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NOVA: Ancient Maya Metropolis

Maya pyramid at Lamanai Belize with sunlight from angle.
Courtesy of Zoot Pictures Inc./Ivan Hughes
Maya pyramid at Lamanai Belize with sunlight from angle.

Premieres Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022 at 9 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 30 at 3 p.m. on KPBS TV + Jan. 30 at 9 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On Demand

More than a thousand years ago, the ancient ancestors of today’s Maya people thrived in large sophisticated cities across Central America. At their peak, some housed over 100,000 inhabitants and were among the biggest cities anywhere in the world. They were hubs of trade, art, and writing, where Maya rulers commissioned magnificent pyramids and palaces. But beginning around 750 CE, many of the great Maya cities were abandoned, only to be reclaimed by the jungle.

On NOVA "Ancient Maya Metropolis," learn how archaeologists are using new technology and recently uncovered evidence to try to find out why the era of the Maya metropolis came to an end. Did catastrophic droughts cause widespread crop failures? Did political infighting destabilize the region?

An extraordinary “diary” of warfare between three cities adds vivid new detail to our understanding of a major shift in the ancient Maya world. The evidence also testifies to the survival and resilience of the Maya people, whose traditions and creativity continue to enrich the world today.

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