Maya Exploration Center: Education Through Exploration

With a contribution of $50 or more, you'll receive:
- Dr. Sanders original documentary film, "Land and Water" (DVD)
- Recognition as a contributor in the final credits of the film "Land and Water Revisited"

At the close of 2008, for the first time in the history of the human species, the majority of the world's population will live in urban areas. Oddly, very little is known about the process of urban development through time. The Basin of Mexico is one of the few places that saw the development of a pristine, urbanized state called Teotihuacan. This film project seeks to develop a deeper understanding of the process of urban change through a return visit to a historic film that was recorded by a renowned archaeologist who studied the development of urbanism in central Mexico.

In 1961, at the beginning of his career, Pennsylvania State University archaeologist William T. Sanders (1926-2008) traveled to Mexico's Teotihuacan Valley to film a documentary based on his Harvard dissertation. The film, "Land and Water" 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.

Along with the rapid population growth of Mexico City came the commercialization of farms, which destroyed much of the archaeological record as well as the traditional agrarian landscape. Sanders unknowingly captured a way of life that is all but extinct in the Basin of Mexico today, and is quickly disappearing in the rest of highland Mexico. One of the more interesting aspects of the film are the several long, slow pans of the Teotihuacan Valley, showing the complete absence of urban sprawl. This project will revisit the Valley and document the drastic changes that have been caused by urbanization over the last 50 years. The final product will be a sobering case study concerning the urban effects on a once vibrant rural landscape. Research of this nature is particularly poignant at a time of increasing awareness of our imperiling of the planet and its diverse ecosystem.

In addition to discussing Sanders contributions to anthropology and revisiting many of the same locations used in the original film, we will also locate and interview as many of the participants that took part in the 1961 film as possible. These interviews will provide firsthand accounts and opinions regarding changes in land-use, water rights, and how urbanism has affected the region.

Part of our project will involve setting up several viewings of the original film for the locals to watch. Filming the reactions of these families when they see themselves, their parents, their grandparents, and their way of life, as it was 50 years ago will certainly lend emotional power to the film.

For more information on William T. Sanders and his film Land and Water please visit the Department of Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University.

If you prefer to mail your donation, please use this Donation Form and send a check or money order to:
Maya Exploration Center
7301 Ranch Road 620 N
Suite 155 #284
Austin, TX 78726

Maya Exploration Center, Inc. is a Texas 501(c)(3) non profit corporation. As such, your donations are tax deductible. MEC will provide you with a receipt documenting your donation for your tax records.

Mission Statement
Maya Exploration Center (MEC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study of ancient Maya civilization.

MEC does this through: 1) travel courses, lecture series, and education programs teaching students, educators, and the general public about the ancient Maya, 2) the survey and mapping of ruins hidden in the jungles of Mexico and Central America 3) the study of ancient Maya science and 4) the exploration and documentation of Maya architecture.
Suggested reading books can be bought at JungleCasts with Dr. Barnhart