Centuries ago, Spanish conquistadors searching for gold and new lands encountered a group of independent city-states in Mesoamerica. Sophisticated beyond the Spaniards' wildest imaginings, these people were the Aztecs, the Maya, and related cultures that shared common traditions of religion, government, the arts, engineering, and trade. In many ways more advanced than European nations, these societies equaled the world's greatest civilizations of their time. Immerse yourself in this epic story with 48 exhilarating half-hour lectures that cover the scope of Mesoamerican history and culture. You'll focus mainly on the Maya, who have been in Mesoamerica for thousands of years, and the Aztecs, who mysteriously appeared late and rose swiftly to power. The Aztecs fell from power just as precipitously; their empire controlled the region for less than a century, until the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s. Why were the Aztecs so quickly defeated by the conquistadors, while the Maya resisted the invaders for generations? Although the Spanish eventually conquered all of Mesoamerica, much remains of the original cultures. Beautiful artifacts fill museums. Impressive ruins dot the landscape. And millions of descendants of ancient Mesoamericans still live in their ancestral homes, speaking native languages and practicing time-honored traditions. The countries from Mexico to Costa Rica include more than a dozen UNESCO World Heritage Sites related to the pre-Columbian period, plus scores of other ancient sites that are equally worth a visit. This course is the ideal way to plan an itinerary, prepare for a tour, or simply sit back and enjoy a thrilling virtual voyage. You will be surprised at the number of sites to explore - many more than you could possibly see in months of travel. Your guide is Professor Barnhart, a noted archaeologist whose exploits include the discovery of a lost Maya city.