Maya Timeline


The Maya

Rest of World



4500 BCE:

Maize is genetically engineered from a wild grass called teosinte to produce the world’s first corncobs.

4200 BCE:

Farming of wheat, barley, sheep, cattle & pigs.

3,000 BCE:

First stone circles, including Callanish on the Isle of Lewis and Stenness on Orkney.

2800 BCE:

Work begins on stonehenge.

2700 BCE:

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.

2560 BCE:

Great pyramid of Giza built in Egypt.

2500 BCE:

Extinction of Mammoths.


Tools and weapons made of bronze - an alloy of 90% copper and 10% tin; cremation of dead; round barrow burials; Beaker people.

2100 BCE:

The Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s first known epic poem, is composed in Mesopotamia.

2000 BCE:

Stonehenge completed.

1800 BCE:

Minoans in Crete invent Linear A writing system.


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.

1650 BCE:

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.

1347 BCE:

King Tutankhamun is born in Egypt.


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.


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.

6000 BCE:

One of the biggest tsunamis ever recorded turns Britain into an island, and changes forever the lives of its sparse population of hunter-gatherers.

5100-4600 BCE:

Early farming cultures established around present-day Tabasco region

4000-3000 BCE:

The first cities emerge in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).

3300 BCE:

Sumerians invent cuneiform writing; Egyptians invent hieroglyphic writing.

3200 BCE:

Farmers in Ireland’s Boyne Valley use 200,000 tons of stone to build Newgrange, a passage tomb aligned with the midwinter sunrise.

3200 BCE:

Ancient Egyptians invent pin bowling.

2800 BCE:

North Chico civilization in Peru builds massive ceremonial platforms.

1600 BCE:

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.

1250 BCE:

First Chinese writing system is developed.

1050 BCE:

Phoenician traders invent an alphabet of 22 letters that is the ancestor of Greek and, hence, all modern alphabets.

890 BCE:

The Greek poet, Homer, is the presumed author of The Iliad & the Odyssey, two of the earliest existing works of Western literature.

776 BCE:

First recorded Olympic games held at Olympia in Greece.

753 BCE:

According to legend, Romulus & Remus found Rome.

700 BCE:

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.

600 BCE:

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.

620 BCE:

The first known use of currency in the prosperous trading kingdom of Lydia, in western Turkey.

600 BC:

In what is modern-day Iraq, King Nebuchadnezzar builds the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

500 BCE:

Cities spread across Guatemala, Belize, northern Honduras and southeastern Mexico with massive stone buildings, sculpture, rich burials and flourishing trade.

500 BCE:

Celts arrive from central Europe.

507 BCE:

Athenians introduce a system of political reforms called demokratia - the first known democracy in the world.

336-323 BCE:

Alexander the Great, king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, conquers the Persian empire.


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).

330 BCE:

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.”

300 BCE:

El Mirador reaches its peak, building some of the largest known pyramids in the Maya world. There is also major pyramid construction at Tikal.

300 BCE:

Painted glyphs at San Bartolo in northern Guatemala are the earliest known examples of Maya writing.

200 BCE:

Superbly crafted religious offerings in bronze and gold, including the Battersea Shield and the Waterloo Helmet.

221 BCE:

Work is started on the Great Wall of China.

447-432 BCE:

Building of the Parthenon in Athens.

100 BCE:

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.

80 BCE:

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.

55 BCE:

After conquering Gaul (modern France and Belgium), Roman general Julius Caesar carries out a reconnaissance mission to southeast England.

54 BCE:

Julius Caesar invades Britain for the second time, but a rebellion brewing back in Gaul forces him to withdraw.

27 BCE:

Emperor Augustus draws up plans for a full-scale invasion of England, but they come to nothing.

20 BCE:

Trade in Roman goods intensifies and it’s possible that diplomatic links are established with Augustus and his successors.

36 BCE:

A date carved into a stone monument at Chiapa de Corzo depicts earliest known mathematical use of zero by the Maya.

30 BCE:

Death of Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, in Alexandria.

33 CE:

A charismatic religious leader named Jesus Christ is put to death in Jerusalem. His followers found a new religion called Christianity.

1 CE:

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”.

40 CE:

Emperor Caligula plans a British invasion, but his army refuses and the plan is abandoned.


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.

61 CE:

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.

79 CE:

The volcano Vesuvius erupts in Italy and buries the nearby towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash, lava, and mud.

100 CE:

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.

100 CE:

Yax Ehb Xook (his name means First Step Shark) founds a royal dynasty at Tikal.

100-150 CE:

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.

187 CE:

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.

105 CE:

Inspired by the nests of wasps and bees, an official of the Chinese court invents paper using rags and plant fibers.

122-128 CE:

Emperor Hadrian builds a wall coast-to-coast across northern England to protect the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire from barbarian invaders.

314 CE:

Christianity becomes legal in the Roman Empire.


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.

312 CE:

Constantine becomes the last emperor of a unified Roman Empire.

378 CE:

The king of Tikal is executed by Siyaj K’ak’ (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.

400 CE:

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 are on your own now”.

393 CE:

Constantine’s successor, Theodosius, divides the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern (Byzantine).

410 CE:

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.


Angles, Saxons and Jutes arrive from different parts of what is now Germany to fill the power vacuum left by the Romans.

476 CE:

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.

556 CE:

The seven kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex are established.

400-650 CE:

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.

562 CE:

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.

597 CE:

St Augustine brings Christianity to England. King Aethelberht of Kent gives him land to build Canterbury Cathedral.

600 CE:

Collapse of Teotihuacan for reasons as yet unknown.


Maya civilization reaches its zenith: peak population, greatest social complexity, artistic and intellectual highpoints.

599-615 CE:

The Snake Dynasty conquers Palenque in retaliation for an attack on one of their vassal cities. The Palenque dynastic line is broken. The ambitious Lady Sak Kuk (White Quetzal) has the political skill to have her 12-year-old son K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (Sun Shield) enthroned. King Pakal will become one of the greatest Maya kings.

617 CE:

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.

630 CE:

The prophet Mohammed occupies Mecca and unifies Arabia under a single religion.

636 CE:

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.

683 CE:

King Pakal dies in Palenque at the age of 80, after a 68 year rule.

695 CE:

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.

779 CE:

Mercia becomes the dominant kingdom.


First recorded Viking attack is in Dorset, followed the same year by a Viking raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne in Northumbria.

800 CE:

Charlemagne (aka Charles the Great, King of the Franks) is crowned the first Holy Roman Emperor.

829 CE:

Wessex becomes the dominant kingdom.

867 CE:

Vikings capture York.

869 CE:

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.

871 CE:

Coronation of Alfred the Great, king of Wessex. He is most famous for promoting literacy and learning.

825 CE:

The temple of Borobudur is built on the Indonesian island of Java. It is still the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

886 CE:

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).

850 CE:

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.

900 CE:

Maya cities in Guatemala, Belize and Honduras collapse due to overpopulation, drought, warfare and social unrest.


The central Maya heartlands in Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico are largely abandoned and the Maya concentrate in the Yucatan peninsula.

900 CE:

Chichen Itza becomes the regional power in the Yucatan with close ties to the Toltecs, a religious warrior cult from Tollan in central Mexico.

889 CE:

Start of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a series of historical records and annals, possibly commissioned by Alfred the Great.

901 CE:

Vikings discover Greenland.

930 CE:

Vikings in Iceland hold their first Althing, an outdoor assembly that is regarded as the world’s oldest parliament.

939 CE:

Death of Athelstan, first king of all England.

1016 CE:

King Canute of Denmark captures the English Crown.

1000 CE:

The Anasazi people of New Mexico use sunbaked mud (adobe) to build apartment-like complexes of multi-roomed dwellings, often several stories high.

1002 CE:

Viking Leif Erikson discovers North America.

1021 CE:

In Japan, Princess Murasaki Shikibu writes the tale of Genji, considered by many to be the world's first full-length novel.

1042 CE:

Coronation of Edward the Confessor (Edward II)

1055 CE:

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.


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.

1096-1099 CE:

Construction of the temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

1078 CE:

Work starts on Tower of London.

1085 CE:

Domesday Book

1100 CE:

Inca capital of Cuzco established in southeastern Peru.

1150 CE:

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.

1170 CE:

Population of London exceeds 30,000.

1192 CE:

Minamoto Yoritomo becomes first shogun (“supreme commander”) of Japan, reducing the emperor to a figurehead.

1200 CE:

Arabic number system introduced to Europe.

1215 CE:

The Magna Carta is signed by King John and his barons at Runnymede - one of the first steps taken by England towards parliamentary democracy.

1250 CE:

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.

1250-1450 CE:

Great Zimbabwe is the capital of a large and wealthy empire in southern Africa, whose ruler lives in a walled palace.

1283 CE:

Edward I (Edward Longshanks), wins control of Wales and makes it subject to English law.

1306 CE:

Robert the Bruce is crowned king of Scotland.

1314 CE:

Robert the Bruce defeats Edward II at Bannockburn.

1337 CE:

Hundred Years War with France.

1324 CE:

Knowledge of gunpowder has finally reached Europe from China and its first recorded use is at the siege of Metz in France.

1348 CE:

The Black Death (bubonic plague) kills nearly half England’s population.

1337 CE;

Death of Mansu Musa, ruler of the Mali empire in West Africa, thought to be the wealthiest man of all time.

1387 CE:

Chaucer starts work on The Canterbury Tales.

1400-1500 CE

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.

1400 CE:

High in the Andes of Peru, the Inca empire flourishes, with a population of 12 million.

1405 CE:

Death of Tamerlane, the ferocious conqueror of the Eurasian steppe,  He is still regarded as one of history’s greatest military leaders.

1415 CE:

Henry V defeats the French army at Agincourt - a major victory for the English in the Hundred Years War.

1422 CE:

Zheng He, a Chinese admiral, brings giraffes from East Africa as a gift for the Ming emperor.

1427-28 CE:  

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.

1431 CE:

Joan of Arc is burned at the stake as a witch by her English foes in Rouen, France.

1440 CE:

Montezuma I becomes the fifth ruler of the Aztecs. His rule will mark the height of the Aztec Empire.

1455 CE:

Johannes Gutenberg uses moveable type (first invented in China) to print first book in Europe.

1465 CE:

Sunni Ali, ruler of Songhai in West Africa, creates the largest empire that Africa has ever seen.


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.

1497 CE:

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.

1500 CE:

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.

1509 CE:

Coronation of Henry VIII.


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.

1517 CE:

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.

1519 CE:

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.

1521 CE:

After a three-month siege and weakened by famine and smallpox, Tenochtitlan falls to the Spanish - and with it, the Aztec empire.

1525 CE:

Civil war amongst the Inca weakens their empire.

1531 CE:

Fired up by stories of Inca gold, Francisco Pizarro and his army of conquest sail from Spain to Peru.

1524 CE:

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.

1534 CE:

Henry breaks from the Roman Catholic Church and, with the Act of Supremacy, makes himself head of the new Church of England.

1533 CE:

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.

1543 CE:

In Poland, Copernicus publishes a book showing planets revolve around sun.

1542 CE:

The Spanish conquer all the Maya cities in the Yucatan peninsula.

1558 CE:

Coronation of Elizabeth I.

1562 CE:

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.

1570 CE:

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.

1580 CE:

Sir Francis Drake arrives back at Plymouth after circumnavigating the globe.

1585 CE:

Sir Walter Raleigh establishes Roanoke, the first (failed) British colony in North America.

1588 CE:

England defeats Spanish armada.

1591 CE:

First performance of a play by Shakespeare (Henry VI Part II).

1600 CE:

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.


King James VI of Scotland is crowned James I of England, uniting England, Scotland and Ireland under one monarch.

1605 CE:

Gunpowder Plot.


Jamestown in Virginia, the first permanent British colony in North America, is founded by Captain John Smith.

1619 CE:

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.

1620 CE:

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

1620 CE:

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.

1642 CE:

Civil War.

1626 CE:

The great Basilica of St Peters in Rome, begun in 1506, is finally completed.

1649 CE:

Execution of Charles I.

1650 CE:

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.

1653 CE:

Cromwell appointed Lord Protector, giving himself the powers of a king.

1652 CE:

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.

1660 CE:

Restoration of the Monarchy under

Charles II.

1664-5 CE:

Plague kills a quarter of London’s populace.

1666 CE:

Great Fire of London rages for three days, destroying two-thirds of the city.

1689 CE:

English Bill of Rights decrees that monarchs will now rule in partnership with Parliament.

1692 CE:

Glencoe massacre.

1697 CE:

St Paul’s Cathedral (rebuilt and redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire), is reconsecrated for use.

1692 CE:

Witch trials begin in Salem, Massachusetts.

1693 CE:

The last dodo is hunted to extinction on the island of Mauritius.

1697 CE:

Fall of the island stronghold of Tayasal, also known as Nojpeten. It is the last Maya city to hold out against the Spanish conquistadors.

1698 CE:

Thomas Savery patents the first commercially viable steam engine, which is soon vastly improved upon by Savery’s blacksmith, Thomas Newcomen.

1707 CE:

Scottish parliament is dissolved and England Scotland officially become one country - Great Britain.

1713 CE:

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.


Coronation of George I, of Hanover, great-grandson of James I.

1721 CE:  

Sir Robert Walpole becomes first Prime Minister.

1716 CE:

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.

1773 CE:

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.”

1775-1783 CE:

American War of Independence, aka American Revolutionary War. The Declaration of Independence is issued by the 13 original colonies in 1776.

1775 CE:

American War of Independence begins.

1780s CE:

Start of Industrial Revolution.

1787 CE:

First convict ships set sail for Australia.

1783 CE:

Treaty of Paris formally recognizes the independence of the United States.

1789 CE:

Storming of the Bastille by an angry mob marks the start of the French Revolution.


Louis XVI is executed by guillotine in Paris.

1796 CE:

Edward Jenner invents vaccination for smallpox.

1807 CE:

William Wilberforce brings about the abolition of the British slave trade.

1808 CE:

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.

1815 CE:

British and Prussian armies defeat Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium.

1830 CE:

The US government forces 60,000 Native Americans to leave their homelands and move to reservations - a journey known as the Trail of Tears.

1821 CE:

Mexico and Guatemala win their independence from Spain.


18-year-old Victoria is crowned, after the death of her uncle, William IV. She will reign for more than 60 years.

1839 CE:

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.

1830-38 CE:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel creates the first high speed railway (the Great Western), linking London with Bristol.

1838 CE:

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.

1842 CE:

The Mines Act, followed the next year by the Factories Act, attempt to regulate child labour.

1847-1936 CE:

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.

1845-49 CE:

The Great Potato Famine in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands of people die; many others emigrate to the UK, USA, Canada and Australia.

1857 CE:

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.

1863 CE:

The London Underground - the world’s first underground passenger railway - opens with steam-driven carriages.

1865 CE:  

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution abolishes slavery.

1862-64 CE:

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.

1870 CE:

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.

1873 CE:

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.

1876 CE:

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.

1888 CE:

World’s first football league competition is won by Preston North End.

1880 CE:

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.

1889 CE:

French engineer Gustave Eiffel completes the Eiffel tower which will be the highest building in the world for the next 41 years.

1890 CE:

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.

1894 CE:

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.

1903 CE:

Orville and Wilbur Wright invent the world’s first powered flying machine. Their maiden flight lasts 12 seconds.

1910 CE:

Edward VII dies and is succeeded by his second son, George V.

1912 CE:

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.

1914-18 CE:

First World War.

1914-18 CE:

First World War.

1928 CE:

Women over 18 get the vote.

1923 CE:

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.

1926 CE:

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.

1939-1945 CE:

Second World War

1939-1945 CE:

Second World War

1948 CE:

Introduction of the NHS.

1952 CE:

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, who succeeds her father, George VI

1952 CE:

Using De Landa’s journal, Russian linguist Yuri Knorosov makes the first major breakthrough in deciphering Maya glyphs.

1954-96 CE:

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.

1955 CE:

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.

1957 CE:

Ghana becomes first British colony in Africa to gain its independence.

1965 CE:

Death penalty abolished.

1969 CE:

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.

1964 CE:

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.

1969 CE:

American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are the first humans to land on the moon.

1974 CE:

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”.

1975 CE:

Britain joins EEC.

1980-1990 CE:

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.

1987 CE:

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.

1989 CE:

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.

1989 CE:

A British computer researcher called Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web.

1990-91 CE:

End of Apartheid in South Africa when Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid campaigners are released from jail and race restrictions are abolished.

1992 CE:  

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.

1994 CE:

Channel Tunnel links England and France, and the first direct rail service from London to Paris is opened.

1994 CE:

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.

1994 CE:

Hong Kong is returned to China after 150 years of British rule.

1998 CE:

Good Friday agreement to bring peace to Ireland is approved by voters on both sides of the border.

2001 CE:

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.

2001 CE:

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.

2012 CE:

Britain hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.


Scottish Independence Referendum - 55% vote to remain in the United Kingdom, 45% favor independence.

2015 CE:

Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning monarch in UK history.

2017 CE:

The Maya are added to the UK KS2 curriculum.

2018 CE:

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.

2016 CE:

UK votes to leave EU in a shock result for the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum.

2019 CE:

Britain leaves the European Community.

2019 CE:

Thelma Cabrera, a Maya woman from one of the poorest villages in Guatemala stands in her country’s presidential election.

2020 CE:

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.

2020 CE:

The highly contagious Corona virus sends the whole world into lockdown.

You can download a free pdf

of this timeline from our lessonplans page: here

Quick jump links to:

-     Archaic Period

-     Early Preclassic Period

-     Middle Preclassic Period

-     Late Preclassic Period

-     Classic Period

-     Late Classic Period

-     Post Classic Period

-     Colonial Period

-     Post Colonial Period

1000 BCE:

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.



Victoria’s eldest son is crowned Edward VII.