Michael D. Coe

Michael D. Coe
Michael Douglas Coe
Born 1929
Fields anthropology, archaeology, epigraphy
Known for Maya civilization

Michael D. Coe (born 1929) is an American archaeologist, anthropologist, epigrapher and author. Primarily known for his research in the field of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican studies (and in particular, for his work on the Maya civilization, where he is regarded as one of the foremost Mayanist scholars[1] of the latter 20th century), Coe has also made extensive investigations across a variety of other archaeological sites in North and South America. He has also specialised in comparative studies of ancient tropical forest civilizations, such as those of Central America and Southeast Asia. He currently (as of 2005) holds the chair of Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, Yale University, and is Curator Emeritus of the Anthropology collection in the Peabody Museum of Natural History, where he had been Curator from 1968 to 1994.[2]

Coe worked for the CIA as a part of the front organization Western Enterprises in Taiwan created to subvert Mao's China.[3][dubious ]

With over four decades of active research experience, Coe is a prolific author of scientific papers across a broad range of archaeological, anthropological and ethnohistorical topics. He has also authored a number of popular works for the non-specialist audience, several of which have been best-selling and much reprinted, such as The Maya (1966) and Breaking the Maya Code (1992). He also co-authored the book Mexico: From the Olmecs to the Aztecs (1962, sixth edition, 2008) with Rex Koontz.

Coe received his Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University in the early 1950s. Shortly after commencing his graduate studies program there, in 1955 he married the daughter of the noted evolutionary biologist and Russian émigré Theodosius Dobzhansky, Sophie, who was then an undergraduate anthropology student at Radcliffe College.[4] Sophie translated from Russian, the work of epigrapher, Yuri Valentinovich Knorosov, "The Writing of the Maya Indians" (1967).[5] Knorosov based his studies on De Landa's phonetic alphabet and is credited with originally breaking the Maya code.


Awards and recognition

During the course of his lengthy scientific career, Coe has been the recipient of a number of awards in recognition of his substantial contributions to the fields of archaeology and anthropology. These include:

Major publications

  • Coe, Michael D. (1961) La Victoria, An Early Site on the Coast of Guatemala. Papers vol. 53. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge.
  • Coe, Michael D. (1966) The Maya. Thames and Hudson, New York. (8th ed. 2011)
  • Coe, Michael D. (1973) The Maya Scribe and His World. The Grolier Club, New York.
  • Coe, Michael D. (1992) Breaking the Maya Code. Thames and Hudson, New York. (revised ed. 1999)
  • Coe, Michael D. (1995) The Olmec World: Ritual and Rulership. The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton.
  • Coe, Michael D. (2003) Angkor and the Khmer Civilization. Thames and Hudson, New York.
  • Coe, Michael D. and Richard A. Diehl (1980) In the Land of the Olmec. 2 vols. University of Texas Press, Austin.
  • Coe, Michael D. and Justin Kerr (1998) The Art of the Maya Scribe. Harry N. Abrams, New York.
  • Coe, Michael D. and Mark Van Stone (2001) Reading the Maya Glyphs (2nd ed. 2005)
  • Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe (1996) The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, New York.


  1. ^ Merrin, Edward H. "The Olmec World of Michael Coe". Edward Merrin. http://www.edwardmerrin.com/2011/11/olmec-world-of-michael-coe.html. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Peabody Museum staff (2005).
  3. ^ Tim Weiner's book, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.
  4. ^ Coe (1992), p.154.
  5. ^ Stuart and Houston 1989: 15,85; Scarborough 1994: 40
  6. ^ Museo Popol Vuh (n.d.)


Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9. OCLC 26605966. 
Museo Popol Vuh staff (n.d.). "Dr. Michael D. Coe - Orden del Pop 2006". Orden del Pop. Guatemala City: Museo Popol Vuh, Universidad Francisco Marroquín. http://www.popolvuh.ufm.edu/index.php/Orden_del_Pop#Dr._Michael_D._Coe_Orden_del_Pop_2006. Retrieved 2011-11-11.  (Spanish)
Peabody Museum of Natural History staff (2005). "Anthropology - Michael D. Coe". The Collections. New Haven, CT: Peabody Museum of Natural History, Yale University. http://www.peabody.yale.edu/collections/ant/ant_coe.html. Retrieved 2007-02-12. 

External links

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