning. Dr. Barnhart walks you through archaeological features, including the Pyramid of the Dwarf, the Palace of the Governors, and the Nunnery Quadrangle. Plus, spend some time exploring the Loltún Caves: a site that was once used for religious meditation and rituals, and where you’ll find handprints dating back 10,000 years. Cap off your adventure with a sampling of hot chocolate—made the traditional Maya way.

27 min
Celestún

07: Celestún

Your first stop in this episode is Kabáh, the second-largest ruin featuring the Puuc architectural style, where you’ll find over 200 faces of Chaac the rain god and a rare example of literate public art. Next, visit Bécal, famous for producing some of the best jipijapas (or, as tourists call them, panama hats) in the Yucatán. Finally, take a trip to the Celestún biosphere, a wetland reserve spanning some 150,000 acres that’s famous for the thousands of flamingos that flock there.

25 min
Labná

08: Labná

Labná, the last of the ancient sites you’ll hit on this trip, is an architectural wonder crowned by the three buildings everyone comes here to see: the Palacio, the El Mirador pyramid, and the Labná Arch. After decoding the cultural messages in these famous works, travel back to Mérida, where your journey began. Here, you’ll follow Dr. Barnhart through the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, watch him sample modern takes on traditional Maya cuisine at a boutique hotel and spa, and catch an evening revival of a Maya ball game in Mérida’s central square.

24 min