Dr. Anabel Ford at Ahliah
Tue, 29 Jan 2013

Dr. Anabel Ford is a renowned archeologist and anthropologist and is currently the Director of the BRASS/El Pilar Program at the MesoAmerican Research Center University of California, Santa Barbara. On a professional visit to the Middle East, Dr. Ford participated in the 7th World Archeological Congress in Jordan and gave a lecture at the AUB museum in January 2013 on her work on the El Pilar project- El Pilar is the ancient city straddling the border between Belize and Guatemala. Dr. Ford wanted to spend a day at Ahliah School, her alma mater. It was a nostalgic day for her and a very educational and interesting one for our students and faculty.

 Dr. Ford chose to work on an original project on the 3000 year old Mayan culture far from her native USA. She dedicated most of her career decoding the ancient Maya landscape. She attributes her interest in archeology and learning from other cultures to her sojourn in Beirut, in particular in the multicultural realm of Ahliah. She still acknowledges the positive influence the school and especially Madame Cortas, as she likes to call her, had on her. Dr. Ford says that her life in Ahliah gave her the insight and understanding of the other. At that time, there was a significant anti-American sympathy among the students mainly because of the strong US support to Israel. However, she learned that this was not directed against her; she was rather accepted as a member of the school’s community. She also learned, as she mentioned to our students, that one can learn much from other cultures and hence her adventure with the ancient Mayan culture began. She led a multidisciplinary team for more than two decades, in a study in a 30-km transect between the Petén sites of Tikal and Yaxhá.   In 1983, she discovered, under the canopy of the rainforest and later mapped the Maya city El Pilar. While living in Guatemala in 1978, she learned from local people that the Maya forest was an edible garden. She learned the Mayan sustainable practices in agriculture of cycling the small plots from forests to farming fields and back to forests where each plot was under the responsibility of a family. They worked in harmony and cooperation. This is in contrast to the resource-diminishing, slash-and-burn farming methods. At El Pilar, Ford is advancing programs that will simulate "Maya Forest Gardens" as a model for conservation, sustainable development and cooperation.  She coined the term "Action Archaeology" to describe how her focus on cultural ecology- the multifaceted relationships of humans and their environment- is being applied at El Pilar for the benefit of contemporary populations.

Ahliah was more than privileged to host Dr. Anabel Ford who brought such an enriching experience for everyone to learn from and remember.

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