ALL YOU EVER wanted to know about the archaeological dig at the ancient Mayan city of Tikal in Guatemala can be found in a six-volume report by Dr. William R. Coe II, containing more than 1,000 pages of small-type text and 238 pen-and-ink drawings.
Getting through so much detail might be a daunting task, but "Tikal Report 14: Excavations in the Great Plaza, North Terrace and North Acropolis of Tikal" is considered by scholars one of "the most significant archaeological reports ever."
"The quantity and quality of time, and the dedication, respect and courage required to produce this voluminous and tremendously informative report should serve as an inspiration, no less so a humbling lesson, to all those attempting work of this nature in the future," wrote William Fash, of Harvard University.
Coe, the man who accomplished this feat, was a highly respected and much-honored University of Pennsylvania archaeologist and anthropologist who devoted nearly 20 years to the project.
He died Nov. 23 at age 82. He lived in Radnor.
Coe was curator emeritus of the American Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and professor emeritus in Penn's Anthropology Department.
Coe, a native of New York City, arrived in Tikal, a city dating to the 4th century B.C., as a young scholar in 1956. He initiated the first excavations of what once had been called a "lost city," because for many years it was completely covered by jungle growth.
He started a renowned photographic record of artifacts and organized a catalog system that became a model for others in the field. In 1963, he took over directorship of the project's field operations and continued in that capacity until 1970.
His 1967 guidebook, "Tikal: A Handbook of the Ancient Maya Ruins," ran through many printings and is still available.
Coe had been involved in previous excavations in Belize, Bolivia and El Salvador. In 1971, after the closing of the Tikal project, he investigated the neighboring site of Tayasal, and Quirigua, Guatemala, in 1975. After that, he devoted his career to publishing the final reports of the Tikal project.
He was awarded the Drexel Medal by the Penn Museum in 1991, one of his numerous honors.
Coe received his bachelor's degree from Penn in 1950, his master's in 1953, and his Ph.D. in 1958.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Ann Evans Coe. He is survived by a brother, Michael D. Coe.
Services: The Penn Museum will hold a memorial service for him in January.