Coe, Michael Douglas

Coe, Michael Douglas,

1929–2019, American anthropologist, b. New York City, Ph.D. Harvard, 1959. Coe taught at Yale from 1960, becoming Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology in 1963 (emeritus from 1995). He was also curator of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History (1968–94). A scholar of pre-Columbian civilizations in Mexico and Central America, he spent much of his career deciphering the script of the ancient MayaMaya
, indigenous people of S Mexico and Central America, occupying an area comprising the Yucatán peninsula and much of the present state of Chiapas in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, parts of El Salvador, and extreme western Honduras.
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 and confirming that they had an elaborate written language. He was instrumental in deciphering and confirming the authenticity of the Maya Codex of Mexico (formerly known as the Grolier Codex), the earliest surviving manuscript (c.13th cent.) from the Americas. He also studied the ancient OlmecOlmec
, term denoting the culture of ancient Mexican natives inhabiting the tropical coastal plain of the contemporary states of Veracruz and Tabasco, between 1300 and 400 B.C.
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 people of Mexico and the Khmer civilization of Cambodia, and helped establish the field of ecological archaeology, which studies the relationship of ancient peoples to their environment. Among his books are Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs (1962), The Maya (1966), America's First Civilization: Discovering the Olmec (1968), The Maya Scribe and His World (1973), Breaking the Maya Code (1992), The Art of the Maya Scribe (1997, with J. Kerr), The True History of Chocolate (1996, with S. D. Coe, his wife), Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (2003), and The Line of Forts: Historical Archaeology on the Colonial Frontier of Massachusetts (2013).


See his memoir (2006).

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