The Maya civilisation

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Learn about the ancient Maya civilisation.

This lesson includes:

  • one video introducing the ancient Maya civilisation
  • one video exploring what life was like for the ancient Mayas
  • two videos to build knowledge and understanding


The Maya civilisation began long ago in a place called 'Mesoamerica'. This vast area is made up of Mexico and part of Central America.

The Mayas built amazing cities like Tikal (which they called 'Yax Mutal') and Palenque. Even though they lived in different cities ruled by various kings and queens, the Mayas shared a lot of common beliefs and traditions.

They were experts at reading the stars and even built their cities as a map of the sky! They were also inspired by the creatures of the forest and shared many legends about animals, plants and nature spirits.

Watch the video below for more information on the Maya civilisation.

An introduction to the Ancient Maya.

What was life like for the ancient Mayas?

In ancient Maya times, children had very different lives to today. They dressed differently, and their homes were much smaller.

Families lived in great cities like Yax Mutal and Palenque, and also in the surrounding farmland.

Adults worked as farmers, warriors, hunters, builders, teachers and many other things. Children from noble families could learn maths, science, writing and astronomy, but poorer children were only taught their parents’ jobs.

Watch the video below to learn more about daily life for the Mayas.

Daily life for the ancient Mayas.


There are lots of fun ways to show your historical knowledge of the ancient Maya civilisation, online and offline.

Here are a few you could try.

Activity 1

Follow the character Jade Skirt, as she shows you some exciting things that you can still find in Tikal.

Have a look around the ruins of Tikal

Jade Skirt inviting you to take a tour of the Ancient city of Tikal.

Follow Jade Skirt as she shows you some of the interesting things that you can still find in Tikal.

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Activity 2

Using what you've learned from this lesson, make a poster about The Maya Civilisation.

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources from around the BBC and the web.

More lessons for Year 4 and P5
The Maya civilisation
BBC Teach- Introducing the Maya civilisation