Dr. Kirk French is a professional archaeologist and an authority on ancient Maya water management systems. He was a
senior member of the Palenque Mapping Project and headed up the team's water management research.
His 2002 University of Cincinnati Master Thesis, Creating Space Through
Water Management at the Classic Maya Site of Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico
(PDF), documented dozens of newly discovered water
features and presented compelling evidence that Palenque expanded its habitable land by controlling the flow of water.
French recently completed his PhD at the Pennsylvania State University. His dissertation, The
Hydroarchaeological Approach: Understanding the Ancient Maya Impact on the Palenque Watershed
introduces a new method for measuring the effects of human impact on the environment. Surprisingly,
French concludes that the major cause for fluctuations in the water cycle at Palenque is
landcover alteration (deforestation, urbanism, etc.) not climate change.
In addition, French spearheaded "Land and Water Revisited", a project that documents the effects
of modern day urbanism on the Teotihuacan Valley of Mexico through ethnographic film. In 1961,
Penn State archaeologist William T. Sanders (1926 - 2008), filmed "Land and Water: An Ecological
Study of the Teotihuacan Valley of Mexico". This documentary captured a way of life that is
all but gone in the Valley today due to the urban growth of Mexico City. French has in his
possession all of the outtakes and notes of the original film. His goal is to return to the
Teotihuacan Valley and record the changes through juxtaposition of past and present footage and
with interviews of the local people.
French has presented his cross-disciplinary research at multiple professional conferences and
published almost a dozen articles. His goal is to develop a better understanding of the
interplay between humans and their surroundings by providing views of what landscape alteration
can and has done to the environment through archaeology, watershed modeling, and
ethnographic/documentary film. Currently, he is a Lecturer of Anthropology at the
Pennsylvania State University.