||QUESTIONS FOR CLASSROOM DISCUSSION
||ACTIVITIES AND RESEARCH PROJECTS
To introduce students to the science of archaeology.
What is archaeology?
How do archaeologists conduct their excavations?
Why is archaeology important?
Interview an archaeologist.
If there is a museum or university in your neighbourhood with
archaeologists on staff, have your students interview them.
Classification of artifacts.
Select a variety of objects made from different materials. Have your
students first classify them as organic or inorganic. Further break
down the classification according to the materials used: wood, metal,
plastic, stone, glass, paper, natural or synthetic fibre, leather, bone,
and so on. Discuss which materials would last a long time and compare
them with those that would deteriorate quickly. What conditions would
best preserve objects? (dry or under water, where there is little
oxygen present to break down materials). What conditions would cause
rapid deterioration? (damp, hot, humid, exposed to air).
To gain an understanding of the geography of Mesoamerica and its
influence on the Maya way of life.
Where is the Maya homeland?
What is the climate like in Mesoamerica?
How did the land support the people?
Consult the weather section in your local newspaper and prepare a
chart comparing temperatures in the cities of Mesoamerica with those in
your own area.
Research the importance of the rain forest in maintaining the
world's oxygen supply and on the valuable plants that are used for
Compare farming techniques in the region closest to your school with
those of the Maya. Make a chart to indicate when planting takes place,
what the soil is like, how the crops are nourished, and when they are
To put the Maya culture into historical perspective.
How does the timeline of the Maya civilization compare to other
What characteristics of the Maya culture make it a great civilization?
What were some of the reasons for the collapse of the Classic Maya
If you were asked to choose three objects to be buried in the earth to
let future generations know about the Classic Maya civilization, what
would you choose?
To learn about the role of kings, royal symbols, clothing and personal
What role do royalty play in the modern world?
What role did the Maya kings play: a) in looking after the affairs of
state; b) as spiritual leaders?
What is a 'symbol'? Ask your students to identify symbols they know and
use in their daily lives (examples: their school emblem, their country's
flag, the dollar sign for money, road signs, and so on).
Ask your students to identify various reasons why people wear clothing
(to protect our bodies from the elements or injury; to identify the social
group we belong to; to display our wealth and prestige; to identify
important stages in our lives e.g. wedding), and to find pictures in
magazines that represent these different categories of clothing.
Have your students consider different ways people change their
appearance and why they do this. A comparison could be made between
cultures. Ask your students whether there is anything they would want
to change about their facial features.
Using light cardboard or coloured paper, have your students make a
headband. Use pictures of Maya nobles for inspiration. Decorate the
headband by adding feathers, shells, seeds, cornhusks, imitation jaguar
skins, and beads.
To learn about the way of life of the common Maya.
Help your students visualize a Maya village scene. What were the
houses of the common people like?
Have your students make a model of a thatched-roof hut using
the pictures in the Mystery of the Maya Web pages. Possible
materials include plasticine for the foundation, popsicle sticks for
the walls and roof supports, and straw for the thatched roof.
Ask your students to research recipes for dishes modern Maya people
make from corn, beans and squash. Try these recipes out in class or
To introduce your students to aspects of Maya sciences.
Ask your students to guess why the Maya used units of 20.
The Maya were one of the first civilizations to use zero in their
calculations, symbolized by an oval shell. Do you think this is an
appropriate symbol for zero? If you had to invent a symbol for zero
different from the one you use now, what would it be?
What type of writing did did the Maya use? Who knew how to write, and what
did they write on?
Why did Maya kings use writing as a propaganda tool? Can you think of
contemporary examples of people who use writing as propaganda?
Teach your students the principles of Maya mathematics, beginning
with writing the numbers 1 to 19. You could use beans to represent 1,
popsicle sticks or toothpicks to represent five, and shells or pebbles
to represent zero.
Compare our modern calendar to the Maya 365-day Vague Year calendar.
Ask your students to figure out when the Maya New Year began by transposing
the Maya 365-day calendar onto our calendar. (Clue: January 1
in our calendar corresponds to the 8th day of the 14th month in the
Maya 365-day calendar).