Journey to Tataouine: The Archaeology of a Faraway Galaxy

In 1976, a production company stormed the sands of Tunisia to film a little movie that virtually no one expected to be remembered.

In 1995, upon finishing his PhD in archaeology, Dr. David West Reynolds contacted Lucasfilm in the hopes finding the original filming locations of Star Wars.  To his disappointment, no records were kept.  In the days when the internet and GPS were both fledgling tools, inadequate to the task at hand, Dr. Reynolds set out to use the skills he’d learned to rediscover the sites that became the touchstones of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

In the wake of this original journey, Dr. West would be hired as a location scout for Lucasfilm for the prequel trilogy, and many a fan would tour the area looking for these original sites.

Another 20+ years after that, I was fortunate enough to hear an interview with Dr. Reynolds on the Rebel Force Radio podcast.  He explained the quest he’d been on, and then he announced a Kickstarter campaign to fund a DVD release of his original footage to fellow Star Wars fans.  For some of the pieces on this quest, this footage would be the last time anyone would see them in a potentially recognizable state.  Time marches on, and the desert is a harsh mistress.  For others, the locations are surprisingly intact.

I proudly put my money towards this within moments of learning about it.  My DVD and maps arrived in the mail yesterday.  Overwhelmed by anticipation, I dropped everything and immediately put the disc in my player.

In short, fandom rewarded.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me there’s something special about the shooting locations of Tatooine that are imprinted on my soul.  Maybe that sounds corny to some; I know for a fact I’m not the only one.  Fans across the world have made similar statements.  To go forth into the desert based on word of mouth and some stock images from old bubble gum cards is a quest worthy of Indiana Jones.  I had geekbumps the entire time I watched this.  I can only imagine the reality behind such an undertaking, days and weeks in the unforgiving heat, looking for a hint of a recognizable rock or crater that could easily not be there or simply look different from angles other than what we’ve seen on film.  This sort of quest requires love and dedication, and perhaps faith in the Force.

This is special beyond words.  I can’t thank Dr. Reynolds enough for sharing this with us.

And I have to admit, I’m more than a bit jealous of the bonus footage where he plays with his original Kenner landspeeder on the sands of the Lars Homestead.  Say what you will, that’s just awesome.

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