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Quest for the Lost Maya

New Discoveries Reveal Broader Reach of Mayan Civilization

Audience versions of this page: Students

Cave Drawings- 3D head.JPG

Photograph courtesy National Geographic Television

National Geographic Television’s Quest for the Lost Maya addresses new findings about the Maya civilization. The Maya's soaring pyramids, monumental cities, and mastery of astronomy and mathematics have spurred generations of explorers into the jungles of Central America on a quest to understand them.

In the past decade, researchers working in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula have made a series of startling discoveries that reveal a gaping hole in our understanding of the Maya. What we thought we knew about the Maya could suddenly turn out to be just half the story.

Quest for the Lost Maya follows a team of archaeologists as they uncover evidence of a forgotten Mayan society in the Yucatán. Buried beneath an ancient pyramid deep in the Yucatán jungle, the team discovers an even more ancient royal palace complex. They unearth a massive stone acropolis that rises nearly 30 feet above the jungle floor and is crowned with a ceremonial platform the size of four football fields; it could have held thousands of people. And, nearly 300 feet underground, they discover cryptic cave paintings that may be among the oldest Mayan iconography ever discovered in Mexico.

The educational resources on this page include video clips from the show, background text, and questions to engage students in learning more about these amazing discoveries, demonstrating how science and social studies intersect in reaching new understandings about ancient civilizations.

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field work

Field work is the process of observing and collecting data about people, cultures, and natural environments


Anthropology is the study of the origin and development of human societies and cultures.


Archaeology is the study of the human past using material remains. These remains can be any objects that people created, modified, or used.


Read more from National Geographic Explorers who are making new discoveries about the Maya.


Watch the Program

Quest for the Lost Maya

See the full National Geographic special.

National Geographic News

Lost City Revealed Under Centuries of Jungle Growth

A hundred ancient Maya buildings are detected under a Guatemala rain forest.

Related Article

Water World

Freshwater pools may have been portals to the Maya underworld.


MapMaker Interactive

Jump into geographic investigations around the globe with our online student atlas.

Ancient Maya Cave Exploration

View photographs of a virtually unexplored section of ancient Maya ruins.

National Geographic Magazine

Find related links from the National Geographic Magazine article "Maya Rise and Fall."