Satterthwaite, Linton, 1897-1978

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Piedras Negras is a Maya site in Guatemala particularly noted for the beautifully sculpted stelae and hieroglyphic inscriptions it has yielded. The site, located in the northwestern corner of the Department of Petén, Guatemala, along the Usumacinta River, which forms in this area the border between Guatemala and Mexico, was discovered in 1894 by a Mexican lumber man, and brought to the attention of Teobert Maler, a pioneer archaeologist and explorer of the Ancient Maya. Maler visited the site in 1895 and 1899 under the auspices of the Peabody Museum of Harvard University, but conducted no excavations. His work consisted of disinterring and photographing the large carved stelae and other monuments. His report was published in 1901 as Volume II, No. 1 of the Memoirs of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology. Thereafter the site was visited several times, beginning in 1921, by Sylvanus G. Morley for the purpose of recording glyphic inscriptions. Morley took many photographs and notes and made many drawings of the glyphs. His assistant, Oliver Ricketson, made a map of the site, which was later superseded by the map of University of Pennsylvania Museum.

Between 1931 and 1939 the University of Pennsylvania Museum conducted extensive excavations at this site. J. Alden Mason, Curator of the American Section, went to Guatemala in 1930 to select the site and obtain an excavation permit that would allow for the removal on loan to the Museum of half of the monumental sculpture uncovered by the expedition. Mason's visit also served to make renewed arrangements with Robert J. Burkitt, who was also excavating in Guatemala for the Museum at this time (see separate Record Group). Mason made some artifact collections on this trip, which are documented in the records. In December of the same year Mason visited the site again as a member of the Museum's aerial survey of Petén and Yucatan.

The site was selected because of its fine sculpture, its early origin, and the fact that little work had been done in that area of the Maya world up to that time. It was also relatively more accessible than many other Maya cities. Mason led the first two seasons of work at the site (1931–1932), and returned again in 1936 to inspect the progress of excavations. Funding for the first three seasons was provided by Eldridge R. Johnson, founder and former President of the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, NJ. Linton Satterthwaite was Assistant Director under Mason, and directed the remaining six seasons (1933–1939, excluding 1938). The seasons ran generally from February to May, but sometimes began or ended late, that is in March and June.

The work of the first two seasons concentrated heavily on building a road to the site through the jungle and the removal of a number of monumental stone stelae and other sculpture, half of which were sent to Guatemala City and the other half to the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Included among these was Lintel 3, dated ca. 750 AD, still considered to be among the most beautiful specimens of Maya sculpture, and Stela 14 (on display in the Museum's Mesoamerican Gallery), credited with giving Tatiana Proskouriakoff the inspiration for her decipherment of Maya hieroglyphics. The second season produced a new map of the site, but also saw part of the camp catch on fire, resulting in the loss of part of the photographic record.

Under Satterthwaite's direction, the focus of the excavations shifted from the more glamorous task of bringing carved monuments to the exhibition galleries of the Museum to purely archaeological questions, such as uncovering architectural remains, establishing building sequences, and stratigraphy. Satterthwaite concentrated heavily on the architecture of the city, excavating a total of eleven temples and seventeen palaces, as well as two ball courts and a number of sweathouses. As a result the collecting of artifacts became less important in the later seasons. In 1934 and 1935 Satterthwaite visited the nearby site of Yaxchilán and in 1936 the site of Palenque, to obtain architectural data and measurements for comparative purposes. Some of the records for these trips can be found among the Piedras Negras record group, but most of them have been transferred to a separate group, Linton Satterthwaite- Various Sites (see separate listing).

The expedition staff changed almost every season, with the exception of Satterthwaite and his wife, who participated every year, and were the only Museum personnel in 1934. T. Egan Wyer was the engineer for the first season, responsible for constructing the road. Fred P. Parris, architect, took over for Wyer for the second and third seasons. He surveyed and mapped the site. Mary Butler was responsible for artifact analysis, specifically pottery, and stratigraphy. She worked in 1932 and 1933. Tatiana Proskouriakoff, an eminent figure in Maya archaeology, especially the study of Maya art, architecture, and epigraphy, began her archaeological career on the Piedras Negras expedition during the seasons of 1936 and 1937. She later worked for the Carnegie Institution in Washington, DC and Harvard University. Other members of the expedition included David W. Amram, Jr. (1932), Francis M. Cresson, Jr. (1935–1937), William S., Jr. and Marian A. Godfrey (1939), and representatives of the Guatemalan Government. Marian A. Godfrey (later Boyer) eventually became Secretary (1942–1949) and Acting Director (1945–1946) of the Museum.

Most of the monuments borrowed from Guatemala were returned to the country of origin in January, 1947, after an extension to the original loan. Only Stela 14 and one leg from Altar 4 remain on display in the Museum's Mesoamerican Gallery today.

A number of publications have resulted from the findings at Piedras Negras, but Satterthwaite never finished all the reports he intended to produce. Much material remains in this collection of use to the Maya scholar and student. See the attached Appendix I for a complete list of Museum publications covering this site.

From the guide to the Piedras Negras, Guatemala expedition records, Bulk, 1931-1939, 1930-1973, (University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives)

Linton Satterthwaite, Jr., associated with the University Museum for more than 30 years, was born in Trenton, New Jersey and educated in the public schools. After graduation from Trenton High School, Satterthwaite flew in World War I as a cadet and flying officer for the Royal Air Force. His education continued after the War and he attained his BA from Yale University in 1920. Satterthwaite supported himself as a reporter from 1920 to 1923 while attending law school. He practiced law briefly but enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in 1929 to study Anthropology. Satterthwaite participated in expeditions in the Texas Panhandle, West Virginia, and Guatemala as an archaeological assistant from 1929 to 1931.

In 1932, Satterthwaite was named Assistant Director for the expedition in Piedras Negras, Guatemala, becoming Field Director in 1933. He continued as Director until 1939. Satterthwaite was awarded his Anthropology in 1943 then continued to pursue his area of major interest, Maya hieroglyphics and chronology. He served as project epigrapher in Tikal, Guatemala which investigated the carved inscriptions on Maya monuments.

Investigation into a possible expedition to Caracol, British Honduras (Belize) began in 1949 with a proposal submitted in 1950. Satterthwaite headed three sessions in Caracol from 1950 to 1958. His work at Cahal Pech, Benque Viejo, and other sites in Western Belize occurred in the same time period. While concentrating on hieroglyphics and chronology in Caracol, this expedition also produced twenty-six vessels of the early classic period, nine vessels of the late period, Stela 11, a new "giant glyph" altar, and the bottom portion of Stela 3 for the Museum's collection. The Benque Viejo, Cahal Pech expedition was conceived as a "Housemound Project" and lasted for two seasons. The trips yielded objects and photographs from the seventeen structures and five stelae in the area. Satterthwaite also explored other possible nearby sites in British Honduras and purchased or received gifts of items for the Museum's collection.

In 1955, Satterthwaite became Curator of the American Section of the Penn Museum and a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. As Curator, Satterthwaite accomplished a systematic locational guide and inventory of the collections from the new world.

Satterthwaite published his findings from 1930 to 1962 in the Museum Bulletin as well as American Anthropologist, Science, American Antiquity, Scientific American, and Archaeology. In 1947, his work titled, "Concepts and Structures of Maya Calendrical Arithmetics" was published by the Museum and the Philadelphia Anthropological Society. He presented papers at scholarly meetings including "Moon Ages and the Maya Inscriptions: the Problem of their Seven-day Range of Deviation from Calculated Mean Ages", at the Proceedings of the 29th International Congress of Americanists in 1951.

Satterthwaite retired from the Museum as Curator and Professor Emeritus in 1969 but worked on the data from Caracol and Benque Viejo during his retirement. He died on March 11, 1978 having made significant contributions to the intricate study of Maya hieroglyphics and chronology. His volume on the Caracol expedition, "The Monuments and Inscriptions of Caracol, Belize", co-authored by Carl Beetz, was published after his death.

From the guide to the Benque Viejo, Cahal Pech British Honduras (Belize) expeditions, Bulk, 1949-1953, 1949-1972, (University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Ernestine H. Wieder Singer notes, 1935-1937, 1935-1937 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Sitio Conte, Panama expedition records, 1929-1970, 1939-1942 (bulk) University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
creatorOf La Farge, Oliver, 1901-1963. Oliver La Farge Collection, 1886-1966 (bulk 1924-1966). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Singer, Ernestine H. Wieder. Notes, 1935-1937. American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn John Alden Mason papers, 1911-1967 American Philosophical Society Library
referencedIn Oliver La Farge Collection TXRC00-A0., 1886-1966, (bulk 1924-1966) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Piedras Negras, Guatemala expedition records, Bulk, 1931-1939, 1930-1973 University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
referencedIn John Alden Mason papers, 1904-1967 American Philosophical Society
creatorOf Pérez, Juan Pío, 1798-1859. Codice Perez : extractos de varios ejemplares del "Chilam Balam." Vanderbilt University Library, Jean and Alexander Heard Library
creatorOf Benque Viejo, Cahal Pech British Honduras (Belize) expeditions, Bulk, 1949-1953, 1949-1972 University of Pennsylvania: Penn Museum Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Anderson, A. Hamilton person
associatedWith Beidler, Paul H., 1906-1998 person
associatedWith Jayne, Horace Howard Furness, 1898-1975 person
associatedWith La Farge, Oliver, 1901-1963 person
associatedWith Mason, John Alden, 1885-1967. person
associatedWith Proskouriakoff, Tatiana, 1909-1985 person
associatedWith Singer, Ernestine H. Wieder. person
associatedWith Singer, Ernestine H. Wieder. person
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Caracol site (Belize)
Cahal Pech site (Belize)
Piedras Negras site (Guatemala)
Archaeological expeditions
Stele (Archaeology)
Belize antiquities
Excavations (Archaeology)


Birth 1897-02-08

Death 1978-03-11



Ark ID: w69c71gr

SNAC ID: 18183957