It is a “snap shot” color slide that I took of her at Palenque, Chiapas, because she reminded me of Inspector Clouseau. Life is indeed, stranger than fiction!
by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner
In my daily journal, I quickly wrote that night, “Toured Palenque with David and Linda from Mobile, Alabama. He’s an architecture professor on a grant to take photos of Maya buildings. She’s an art student. It’s their first time at Palenque too. While David and I took photos of the buildings, Linda took close up shots of the writing that no one can understand. Funny! She looked like Inspector Clouseau, so I took a snapshot of her. Earlier, I had to hold her back, so she could lean over to photograph the lid of the sarcophagus under the big Pyramid of the Inscriptions.”
“Our tour guide, Moises Moreles, was great! He was the first guide at Palenque . . . but the Yankee tourists were obnoxious. Don’t know why they came here, if they only want to whine about getting back to their air conditioned hotel room in Villahermosa. We Southerners went out on our own. Met another Southerner in the courtyard of the Palace. Nice guy – archaeologist – His name was George and he is from Columbia, SC.”
A few days later, while Ana Rojas and I were touring Campeche in her new white jeep: “Ran into David and Linda from Mobile again. Got Linda to take a color slide of me at the gateway to Labna.”
- David and Linda Schele eventually created a foundation in their name to support Maya research at the University of Texas.
- George was George Stuart, archaeologist and photographer of some of the most famous articles on Maya Civilization in National Geographic Magazine. As a teenager, he worked in the summertime at the famous excavation of Etowah Mounds by Arthur Kelly and Lewis Larson. He, his wife Gene and son, David, also wrote several books on the Mayas. George eventually became Senior Editor of National Geo and a good friend of mine.
- My first exposure to archaeology was at a much later dig, being administered by Arthur Kelly. The only anthropology course, I ever took, was taught at Georgia Tech by Lewis Larsen. Kelly endorsed my proposal for the fellowship in Mexico and wanted me to get a PhD in Anthropology, after finishing my obligation with the US Navy.
- Linda Schele was so impressed by Palenque and George Stuart that she returned there the next summer for a workshop on Maya art, headed by George. George never mentioned to us in that first meeting that he worked for National Geographic.
- Linda and George’s son, David, eventually became the key figures in translating the Maya writing system.
- Fourteen years later, George Stuart came to my farm in the Reems Creek Valley to take photographs for a National Geo book on the Blue Ridge Mountains. His vacation home was just over the mountain in Barnardsville. We had become good friends two years later, before realizing that we had first met in the company of Linda and David at Palenque.
- Gene Stuart, George’s wife, first became interested in archaeology when teaching school in Cartersville, GA and living on the same street, where I lived in Cartersville . . . in walking distance of Etowah Mounds. She later obtained a degree in Anthropology
- The son of Moises Moreles, Alfonso, waited on my table at his parents’ hostel . . . The Palenque Inn. Forty-two years later, Alfonso was chief archaeologist at Chichen Itza, when interviewed by Scott Wolter of the History Channel for the premier of America Unearthed. Alfonso stated, “That the Mayas came to Georgia is not a theory, but a fact. We now know that Indian chiefs from Florida and Georgia also visited Chichen Itza.”
- In its blistering editorial in 2012, against the “Mayas in Georgia Thang,” published about the same time that America Unearthed was being filmed in Mexico, the Society for Georgia Archaeology made the following ridiculous statement: “Richard Thornton is a self-styled historian, who is just an architect. He knows nothing about the Mayas or the work that archaeologists do.”
If you want to learn the full story of how the lives of Linda Schele, David Schele, Arthur Kelly, George Stuart, David Stuart, Roger Kennedy* and I intertwined in the late 20th century, you may go to the article below.
*When I first met him, Roger was Director of the National Museum of American History. He later became head of the National Park Service. Gene Stuart (George’s wife) arranged for me to be invited to a Smithsonian Staff Christmas party. At the party was Roger, who in 2010 would be subsidizing my campsite survival, when I stumbled upon the Track Rock Terrace Complex.