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The Fascinating Ancient Maya – David Long

Recommendable children’s books about the Ancient Maya are difficult to come by. Over the past few years, we have seen our Ancient Maya topic booklist dwindle due to books going out of print and becoming unavailable to supply. That’s why we are delighted to see a new book on the Maya topic from author David Long, published in a super-readable format from Barrington Stoke. David visits our blog this week to tell us more about the fascinating ancient civilisation that inspired the book.
ancient maya ks2 book david long

ancient Maya ks2 book David long blog

Guest Post: David Long

Author of What It Was Like to be an Ancient Maya!

The Maya: A Fascinating Ancient Civilisation 

Not long ago I was fascinated to hear that explorers had discovered the hidden remains of several lost cities buried beneath the undergrowth of the rainforest in Central America. These modern-day Indiana-Joneses had found dozens of ruined temples, vast stone pyramids and palaces belonging to an ancient civilisation called the Maya.

I knew immediately that I wanted to write a book about these exciting discoveries and to tell the fascinating story of some of the most mysterious and ingenious people who ever lived.

Origins of the Maya Civilisation

Their story started long before the first European explorer had sailed across the Atlantic to reach America, beginning more than 4,000 years ago when the people of Europe were coming to the end of the period known as the Stone Age. At that time most Mayan families lived in simple mud huts in the steamy rainforests of what are now Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.

By 200 AD, however, the Maya had built a series of large and spectacular cities. Men, women and children into the cities and eventually more than forty very large settlements formed the basis of an extraordinary and long-lasting civilisation.

The cities contained enormous stone structures including palaces, pyramids and immense temples decorated with rich carvings of animals and the Mayan gods.  The largest were home to more than 100,000 people including many brilliant inventors, architects and engineers.

Inventions and Innovations (including chocolate!)

The Maya never managed to invent their own version of the wheel, possibly because they lived in a part of the world without large animals strong enough to pull a cart. But they invented many other fabulous things, including chocolate. They were the first people in the Americas who could read and write. They had a deep understanding of astronomy and mathematics. They were efficient and skilful farmers, and their artists created beautiful objects of wood, stone, pottery and paint.

Unfortunately, the Maya also had a much darker side. They had some horrible, bloodthirsty traditions, including human sacrifice. They ate dogs, and for hundreds of years they fought long wars against each other in which tens of thousands of people were killed or taken prisoner and enslaved.

Decline of the Mayan Civilisation

Partly because of this, by the 10th century AD, the Mayan civilisation was in steep decline. Slowly their great cities were abandoned and fell into ruins. The reasons for the decline may also have included climate change, but whatever the cause Mayan society never recovered and in the 16th century the entire region was conquered by Spanish soldiers who murdered entire communities.

The invaders had no interest in Mayan art and culture, and for centuries the Maya were forgotten. No-one cared what happened to them and the once mighty cities slowly disappeared as the tropical forest closed over their streets and squares.

A Renewed Interest 

Now, however, interest in the cities is growing, and exciting new discoveries are being made all the time. Archaeologists are busy studying more than 4,000 sites associated with the Maya and – at last – this ancient and strange civilisation is gradually beginning to be understood.

David Long’s new book, What It Was Like to be an Ancient Maya!, publishes with Barrington Stoke on Thursday 9th May 2024 and can be ordered here.



Thank you to David for visiting our blog this week to tell us more about the theme of his new book. What It Was Like to be an Ancient Maya! is available from Amazon or Bookshop.

Check out our curriculum booklists to find more children’s books about the ancient Maya, recommended children’s books about ancient civilisations and the full range of primary History Booklists for children.

You may also like our booklists featuring children’s books about South America and rainforest books for children.

Where next?
> Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub
> Browse our Topic Booklists
> View our printable year group booklists.
> See our Books of the Month.

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