Why a documentary movie?
The documentary "Kuhul Copan Ajaw" is being produced for three reasons. The first reflects the project's goal of informing the public about Copan's endangered urban sectors: their location on private lands and other zones with minimal protection invites looting and unchecked development. Thus a central reason for this film is our desire to encourage conservation and protection of cultural patrimony beyond the Principal Group, that is, of the ancient city as a whole.
The second reason reflects our wish to create a movie about Copan that goes beyond the traditional foci of documentary films in archaeology. Primarily this means that we are concerned with urban planning and the ways in which the ancient Maya maintained community cohesion and growth over hundreds of years. This means that we do not focus solely on a tomb or a building, or on a group of special artifacts. Rather, we are concerned with addressing large scale patterns and contexts--for example, a city-- and the social meanings that shaped and were shaped by them. We also seek to educate people with respect to the socio-political history of the field of archaeology and how this has affected theories and methods employed in fieldwork and research. Such a perspective is not basic in current documentaries. We place the traditions of archaeology as practiced by North Americans--the "culture" of archaeology--in the framework of its goals, funding, and audience. We anticipate that such a perspective will grant viewers many diverse and profound insights into the practice of archaeology, why it is important, and who stands to lose or gain from its interpretations and advances.
The third reason that we are making this film is to give life and animation to the 3D architectural reconstructions generated by Clement Valla. A documentary film allows us a stage and forum for Valla's cutting-edge work and allows us to experience and viscerally analyze ancient spaces and promote the usefulness of CAD-based reconstructions in archaeology. This work has aided PAPAC in studies of construction techniques, socio-environmental integration, and design and engineering. Because the reconstructions are built from raw excavation data (drawing, maps, photographs, etc.), the development of these reconstructions also coordinates project members and modifies considerably the adage that "Archaeology is destruction."
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