Edward Herbert Thompson

Birth: 1860


Edward Herbert Thompson (September 28, 1857 - May 11, 1935) was an American-born archaeologist and diplomat. Thompson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. Initially inspired by the books of John Lloyd Stephens, Thompson devoted much of his career to study of the Maya civilization. In 1879, Popular Science Monthly published "Atlantis Not a Myth", an article by Thompson in which he argued that the ancient Mayan monuments, which he had never seen except in books, were proof of the lost continent of Atlantis - an opinion which his later researches would change.

The article attracted the attention of Stephen Salisbury III, son of an American landowner and a benefactor of the American Antiquarian Society, who persuaded Thompson to move to Yucatan to explore the ruins on his behalf. Thompson was later elected a member of the AAS in 1887. Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts agreed to help subsidize Thompson's efforts by recommending him for the post of United States consul to Yucatan.

Thompson arrived in Merida, Yucatan, in 1885 and thereafter spent most of his life in Yucatan. Although he spoke only English upon his arrival, he quickly learned Spanish and also became fluent in the Yucatec Maya language. Thompson did early extensive examinations at Labna, picking that site because little work had previously been done there and because its distance from any modern settlement had left it relatively undisturbed in modern times. He also discovered a number of smaller sites in the Puuc region.

He made a series of plaster casts of Maya sculptures and architecture, particularly from Uxmal and Labna, which were exhibited at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1893. With the help of Alison Armour, Thompson in 1894 purchased the plantation that included the site of Chichen Itza. He rebuilt the hacienda, which had been destroyed in the Caste War of Yucatan. For 30 years he explored the site, on behalf of the Field Columbian Museum, the American Antiquarian Society, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University and others. His discoveries included the earliest dated carving upon a lintel in the Temple of the Initial Series and the excavation of several graves in the Ossario (High Priest's Temple).

Thompson is most famous for dredging the Cenote Sagrado (Sacred Cenote) from 1904 to 1910, where he recovered artifacts of gold, copper and carved jade, as well as the first-ever examples of what were believed to be pre-Columbian Maya cloth and wooden weapons. Thompson shipped the bulk of the artifacts to the Peabody Museum. In 1926, the Mexican government seized Thompson's plantation, charging he had removed the artifacts illegally. The Mexican Supreme Court in 1944 ruled in Thompson's favor. Thompson, however, had died in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1935, so the Hacienda Chichen reverted to his heirs.

History of Humanity - History Archive Logo
History of Humanity - History Mysteries Logo
History of Humanity - Ancient Mesopotamia Logo
History of Humanity - Egypt History Logo
History of Humanity - Persian Empire Logo
History of Humanity - Greek History Logo
History of Humanity - Alexander the Great Logo
History of Humanity - Roman History Logo
History of Humanity - Punic Wars Logo
History of Humanity - Golden Age of Piracy Logo
History of Humanity - Revolutionary War Logo
History of Humanity - Mafia History Logo