Sanders, William T. 1926–2008

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Sanders, William T. 1926–2008

(William Sanders, William Timothy Sanders)


See index for CA sketch: Born April 19, 1926, in Patchogue, NY; died of complications after a fall, July 2, 2008, in State College, PA. Anthropologist, archaeologist, educator, television presenter, and author. Sanders spent most of his academic career at Pennsylvania State University, where he taught anthropology from 1959 to 1993. He spent much of the remaining time in Mexico and Central America, where his heart had led him when he young. One of Sanders's major contributions to the field of Mesoamerican archaeology was his far-reaching aerial survey of the entire Basin of Mexico in the 1970s. Despite the absence of twenty-first-century technology, he and his colleagues were able to locate and photograph a vast number of early sites, from Aztec temples to Teotihuacán farmlands, sites that predated the Spanish conquest of the 1500s. Many of the sites were invisible from ground level, covered by nearly impenetrable vegetation or hidden under the architecture of present-day Mexico City. His research also enabled Sanders to develop theories regarding the relationship of land, climate, and ecology to settlement patterns and population growth. Another focus of his research was the Mayan city of Copán in current-day Honduras, where he was able to study civilization at the community level, from social structure to architecture and farming techniques. Not all of his work was so technical and scholarly. In the 1990s Sanders participated in a project, funded by the Annenberg Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which landed him on public television as a host of the miniseries Out of the Past and coauthor of the companion volume Out of the Past: An Introduction to Archaeology (1993). Sanders published several other books as well. He was the coauthor of Mesoamerica: The Evolution of a Civilization (1968), New World Pre-History (1970), and the groundbreaking The Basin of Mexico: Ecological Processes in the Evolution of a Civilization (1979). Sanders also coedited The Aztec Period Occupation of the Valley (2000).



Guadalupe Mastache, Alba, and other editors, Arqueología mesoamericana: homenaje a William T. Sanders, two volumes, Arqueología Mexicana (Mexico City, Mexico), 1996.


Chicago Tribune, July 17, 2008, sec. 2, p. 7.

New York Times, July 16, 2008, p. C12.

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Sanders, William T. 1926–2008

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