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William R. Coe II Personal Papers

1168

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Repository:
University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
Creator:
Coe, Michael D., 1929-
Creator:
Coe, William R. , 1926-2009
Title:
William R. Coe II Personal Papers
Date [inclusive]:
1949-1969
Call Number:
1168
Extent:
1 Cubic feet
Language:
English
Abstract:
William Robertson Coe II was born in 1926 in New York City. Dr. Coe trained as an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania (BA 1950, MA 1953, and Ph. D 1958). He joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology in 1959 and the Penn Museum as assistant curator in the same year. Coe conducted early excavations in Belize, Bolivia, and El Salvador and later directed excavations at Tayasal and Quirigua in Guatemala, but is best known for his long-term commitment with the Museum’s Tikal Project in Guatemala from 1956-1969. He took over the directorship of the Tikal field operations in 1963. His meticulous archaeological recording skills culminated in his monumental achievement, publication in 1990 of the six-volume “Tikal Report 14,” one of the most significant archaeological reports ever. Coe received the Guatemalan government’s highest honor, “The Order of the Quetzal,” in 1969 and the Drexel Medal from the Penn Museum in 1991. He was also known as a superb teacher of Mesoamerican Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania. He retired from the University in 1987. He died in 2009 at the age of 82. The William R. Coe II collection of personal papers spans the period from 1949-1969. It contains materials related to his early field research, articles and publications, prior to his extensive work in Tikal, which is housed with the Tikal Project records, photographs, and publications. The collection consists of 2 archival boxes of material, with a primary focus on Nohoch Ek, British Honduras, an early expedition conducted as an undergraduate student along with his brother Michael Coe and also on William Coe’s University of Pennsylvania master’s thesis on Piedras Negras, Guatemala. Notable ephemera within the collection include his personal state of Pennsylvania TIKAL license plate and the “Order of the Quetzal” medal, along with Guatemalan news clippings about the award.
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Biography/History

William Robertson Coe II was born November 28, 1926 in New York City, the son of William Rogers Coe and Clover Simonton Coe. He and his brother Michael both became renowned Mayanists and archaeologists. Dr. Coe trained as an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania (BA 1950, MA 1953, and Ph. D 1958). He joined the faculty of the Department of Anthropology as an assistant professor in 1959 and the Penn Museum as assistant curator in the same year. He retired from the University in 1987 as a Professor of Anthropology, and Curator of the American Section and Meso-American Anthropology.

Prior to his long-term commitment with the Museum’s Tikal Project, Coe conducted excavations in Belize, Bolivia, and El Salvador. In Bolivia, he served as assistant to Alfred Kidder II. Coe, known as Bill to his field colleagues, was best known for his role in the University Museum’s archaeological investigation of the Classic Maya site of Tikal in Guatemala. He joined the project as a young scholar in its first year, 1956, and took over the directorship of the Tikal field operations in 1963, until the site and entire collection were formally turned over to the Guatemalan Institute of Anthropology and History. In 1969, the government of Guatemala extended him its highest honor for his work at Tikal, membership in the Order of the Quetzal. At Tikal, Coe initiated the cross-referenced catalog system which became the model for many others in the field. He was an excellent photographer, highly-skilled draftsman, and possessed meticulous archaeological recording skills, including superbly drawn archaeological sections.

Most of Bill Coe’s publications involved Tikal. His 1967 guidebook, “Tikal: A Handbook of the Ancient Maya Ruins,” is still in print. His monumental achievement was the completion and publication in 1990 of “Tikal Report 14: Excavations in the Great Plaza, North Terrace and North Acropolis of Tikal.” In six volumes, the report contains over 1,000 pages of text and 238 excavation drawings. It received immediate recognition as one of the most significant archaeological reports ever, covering 17 years of excavations. After the close of the Tikal project, Coe served in 1971 as the director of the Tayasal, Guatemala excavation and planned and directed the first season of field excavations at Quirigua, Guatemala in 1975, his last field investigation. Dr. Coe devoted the remainder of his career to publishing the final reports of the Tikal Project. He established an endowed American Section research fund for publications. Coe trained a generation of American and Guatemalan Maya Archaeologists at Tikal. At the University of Pennsylvania, he was known for his superlative teaching skills in Mesoamerican Archaeology and Archaeological Theory. Dr. William Coe retired from the University in 1987 and was awarded the Drexel Medal by the Penn Museum in 1991 for his achievements in archaeology. The William R. Coe II collection of personal papers spans the period from 1949-1969. The collection consists of one linear foot of material, divided into the following series: Correspondence, Ephemera, British Honduras (Correspondence, Manuscripts, and Miscellaneous), British Honduras—Nohoch Ek Manuscript, Photos, and Report, Piedras Negras Master’s Thesis and Illustrations, Manuscripts and Publications, News Clippings, and Photos. Its primary focus is on Nohoch Ek, British Honduras, an early expedition conducted while he and his brother Michael Coe were still undergraduate students, and on William Coe’s University of Pennsylvania master’s thesis on Piedras Negras, Guatemala. Ephemera within the Coe Personal Papers collection include his personal state of Pennsylvania “You’ve Got a friend in TIKAL” license plate and the “Order of the Quetzal” medal, awarded by the government of Guatemala in 1969 for his work at Tikal. Guatemalan news clippings about the award are also part of the collection. The Manuscripts and Publications series includes several papers and publications written by Coe. The Coe Personal Papers collection was donated to the Museum in early 2010, following Coe’s death in November, 2009, by Coe’s son, William R. F. Coe. Records for William Coe’s extensive work in Tikal are housed with the Tikal Project records, photographs, and publications. Other related records for William Coe are found in the Tayasal, Guatemala; Quirigua, Guatemala; and El Trapiche (Chalchuapa), El Salvador records. William Robertson Coe II lived for many years in Radnor, Pennsylvania with his wife Ann and son William R. F. Coe. He died on November 23, 2009 at the age of 82.

Scope and Contents

The William R. Coe II collection of personal papers spans the period from 1949-1969. The collection consists of one linear foot of material, divided into the following series: Correspondence, Ephemera, British Honduras (Correspondence, Manuscripts, and Miscellaneous), British Honduras—Nohoch Ek Manuscript, Photos, and Report, Piedras Negras Master’s Thesis and Illustrations, Manuscripts and Publications, News Clippings, and Photos. Its primary focus is on Nohoch Ek, British Honduras, an early expedition conducted while he and his brother Michael Coe were still undergraduate students, and on William Coe’s University of Pennsylvania master’s thesis on Piedras Negras, Guatemala. Ephemera within the Coe Personal Papers collection include his personal state of Pennsylvania “You’ve Got a friend in TIKAL” license plate and the “Order of the Quetzal” medal and certificate, awarded by the government of Guatemala in 1969 for his work at Tikal. Guatemalan news clippings about the award are also part of the collection. The Manuscripts and Publications series includes several papers and publications written by Coe.

The Coe Personal Papers collection was donated to the Museum in early 2010, following Coe’s death in November, 2009, by Coe’s son, William R. F. Coe.

Records for William Coe’s extensive work in Tikal are housed with the Tikal Project records, photographs, and publications. Other related records for William Coe are found in the Tayasal, Guatemala; Quirigua, Guatemala; and El Trapiche (Chalchuapa), El Salvador records.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives

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Controlled Access Headings

Geographic Name(s)
  • Nohoch Ek Site (British Honduras)
  • Piedras Negras site (Guatemala)
Subject(s)
  • Guatemala, Order of Quetzal

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Collection Inventory

Correspondence, 1956-1963.

Box
1
Box

Personal, 1956-1963.

1

Professional, 1955-1969.

1

Ephemera.

Box
1
Box

Notebook and Address Book.

1

Objects.

1

Miscellaneous.

1

British Honduras, 1949-1949.

Box
1
Box

Correspondence--Personal, 1949-1949.

1

Correspondence--Professional, 1949-1950.

1

Manuscripts.

1

Michael Coe--Correspondence, Documents, 1949-1949.

1

Photos--Town.

1

Site Plans--Miscellaneous.

1

Nohoch Ek--Maps, Site Plans, etc., 1949-1949.

1

Nohoch Ek--Article and Correspondence, 1956-1956.

1

Nohoch Ek--Manuscript Draft.

1

Nohoch Ek--Manuscript--Draft, notes, sketches #1.

1

Nohoch Ek--Manuscript--Draft, notes, sketches #2.

1

Nohoch Ek--Photos #1, 1949-1949.

1

Nohoch Ek--Photos #2, 1949-1949.

1

Nohoch Ek--Photos #3, 1949-1949.

1

Nohoch Ek--Photos #4, 1949-1949.

1

Nohoch Ek--Report 1.

1

Nohoch Ek--Report 2.

1

Nohoch Ek--Report 3.

1

Nohoch Ek--Report 4--Photos 1-43.

1

Nohoch Ek--Report 5--Photos 44-109, 1949-1949.

1

Piedras Negras, Guatemala, 1953-1953.

Box
2
Box

M.A. Thesis--"...Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Text, 1 of 4, 1953-1953.

2

M.A. Thesis--..."Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Text 2 of 4, 1953-1953.

2

M.A. Thesis--..."Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Text 3 of 4, 1953-1953.

2

M.A. Thesis--..."Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Text 4 of 4, 1953-1953.

2

M.A. Thesis--..."Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Illus. 1 of 3, 1953-1953.

2

M.A. Thesis--..."Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Illus. 2 of 3, 1953-1953.

2

M.A. Thesis--..."Artifacts, Caches, Burials"--Illus. 3 of 3, 1953-1953.

2

Manuscripts and Publications.

Box
2
Box

"A Distinctive Artifact Common to Haiti and Central America", 1956-1957.

2

"Some Aspects of Food and Its Preparation in Pre-Conquest Mesoamerica," ( of 3), 1951-1951.

2

"Some Aspects of Food and Its Preparation in Pre-Conquest Mesoamerica," (2 of 3), 1951-1951.

2

"Some Aspects of Food and Its Preparation in Pre-Conquest Mesoamerica," (3 of 3), 1951-1951.

2

" A Review of LaVenta, Tabasco, and Its Relevance to the Olmec Problem," with rebuttal and commentary, 1964-1967.

2

News Clippings.

Box
2
Box

Guatemala, Order of Quetzal, 1969.

2

Personal.

2

Photos.

Box
2
Box

Personal.

2

Central America --Unidentified.

2

Chemax, Yucatan, Mexico.

2

Larios and Orrego Award Certificates.

2

Maya Excavations--Unidentified.

2

Maya Sites and Artifacts--Unidentified.

2