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Douglas T. Peck

POOF member, Douglas T. Peck, dies at age 95

Peck was the first scholar to raise attention to the role of the Chontal Mayas

We wondered why Douglas had not sent us updates on his research in over a year. The discovery of POOF member, Deborah Clifton, that the original name of the Mobile to Apalachicola coastline was Am Ixchel, had inspired Doug to write another book. While studying archaeological sites in southwest Georgia and Florida this week, POOF researcher, Jon Haskell, discovered that Peck had died on January 15, 2014.

To learn more about Douglas Peck’s life and important historical research.

Although best known for his ground-breaking research into the Christopher Columbus voyages and Ponce de Leon’s exploration of Florida, Douglas Peck’s studies of the Chontal Maya set the stage for much of the research now being done by People of One Fire members. He was an experienced seafarer and so could analyze the Chontal Mayas’ nautical skills with great technical detail.

I first talked with Doug almost 14 years ago. A museum had asked me to create an architectural rendering of the Maya town of Bonampak. They wanted the view to be from the Usumacinta River and to include Mayas paddling canoes. I didn’t know anything about Maya canoes and so searched the internet until his name popped up. He graciously agreed to email me drawings and photos of Maya canoes, but then astounded me with what he knew about the Chontal and Itza Maya. Peck was convinced that the Chontal Mayas traded with Florida and Gulf Coast Indians. He just couldn’t find any proof. We have.

Something readers should understand is that both Mexican and North American archaeologists ignored the Chontal Mayas until recently because the ruins of their towns looked almost identical to those of Muskogean mound builders. They most closely resembled the Bottle Creek Mounds in SW Alabama. Dr. Piña-Chan sent me to one Chontal Maya town site in northern Tabasco because he had seen what our towns looked like in a book that I gave him. That is when I observed the earthen, horseshoe shaped Chontal Maya ball court like the one we found in northeast Georgia this past fall.

Although Doug was not a professional archaeologist, his name should go into the Native American Archaeology Hall of Fame. He dug the foundation that made all other discoveries possible. Some of his essays are still on the web. You will find them fascinating.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

2 Comments

  1. levesrod@hotmail.com'

    I knew Doug Peck some time ago when we met at conventions of the Society for the History of Discoveries. I am sorry that he is now dead.
    It is a flaw in Peck’s writing when he mentioned “Chontal” Maya instead of plain Maya of the Yucatan Peninsula, that is Yucatec Maya.
    Since the Mexicans who speak Chontal still live in the Tabasco State and along the lower part of the Usumacinta River, they were not those Maya who sailed in open boats on both sides of the Peninsula and as far as today’s Guatemala, etc.
    Mexican modern philology is very clear on this point.

    Reply
    • We owe Doug a big gracias for raising the issue of Maya mariners. Dr. Pina-Chan, my fellowship coordinator in Mexico, never mentioned them to me, even though he was half Maya and grew up in a pre-Columbian Maya port in Campeche. The Tabasco Mayas may have been the ones who traded along the Gulf coast of Vera Cruz and Tamaulipas. The INAH has found several Maya ports in that region.

      Reply

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