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Land and Water Revisited

Teotihuacan Valley, Mexico in 2010

In 1961 Evan Pugh Professor Emeritus of Archaeological Anthropology, William T. Sanders (1926-2008), traveled to the Teotihuacan Valley to film a documentary based on his dissertation research from the mid-1950's.Kirk French "Land and Water: An Ecological Study of the Teotihuacan Valley of Mexico" provides an invaluable snapshot of agricultural and land-use practices in the Basin just prior to the urban explosion of Mexico City.  Sanders documented peasant farmers using masonry dams, canals and splash irrigation; women and children washing clothes at a nearby spring; and the many uses of the native maguey plant. Attention to such mundane but essential activities is one reason why this 28-minute film has been used as an educational tool for students in the Department of Anthropology at Penn State for almost 50 years.

The Land and Water Revisited Project aims to document the drastic changes that have occurred to the people and the environment of the Teotihuacan Valley in the last 50 years.  By comparing footage from the original film, we will produce a new documentary that will provide a tangible example of human impact on the environment.

Several years ago as a graduate student at Penn State, Kirk French began assessing the feasibility of returning to the Teotihuacan Valley to document ecological changes by simply reshooting the same shots from the same locations, a Land and Water Revisited.  As an archaeologist studying the hydraulic technologies of the Maya at the site of Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico he felt this to be a very fitting undertaking because it would provide an opportunity to apply his understanding of the ancient human impacts on the environment to the present day.  But as a graduate student working on his dissertation research he found it difficult to give this project the attention it deserved, so the idea was postponed. Unfortunately, in July of 2008, William T. Sanders died at the age of 82.  His unexpected death, in combination with the completion of French’s PhD, not only reenergized the project, but gave it new meaning.  Land and Water Revisited will not only document the changes of the Valley but will serve as a memorial to one of the most influential Mesoamerican scholars of our time.


Director and Executive Producer - Dr. Kirk D. French , Assistant Teaching Professor in Anthropology, Penn State
Directors of PhotographyElijah Hermitt & Neal Hutcheson

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Additional Information on William Sanders

Purchase a DVD of Land and Water: An Ecological Study of the Teotihuacan Valley of Mexico