Rest of World
Maize is genetically engineered from a wild grass called teosinte to produce the world’s first corncobs.
Farming of wheat, barley, sheep, cattle & pigs.
First stone circles, including Callanish on the Isle of Lewis and Stenness on Orkney.
Work begins on stonehenge.
Tools & weapons made of copper.
2600 - 2000 BCE:
Permanent villages form. The dead are buried individually under their family houses. Cultivation of maize, beans, squash, and chili peppers; fabrication of clay artifacts.
Great pyramid of Giza built in Egypt.
Extinction of Mammoths.
2100 BCE: BRONZE AGE
Tools and weapons made of bronze - an alloy of 90% copper and 10% tin; cremation of dead; round barrow burials; Beaker people.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s first known epic poem, is composed in Mesopotamia.
Minoans in Crete invent Linear A writing system.
1800 - 900 BCE: EARLY PRECLASSIC
In the Early Preclassic permanent villages and cities are established with a recognizable Maya culture. As their societies develop, they start to build large ceremonial architecture.
Trade routes form in Britain and across to Ireland.
1200 - 900 BCE:
The Olmec city of San Lorenzo is the first Mesoamerican city to demonstrate state level complexity and dominated the southern Gulf coast of Mexico. It is known for carving colossal stone heads - the largest stood more than 3 meters tall and weighed 31 tons.
King Tutankhamun is born in Egypt.
900-300 BCE: MIDDLE PRECLASSIC
The Middle Preclassic is characterized by the expansion of Maya cities across what is now northern Guatemala and just over the border in southern Mexico. Concepts of kingship begin to emerge.
750 BCE: IRON AGE
Iron replaces bronze as the metal of choice for tools and weapons.
Comparative Maya Timeline
We still lack the evidence to pinpoint exactly when and how Maya civilization began. Some experts believe the Olmecs were the first great Mesoamerican civilization; others believe that Olmec and Maya societies emerged side by side. It’s not until 700 BCE that the Maya can easily be differentiated by their distinctive language and culture. However, it’s an exciting time in Maya archaeology (partly due to aerial laser technology) and discoveries are coming thick and fast. This timeline reflects the latest thinking and will be updated if that changes!
Most importantly, the timeline shows how advanced civilizations developed in Mesoamerica, until they were interrupted by Europeans bringing warfare, a greed for treasure, and lethal germs. The Maya as a people have survived, but much of their history has been destroyed. There’s a legend about a goddess who is reduced to a toe bone and a tooth. Just as she is reconstructed from these remnants, so the Maya are trying to piece their culture back together.
Names of Maya rulers, where known, are transcribed phonetically with the translation, where known, in parentheses.
One of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded turns Britain into an island, and changes forever the lives of its sparse population of hunter-gatherers.
Early farming cultures established around present-day Tabasco region
The first cities emerge in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).
Sumerians invent cuneiform writing; Egyptians invent hieroglyphic writing.
Farmers in Ireland’s Boyne Valley use 200,000 tons of stone to build Newgrange, a passage tomb aligned with the midwinter sunrise.
Ancient Egyptians invent pin bowling.
North Chico civilization in Peru builds massive ceremonial platforms.
The Olmec add morning glory juice to natural latex to make a bouncy rubber ball. The game they play with it, the first team sport in history, will become popular all over Mesoamerica.
First Chinese writing system is developed.
Phoenician traders invent an alphabet of 22 letters that is the ancestor of Greek and, hence, all modern alphabets.
The Greek poet, Homer, is the presumed author of The Iliad & the Odyssey, two of the earliest existing works of Western literature.
First recorded Olympic games held at Olympia in Greece.
According to legend, Romulus & Remus found Rome.
The Mississippian culture, a mound-building Native American civilization, build settlements and cities with massive, pyramid-like earthen structures and ceremonial platforms, from the Great Lakes down through the Mississippi River Valley to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Maya cities of Nakbe and El Mirador in the central lowlands (northern Guatemala) start building red painted stone pyramids 60 feet tall with ornate stucco masks.
The first known use of currency in the prosperous trading kingdom of Lydia, in western Turkey.
In what is modern-day Iraq, King Nebuchadnezzar builds the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Cities spread across Guatemala, Belize, northern Honduras and southeastern Mexico with massive stone buildings, sculpture, rich burials and flourishing trade.
Celts arrive from central Europe.
Athenians introduce a system of political reforms called demokratia - the first known democracy in the world.
Alexander the Great, king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, conquers the Persian empire.
300 BCE - 250 CE: LATE PRECLASSIC
During the Late Preclassic the hallmarks of Maya culture - mythology, calendar, writing, mathematics, astronomy and art - are refined. Some of the major Maya cities reach their peak and then collapse (for reasons as yet unknown).
A Greek merchant, geographer and explorer called Pytheas of Massilia (present day Marseilles) sails around Britain and writes about the amazing things he sees. His original account “On The Ocean” is lost, but various other writers refer to his work. Britain’s inhabitants are described as mining tin, farming wheat, and also having “many kings and aristocrats.”
El Mirador reaches its peak, building some of the largest known pyramids in the Maya world. There is also major pyramid construction at Tikal.
Painted glyphs at San Bartolo in northern Guatemala are the earliest known examples of Maya writing.
Superbly crafted religious offerings in bronze and gold, including the Battersea Shield and the Waterloo Helmet.
Work is started on the Great Wall of China.
Building of the Parthenon in Athens.
Magnificent painted murals in a room in the base of a pyramid at San Bartolo are the oldest found to date. They depict the ancient Maya world view through mythologic themes, telling the story of the Maize God who travels through the underworld and is resurrected, giving birth to the Maya people.
The first coins minted in Britain are made of cast bronze and attributed to tribes in south east England. They are based on French coins, with a head of Apollo on one side and a bull on the other, but the workmanship is poor. Just twenty-five years later, tribes will be producing finely wrought gold and silver “stater” coins, in beautiful abstract designs.
After conquering Gaul (modern France and Belgium), Roman general Julius Caesar carries out a reconnaissance mission to southeast England.
Julius Caesar invades Britain for the second time, but a rebellion brewing back in Gaul forces him to withdraw.
Emperor Augustus draws up plans for a full-scale invasion of England, but they come to nothing.
Trade in Roman goods intensifies and it’s possible that diplomatic links are established with Augustus and his successors.
A date carved into a stone monument at Chiapa de Corzo depicts earliest known mathematical use of zero by the Maya.
Death of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, in Alexandria.
A charismatic religious leader named Jesus Christ is put to death in Jerusalem. His followers found a new religion called Christianity.
City of Teotihuacan founded in central Mexico, north-east of present-day Mexico City. It will become the largest city-state in Mesoamerica. Little is known about who built it or why, or what was its original name. The name Teotihuacan was bestowed 1500 years later by the Aztecs, and means “Birthplace of the Gods”.
Emperor Caligula plans a British invasion, but his army refuses and the plan is abandoned.
43 CE: ROMAN BRITAIN
In search of military glory, Emperor Claudius sends 40,000 troops across the channel. This time, the invasion is successful and much of Britain becomes part of the Roman Empire.
Boudica, formidable queen of the Celtic Icene tribe, leads a revolt against the Romans. After burning down Colchester, St Albans and London, she is eventually defeated.
The volcano Vesuvius erupts in Italy and buries the nearby towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash, lava, and mud.
Building of the colossal Pyramid of the Sun begins at Teotihuacan. It will take a hundred years to complete and stand over 200 feet high.
Yax Ehb Xook (his name means First Step Shark) founds a royal dynasty at Tikal.
The cities of El Mirador and Nakbe collapse and are abandoned. The predecessors of the Snake Dynasty leave Nakbe and travel north to Dzibanche in the Yucatan peninsula.
King Sky Raiser founds the Snake dynasty at Dzibanche in southern Mexico. Its members here (and later at Calakmul) will become Tikal’s greatest rivals and their political influence and proxy wars will drive the history of the Maya for the next 500 years.
Inspired by the nests of wasps and bees, an official of the Chinese court invents paper using rags and plant fibers.
Emperor Hadrian builds a wall coast-to-coast across northern England to protect the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire from barbarian invaders.
Christianity becomes legal in the Roman Empire.
250-900 CE: CLASSIC PERIOD
Maya art and culture flourishes. There are now over 60 Maya kingdoms which are characterized by the use of the Long Count calendar, carved hieroglyphic writing, historical portraits and dynastic kingship.
Constantine becomes the last emperor of a unified Roman Empire.
The king of Tikal is executed by (Fire Is Born), an emissary from Teotihuacan, with the help of dissenters at Tikal. The resulting merger of the Teotihuacan and Tikal dynasties creates an imperial superpower that will affect the whole Maya region. Tikal conquers many of the surrounding kingdoms including the ancestral homeland of the Snake Kingdom in the Mirador basin, setting off years of warfare and political maneuvering between Tikal and the Snake Dynasty.
With Rome under attack and its empire crumbling, the Romans withdraw from Britain. Under increasing threat from Picts, Scots, Angles and Saxons, its people ask Emperor Honorius for help. He writes back: “Fight bravely and defend your lives...you are on your own now”.
Constantine’s successor, Theodosius, divides the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern (Byzantine).
Led by their general Alaric, who’d once served in the Roman army, the Visigoths, (a nomadic Germanic tribe) sack Rome. It’s the first time in 800 years that the city has fallen to an enemy, and signals the beginning of the end.
450 CE: ANGLO-SAXON BRITAIN
Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrive from different parts of what is now Germany to fill the power vacuum left by the Romans.
The last Western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, is forced to abdicate. The Byzantine Empire survives until 1453 when Constantinople, (today’s Istanbul), is conquered by the Ottomans.
The seven kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex are established.
People in the Nazca desert in southern Peru draw intricate pictures on the ground, now known as the Nazca Lines, covering 170 square mile and only visible from the air.
Sky Witness, the Snake King of Calakmul, achieves his dynasty’s ultimate goal and conquers Tikal. There will be no construction or new inscriptions at Tikal for 120 years.
St Augustine brings Christianity to England. King Aethelberht of Kent gives him land to build Canterbury Cathedral.
Collapse of Teotihuacan for reasons as yet unknown.
600-900 CE: LATE CLASSIC PERIOD
Maya civilization reaches its zenith: peak population, greatest social complexity, artistic and intellectual highpoints.
The Snake Dynasty conquers Palenque in retaliation for an attack on one of their vassal cities. The Palenque dynastic line is broken. The ambitious (White Quetzal) has the political skill to have her 12-year-old son K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (Sun Shield) enthroned. will become one of the greatest Maya kings.
Northumbria becomes the dominant kingdom.
618 - 970 CE:
The Tang Dynasty, often called China’s Golden Age. Their rulers include Empress Wu who, in 690 CE, becomes the only emperor in Chinese history to rule in her own name.
The prophet Mohammed occupies Mecca and unifies Arabia under a single religion.
In Calakmul, Yuknoom the Great is crowned King of the Snake Dynasty and rules over the greatest alliance of kingdoms and city-states ever achieved by the Maya. Twice during his reign he fights and conquers a resurgent Tikal.
King Pakal dies in Palenque at the age of 80, after a 68 year rule.
In a stunning reversal of fortune, Jasaw Chan Kawiil of Tikal soundly defeats Yichaak Kahk (Claw of Fire) of the Snake Dynasty ending forever the Snake Dynasty’s dreams of a Maya Empire.
Mercia becomes the dominant kingdom.
793 CE: VIKING BRITAIN
First recorded Viking attack is in Dorset, followed the same year by a Viking raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northumbria.
Charlemagne (aka Charles the Great, King of the Franks) is crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor.
Wessex becomes the dominant kingdom.
Vikings capture York.
The last known building is erected at Tikal, and the once-great city is abandoned 50 years later, marking an end to Maya civilizations in the lowlands of Guatemala.
Coronation of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex. He is most famous for promoting literacy and learning.
The temple of Borobudur is built on the Indonesian island of Java. It is still the largest Buddhist temple in the world.
Alfred signs a peace treaty with the Vikings to divide England. He becomes king of the south and west, while the Vikings take the east and north, from the Thames to the Tees, (the Danelaw).
China invents gunpowder -a mix of sulphur, charcoal and saltpetre - and use it to launch flaming arrows. It will not arrive in Europe for another 500 years.
Maya cities in Guatemala, Belize and Honduras collapse due to overpopulation, drought, warfare and social unrest.
900-1542 CE: POST CLASSIC
The central Maya heartlands in Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico are largely abandoned and the Maya concentrate in the Yucatan peninsula.
Chichen Itza becomes the regional power in the Yucatan with close ties to the Toltecs, a religious warrior cult from Tollan in central Mexico.
Start of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a series of historical records and annals, possibly commissioned by Alfred the Great.
Vikings discover Greenland.
Vikings in Iceland hold their first Althing, an outdoor assembly that is regarded as the world’s oldest parliament.
Death of Athelstan, first king of all England.
King Canute of Denmark captures the English Crown.
The Anasazi people of New Mexico use sunbaked mud (adobe) to build apartment-like complexes of multi-roomed dwellings, often several stories high.
Viking Leif Erikson discovers North America.
In Japan, Princess Murasaki Shikibu writes the tale of Genji, considered by many to be the world's first full-length novel.
Coronation of Edward the Confessor (Edward II)
Building of Westminster Abbey is completed. Harold Godwinson, earl of Wessex, succeeds Edward the Confessor. As Harold II, he will be the last Anglo-Saxon king of England.
1066 CE: NORMAN CONQUEST
Harold II is facing challenges from both Harald Hardrada, king of Norway, and William, Duke of Normandy. Harold defeats Harald at Stamford Bridge and heads south to face William, who has sailed from France. William kills Harold at the Battle of Hastings and, as William the Conqueror, becomes the first Norman king of England.
Construction of the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Work starts on Tower of London.
Inca capital of Cuzco established in southeastern Peru.
Native American city of Cahokia (on Mississippi across from present day St Louis) reaches peak with over 100 pyramid mounds and a population of up to 20,000.
Population of London exceeds 30,000.
Minamoto Yoritomo becomes first shogun (“supreme commander”) of Japan, reducing the emperor to a figurehead.
Arabic number system introduced to Europe.
The Magna Carta is signed by King John and his barons at Runnymede - one of the first steps taken by England towards parliamentary democracy.
Chichen Itza is abandoned but Maya cities such as Mayapan, Oxkintok and Izamal flourish in other parts of the northern Yucatan. The walled city of Mayapan becomes the political and cultural capital of the region, and its unusually eclectic architecture includes a small, poorly constructed replica of the great Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza.
Great Zimbabwe is the capital of a large and wealthy empire in southern Africa, whose ruler lives in a walled palace.
Edward I (Edward Longshanks), wins control of Wales and makes it subject to English law.
Robert the Bruce is crowned king of Scotland.
Robert the Bruce defeats Edward II at Bannockburn.
Hundred Years War with France.
Knowledge of gunpowder has finally reached Europe from China and its first recorded use is at the siege of Metz in France.
The Black Death (bubonic plague) kills nearly half England’s population.
Death of Mansu Musa, ruler of the Mali empire in West Africa, thought to be the wealthiest man of all time.
Chaucer starts work on The Canterbury Tales.
Murals are painted in the coastal Maya city of Tulum, suggesting that the small city-state rose to prominence after the larger cities were abandoned.
High in the Andes of Peru, the Inca empire flourishes, with a population of 12 million.
Death of Tamerlane, the ferocious conqueror of the Eurasian steppe, He is still regarded as one of history’s greatest military leaders.
Henry V defeats the French army at Agincourt - a major victory for the English in the Hundred Years War.
Zheng He, a Chinese admiral, brings giraffes from East Africa as a gift for the Ming emperor.
Itzcoatl becomes the fourth ruler of the Aztecs. He founds the Aztec Empire with a triple alliance between three Nahuatl-speaking societies: the Aztecs, the Texcocans, and the Tacubans.
Joan of Arc is burned at the stake as a witch by her English foes in Rouen, France.
Montezuma I becomes the fifth ruler of the Aztecs. His rule will mark the height of the Aztec Empire.
Johannes Gutenberg uses moveable type (first invented in China) to print first book in Europe.
Sunni Ali, ruler of Songhai in West Africa, creates the largest empire that Africa has ever seen.
1485 CE: THE TUDORS
Lancastrian Henry Tudor defeats Yorkist king Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last significant battle in the Wars of the Roses. The new king, Henry VII, is crowned at Westminster Abbey.
John Cabot, an Italian explorer, is commissioned by Henry VII to make an expedition across the Atlantic. He sails from Bristol and lands in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia.
The city of Vijayanagara, capital of a Hindu kingdom in south India, has a population of around 500,000 - double that of any European city at that time and second only to Beijing in size.
Coronation of Henry VIII.
1511 - CE: COLONIAL PERIOD
One by one, Maya cities are brought under Spanish rule by the Conquistadors. European diseases decimate Maya populations and many aspects of Maya culture are destroyed or banned.
Hernan Cortez lands on the Yucatan peninsula with 600 men. He first battles with the Maya, but leaves the region upon discovering that it is the Aztecs, not the Maya, who have the gold he seeks.
Montezuma II welcomes Cortes as an honored guest to the Aztec capital, the island city of Tenochtitlan. The Spaniard repays the Aztec ruler’s hospitality by taking him prisoner in his own city.
After a three-month siege and weakened by famine and smallpox, Tenochtitlan falls to the Spanish - and with it, the Aztec empire.
Civil war amongst the Inca weakens their empire.
Fired up by stories of Inca gold, Francisco Pizarro and his army of conquest sail from Spain to Peru.
In the Guatemalan Highlands, Pedro Alvarado burns the great mountain city of Utatlan (with its 140 civic structures and population of 50,000 Quiche Maya) to the ground.
Henry breaks from the Roman Catholic Church and, with the Act of Supremacy, makes himself head of the new Church of England.
Pizarro orders the execution of the 13th and last emperor of the Incas, bringing an end to 300 years of Inca civilization.
Act of Union joins England and Wales.
In Poland, Copernicus publishes a book showing planets revolve around sun.
The Spanish conquer all the Maya cities in the Yucatan peninsula.
Coronation of Elizabeth I.
Diego De Landa, a Franciscan friar, makes a huge bonfire of Maya books and images in the town square at Mani. Maya beliefs and culture are suppressed, and writing in Maya glyphs is outlawed. Within a generation, no one will be able to read the Maya script. As for De Landa, his Inquisition methods made such liberal use of torture that even the Spanish were shocked. He is sent back to Spain to stand trial for his actions, but is absolved. Fifteen years later, he is made bishop of Yucatan.
After learning the Roman alphabet, Highland Maya scribes write down (in their own language) the Popol Vuh, the story of creation and the Hero Twins.
Sir Francis Drake arrives back at Plymouth after circumnavigating the globe.
Sir Walter Raleigh establishes Roanoke, the first (failed) British colony in North America.
England defeats Spanish armada.
First performance of a play by Shakespeare (Henry VI Part II).
The native populations of the entire Maya area have been decimated by warfare, European diseases, slavery and forced labor. A few of the remoter kingdoms in Guatemala fight on until they are conquered, one by one.
Meanwhile, in what is present-day Belize, the conquistadors have failed to establish colonial rule, and a new wave of visitors has started to arrive. English pirates make camp along the coast to prey on Spanish booty, while loggers brave the mosquito-ridden, crocodile-infested swamps in search of the logwood tree (or bloodwood, as it is also known.) This small, thorny tree yields a gorgeous red textile dye that brings brightly colored clothes within reach of the working classes for the first time. Soon, enslaved Africans are brought to Belize by English and Scottish logging companies to cut logwood and, later, mahogany.
1603 CE: THE STUARTS
King James VI of Scotland is crowned James I of England, uniting England, Scotland and Ireland under one monarch.
Jamestown in Virginia, the first permanent British colony in North America, is founded by Captain John Smith.
250 years of slavery begin in North America when a privateer ship steals 20 African slaves from a Portuguese slave ship and brings them ashore to Jamestown, where they’re bought by English colonists.
In Plymouth, the Pilgrim Fathers (actually 78 men and 28 women) board a ship called The Mayflower, bound for the New World in search of religious freedom
After ten torturous weeks at sea, the Mayflower drops anchor near Cape Cod. All 102 passengers survive the voyage, but only half will survive their first New England winter.
The great Basilica of St Peters in Rome, begun in 1506, is finally completed.
Execution of Charles I.
Population of Mexico reaches its nadir of 1.5 million inhabitants, down from estimates at the time of the Conquest ranging from between 5-25 million.
Dutch traders introduce tea to Britain; it is, at first, consumed only as a medicine.
Cromwell appointed Lord Protector, giving himself the powers of a king.
Built by 20,000 workmen for Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal (who died giving birth to their 14th child), the Taj Mahal in Agra is completed.
Restoration of the Monarchy under
Plague kills a quarter of London’s populace.
Great Fire of London rages for three days, destroying two-thirds of the city.
English Bill of Rights decrees that monarchs will now rule in partnership with Parliament.
St Paul’s Cathedral (rebuilt and redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire), is reconsecrated for use.
Witch trials begin in Salem, Massachusetts.
The last dodo is hunted to extinction on the island of Mauritius.
Fall of the island stronghold of Tayasal, also known as Nojpeten. It is the last Maya city to hold out against the Spanish conquistadors.
Thomas Savery patents the first commercially viable steam engine, which is soon vastly improved upon by Savery’s blacksmith, Thomas Newcomen.
Scottish parliament is dissolved and England Scotland officially become one country - Great Britain.
Britain wins the right to supply African slaves to the Spanish colonies, and this begins the Triangle of Trade between British ports, Africa and the Caribbean.
1714 CE: THE GEORGIANS
Coronation of George I, of Hanover, great-grandson of James I.
Sir Robert Walpole becomes first Prime Minister.
After years of using the Bay of Honduras as a base for buccaneers and loggers, Britain establishes its first permanent settlement. The colony will be called British Honduras and will eventually become the independent country of Belize.
Bonnie Prince Charlie (grandson of James II) lands in Scotland to claim British throne and is defeated at Culloden one year later.
American colonists, angry about "taxation without representation”, dump 342 chests of tea from London into Boston harbor - an event remembered as “The Boston Tea Party.”
American War of Independence, aka American Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence is issued by the 13 original colonies in 1776.
American War of Independence begins.
Start of Industrial Revolution.
First convict ships set sail for Australia.
Treaty of Paris formally recognizes the independence of the United States.
Storming of the Bastille by an angry mob marks the start of the French Revolution.
Louis XVI is executed by guillotine in Paris.
Edward Jenner invents vaccination for smallpox.
William Wilberforce brings about the abolition of the British slave trade.
Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launches the Mexican War of Independence in the town of Dolores with the issuing of his Grito de Dolores, or “Cry of Dolores,” calling for the end of 300 years of Spanish rule in Mexico.
British and Prussian armies defeat Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium.
The US government forces 60,000 Native Americans to leave their homelands and move to reservations - a journey known as the Trail of Tears.
Mexico and Guatemala win their independence from Spain.
1837 CE: THE VICTORIANS
18-year-old Victoria is crowned, after the death of her uncle, William IV. She will reign for more than 60 years.
Frederick Catherwood, a British artist, architect and explorer, joins forces with John Lloyd Stephens, an American writer and diplomat, to explore the Maya regions and introduce them to a fascinated world.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel creates the first high speed railway (the Great Western), linking London with Bristol.
Slavery abolished in the British Empire. Slaves have to work four years without pay before gaining their freedom. Plantation owners in the British Caribbean receive £20 million in compensation, but the former slaves receive nothing.
The Mines Act, followed the next year by the Factories Act, attempt to regulate child labour.
The Caste War of the Yucatan, a blood-soaked and lengthy conflict, begins with a long-simmering revolt of the indigenous Maya - pushed to their limits by issues such as land-grabbing, unfair water rights and indentured servitude - against the European-descended ruling class. When the Maya hear that one of their leaders has been executed by firing squad, they march on the city of Valladolid. Both sides commit atrocities and the battle escalates. The Maya succeed in herding all the elites into the city of Merida. As they march on the city, their victory assured, clouds of flying ants fill the sky. It is a sign that the rains are coming and, ignoring the commands of their leaders, the Maya lay down their weapons and head for home. It is time to plant the corn or their families will starve. Without the decisive victory that had been within their grasp, the Maya fight on for another fifty years before finally submitting to the rule of Mexico.
The Great Potato Famine in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands of people die; many others emigrate to the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.
Frenchman Désiré Charnay gives up his teaching job in New Orleans, took a crash course in photography, and journeyed to the Yucatan on behalf of the Ministry of Public Information. His photographs provided scientific documentation of many Maya ruins, but also conveyed the grandeur of the sites and made the case that the early cultures of Mexico were equal to the great cultures of the so-called Old World.
The London Underground - the world’s first underground passenger railway - opens with steam-driven carriages.
The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution abolishes slavery.
Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg discovers and publishes De Landa’s long lost notes about the Yucatan. The manuscript contains valuable clues to deciphering the Maya glyphs, but it will perplex scholars for another hundred years.
The Elementary Education Act creates a framework of education (costing a few pennies a week) for all children between the ages of 5 and 12.
48-year old Auguste Le Plongeon and his new wife, 22-year old Alice Dixon, arrive in the Yucatan from New York. They share an interest in photography and a desire to investigate Maya sites for links to the civilizations of ancient Egypt and Atlantis.
Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
World’s first football league competition is won by Preston North End.
Alfred Percival Maudslay, British diplomat and explorer, follows the trail of Catherwood and Stephens to arrive at the ruins of Quirigua in Honduras. He returns to Central America many times and becomes one of the first Europeans to study Maya sites.
French engineer Gustave Eiffel completes the Eiffel tower which will be the highest building in the world for the next 41 years.
Ellis Island Immigration Station is opened in New York harbor. Over 12 million people will pass through, before it closes in 1954.
Queen Victoria dies at the age of 81.
Irishman, Thomas Gann, is appointed district medical officer for British Honduras and develops an interest in excavating Maya sites, reputedly using dynamite to speed up his discoveries.
Orville and Wilbur Wright invent the world’s first powered flying machine. Their maiden flight lasts 12 seconds.
Edward VII dies and is succeeded by his second son, George V.
The RMS Titanic, a luxury steamship carrying 2,240 passengers, sails proudly out of Southampton on her maiden voyage. Four days later, she hits an iceberg south of Newfoundland and sinks, losing over 1,500 lives.
First World War.
First World War.
Women over 18 get the vote.
Sylvanus Griswold Morley, said by many to be the real-life inspiration for Indiana Jones, begins his 18-year excavation of Chichen Itza. However, Morley also had an entirely different career, one that he kept secret from his adoring public. During WW1, his archaeological studies in Central America were thought to be a cover for espionage activities on behalf of US Naval Intelligence. His task was to identify possible German agents and hunt for German submarine supply bases along Mexico’s Gulf Coast.
A 28 year old anthropology graduate called John Eric Sidney Thompson arrives in the Yucatan to work at Chichen Itza under the direction of Sylvanus Morley. Thompson would go on to dominate Maya studies, particularly the study of Maya glyphs, until the 1960s.
George V dies and is succeeded by his eldest son, Edward VII - who abdicates later that year and is succeeded by his younger brother, George VI.
Second World War
Second World War
Introduction of the NHS.
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, who succeeds her father, George VI
Using De Landa’s journal, Russian linguist Yuri Knorosov makes the first major breakthrough in deciphering Maya glyphs.
Civil war rages in Guatemala between the government and rebel groups, driven by unfair land distribution. The rural poor are caught in the crossfire, with government forces often indiscriminately killing indigenous Maya groups.
In Montgomery, Alabama, a black woman named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. Rosa is jailed, but her action helps spark the civil rights movement in the USA.
Ghana becomes first British colony in Africa to gain its independence.
Death penalty abolished.
Erich Von Daniken publishes Chariots of The Gods and engenders a whole industry of racist pseudoscience, claiming that the achievements of the Maya and other ancient civilizations were aided by extraterrestrial beings.
Nelson Mandela, a leader of the African National Congress who campaigned against apartheid, is jailed in South Africa. It will be 26 years before he is released.
American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are the first humans to land on the moon.
One of humankind’s oldest ancestors is discovered in Ethiopia, when scientists find the fossil remains of an ape-like female who walked on two legs and lived about 3.2 million years ago. Her scientific name is Australopithecus afarensis, but the research team call her “Lucy”.
Britain joins EEC.
David Stuart (who presented his first scholarly paper on Maya glyphs at the age of 12) builds on Knorosov's work to make the final leap that leads to the broad decipherment of Maya glyphs.
Mayas for Ancient Maya (MAM) is formed, a series of workshops taught by leading archaeologists to help indigenous Maya groups reclaim their history and learn, once again, to read and write Maya glyphs. There are now glyph workshops and courses all over Maya speaking areas.
As communist regimes fall across Europe, East Berlin is under pressure to open the border wall to the West. Impatient for change, Berliners from both sides rush to tear down the iconic Cold War symbol that has divided the city since 1961. One year later, East and West Germany will be reunified for the first time since WWII.
A British computer researcher called Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web.
End of Apartheid in South Africa when Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid campaigners are released from jail and race restrictions are abolished.
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a Maya feminist and human rights activist, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for publicizing the rights of Guatemala's indigenous peoples during and after the Guatemalan Civil War.
Channel Tunnel links England and France, and the first direct rail service from London to Paris is opened.
On New Year’s Day, 3,000 indigenous Maya occupy San Cristobal de las Casas in the poverty-stricken southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Styling themselves the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZNL) after the peasant revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata, they demand “work, land, housing, food, health, education, independence, liberty, democracy, justice and peace”. Their mission has continued to the present day and they still maintain control of a large area of Chiapas.
Hong Kong is returned to China after 150 years of British rule.
Good Friday agreement to bring peace to Ireland is approved by voters on both sides of the border.
Members of Al Qaeda, a militant Islamic terrorist organization, fly two planes into New York’s World Trade Center. It is the worst terrorist attack in US history.
At the site of San Bartolo in Guatemala, northeast of Tikal, a young archaeologist called William Saturno ducks into a looters’ tunnel for shade, and accidentally finds some of the earliest and most important Maya murals yet discovered.
Britain hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
Scottish Independence Referendum - 55% vote to remain in the United Kingdom, 45% favor independence.
Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning monarch in UK history.
The Maya are added to the UK KS2 curriculum.
Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl, stages a protest outside the Swedish Parliament. Her banner reads “School Strike for Climate ” and inspires schoolchildren all over the world to follow her lead.
UK votes to leave EU in a shock result for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum.
Britain leaves the European Community.
Thelma Cabrera, a Maya woman from one of the poorest villages in Guatemala stands in her country’s presidential election.
Archaeologists discover a giant platform that is the largest known monumental structure constructed by the ancient Maya. The platform, in Tabasco, is nearly a mile long, and dwarfs even the biggest Maya pyramids in terms of magnitude. Radiocarbon dating reveals it was constructed between 1000 and 800 BCE, making it also the oldest known ancient Maya ceremonial structure.
The highly contagious Corona virus sends the whole world into lockdown.
You can download a free pdf
of this timeline from our lessonplans page:
Quick jump links to:
Maya communities begin to construct massive ceremonial platforms. Twenty one sites have been discovered so far. The largest platform is at Aguada Fénix in the region of Tabasco. It is nearly a mile long and was somewhere between 33 and 50 feet tall.
POST COLONIAL PERIOD
1901 CE: MODERN BRITAIN
Victoria’s eldest son is crowned Edward VII.