The PBS documentary "Quest for the Lost Maya," featuring Dr. George Bey and Millsaps students, aired nationally on March 28, 2012. Produced by National Geographic, the documentary was filmed in the summer of 2011 at Millsaps' Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve in Yucatán, Mexico.
"Quest for the Lost Maya" full video
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"Quest for the Lost Maya" promo video
National Geographic became interested in work at the reserve after an article in USA Today in August 2010 reported on Bey's research about why the ancient Maya suddenly left their homes in Kiuic. In March 2011, The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article featuring the work of Bey and other Millsaps programs in Mexico. Bey is a professor of sociology and anthropology, Chisholm Foundation Chair in Arts and Sciences and associate dean of international education at Millsaps.
"Why did they leave? That's the question," said Bey in the USA Today article. "Things were going full-bore, construction was underway. And things stopped."
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Before the national airing, National Geographic's Director Jeremy Zipple visited campus. Zipple joined Bey and students Mandi Strickland and Phillip Boyett, who appear in the documentary, in a panel discussion after a special screening of the program.
Strickland and Boyett were chosen to speak on the panel because of their extensive work on the project. Strickland is a Keck Fellow who worked at the small site of Escalera al Cielo (EAC), a hilltop elite residential complex in Yucatán. Phillip excavated on the eastern side of the central pyramid, which was the center of the ancient city was filmed extensively during production of the documentary.
Both students will be returning to work on the project at Kiuic with Dr. Bey this summer. "I will be going back to excavate again, and I will stay in Yucatán for the better part of the next year administering Kiuic's academic scholarship for local high-school students and doing individual research," Boyett said about his plans to return.
WLBT feature on "Quest for the Lost Maya"
When asked what it was like working with film crews during excavation, Strickland said, "Jeremy Zipple was very creative and inventive. Everyone had great, positive attitudes!"
About the final, edited program, Boyett said, "I'm excited to see how the reenactments turned out. It was quite a sight to see a large group of modern Mayan people wearing loincloths!"
The documentary is projected to have one of the highest ratings for March on PBS with an audience estimated to be 1.7 million households, or 4.5 million people. It is also being shown in France and across 53 National Geographic international TV channels. A Japanese documentary, filmed simultaneously and produced by Tokyo Broadcasting System, aired in January.