Linda Schele (30 October 1942 – 18 April 1998) was an expert in the field of Maya epigraphy and iconography. She played an invaluable role in the decipherment of much of the Maya hieroglyphics. She produced a massive volume of drawings of stelae and inscriptions, which, following her wishes, are free for use to scholars. In 1978, she founded the annual Maya Meetings at The University of Texas at Austin.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Linda Schele graduated from the University of Cincinnati in Education and Art in 1964, and obtained her post graduate degree in Art in 1968. She married David Schele in 1968, and started teaching Studio Art at the University of South Alabama, remaining there till 1980, by which time she was Professor.
She traveled with her husband, David Schele, to photograph Maya ruins in Yucatán on behalf of the University. An obligatory visit to Palenque turned into a 12 day stay after she was fascinated by the art, and she decided to investigate the culture and history of the ancient people who had created the city.
Mentored by Merle Greene Robertson, Schele worked with Peter Mathews to decipher a major section of the list of Palenque kings, presenting her work in the 1973 conference Mesa Redonda de Palenque, organized by Robertson. Her work stimulated several later discoveries, by herself and others. Schele became a Fellow in pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C in 1975. She focused on the study of word ordering in Maya inscriptions for the next two years there.
She founded the Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop in Texas in 1977, when still a graduate student. Twenty years later, the workshop expanded into what is known as the Maya Meetings at Texas, and includes a symposium of research papers by major scholars and the Forum on Hieroglyphic Writing.
She was awarded a Doctorate in Latin American studies by the University of Texas in 1980. She continued her teaching career there, in the department of Art/Art History. At the time of her death, she was the John D. Murchison Regents Professor of Art in the department.
Schele joined the Copán Mosaics Project in the mid 1980s, working with David Stuart, Barbara Fash, and Nikolai Grube on the texts of that site. She began a related series called the Copán Notes, reports on epigraphy and iconography, which were aimed at rapid dissemination of information amongst Maya scholars.
In 1986, Schele co-curated a ground breaking exhibition of Maya art, "The Blood of Kings: A New Interpretation of Maya Art", with Mary Miller, a project initiated by InterCultura and the Kimbell Art Museum, where it opened in 1986, and the two co-authored the catalog to the exhibition, which was published under the title "The Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art". She also began taking an interest in the culture of the contemporary Maya. For a decade beginning 1988, she organized 13 workshops, along with Nikolai Grube and Frederico Fahsen, on hieroglyphic writing for them in Guatemala and Mexico.
On 18 April 1998, she died of pancreatic cancer, aged fifty-five. Just before her death, she established the Linda Schele Precolumbian Endowment, which provides financial support for the Linda and David Schele Chair in Mesoamerican Art and Writing at UT Austin.
Her doctoral dissertation, "Maya Glyphs: the Verbs" was published in 1982 and won "The Most Creative and Innovative Project in Professional and Scholarly Publication" an award given by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers. The Blood of Kings was awarded the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award of the College Art Association for the best exhibition catalogue of 1986. She was awarded diplomas of recognition of the Museo Popol Vuh and the Universidad Francisco Marroquin by the government of Guatemala in March 1998.
The Texas Notes were informal reports produced by Linda Schele and others between 1990 and 1997 to allow for the quick dissemination of results in the rapidly evolving field of Maya epigraphy. Available online at The University of Texas Digital Repository, the notes authored (or co-authored) by Schele are listed here.
- Redating the Hauberg Stela, by Linda Schele, Peter Mathews, and Floyd Lounsbury (September 1990)
- The Palenque War Panel: Commentary on the Inscription, by Linda Schele (September 1990)
- A Proposed Decipherment for Portions of Resbalon Stair, by Linda Schele and Peter Mathews (September 1990)
- Untying the Headband, by Linda Schele, Peter Mathews, and Floyd Lounsbury (September 1990)
- Ba as "First" in Classic Period Titles, by Linda Schele (September 1990)
- The Nal Suffix at Palenque and Elsewhere, by Linda Schele, Peter Mathews, and Floyd Lounsbury (September 1990)
- A Proposed Reading for the "Penis-Perforation" Glyph by Federico Fahsen and Linda Schele (April 1991)
- Further Adventures with T128 ch'a by Linda Schele (April 1990)
- A Substitution Pattern in Curl-Snout's Name by Linda Schele and Federico Fahsen (September 1991)
- Curl-Snout Under Scrutiny, Again by Federico Fahsen and Linda Schele, (September 1991)
- Tzuk in the Classic Maya Inscriptions by Nikolai Grube and Linda Schele, (September 1991)
- New Readings of Glyphs for the Month Kumk'u and their Implications by Linda Schele, Peter Mathews, Nikolai Grube, Floyd Lounsbury, and David Kelley (September 1991)
- Some Observations on the War Expressions at Tikal by Linda Schele (September 1991)
- A Proposed Name for Rio Azul and a Glyph for "Water" by Linda Schele (September 1991)
- A War at Palenque During the Reign of Ah-K'an by Matthew G. Looper and Linda Schele (September 1991)
- Some New Ideas about the T713/757 "Accession" Phrases by Linda Schele and Khristaan D. Villela (December 1991)
- The Lunar Series in Classic Maya Inscriptions by Linda Schele, Nikolai Grube, and Federico Fahsen (October 1992)
- El Zapote and the Dynasty of Tikal by Linda Schele, Federico Fahsen, and Nikolai Grube (October 1992)
- Naranjo Altar 1 and Rituals of Death and Burials by Nikolai Grube and Linda Schele (November 1993)
- Un verbo nakwa para "batallar o conquistar" by Nikolai Grube and Linda Schele (November 1993)
- Pi as "Bundle" by Linda Schele and Nikolai Grube (December 1993)
- Creation and the Ritual of the Bakabs by Linda Schele (December 1993)
- The Helmet of the Chakte by Linda Schele and Khristaan Villela (March 1994)
- Tikal Altar 5 by Nikolai Grube and Linda Schele (March 1994)
- Some Revisions to Tikal's Dynasty of Kings by Linda Schele and Nikolai Grube (March 1994)
- The Last King of Seibal by Linda Schele and Paul Mathews (March 1994)
- An Alternative Reading for the Sky-Penis Title by Linda Schele (March 1994)
- Notes on the Chronology of Piedras Negras Stela 12 by Linda Schele and Nikolai Grube (August 1994)
- New Observations on the Oval Palace Tablet at Palenque by Linda Schele (October 1994)
- New Observations on the Loltun Relief by Nikolai Grube and Linda Schele (August 1994)
- The Bodega of Palenque (Schele and Peter Mathews 1979)
- Sacred Site and World View at Palenque (Schele 1981) in Dumbarton Oaks Conference on Mesoamerican Sites and World Views
- Maya Glyphs: The Verbs (Schele 1982)
- The Mirror, the Rabbit, and the Bundle : Accession (Schele 1983)
- The Founders of Lineages at Copán and Other Maya Sites (Schele 1986) Copán Note VIII
- The Blood of Kings (Schele and Mary Ellen Miller 1986)
- A Forest of Kings (Schele and David Freidel 1990)
- Maya Cosmos (Freidel, Schele, and Parker 1993)
- Hidden Faces of the Maya (Schele and Jorge Perez de Lara 1997)
- The Code of Kings (Schele and Peter Mathews 1998)
- "Linda Schele, Pioneer in the Study of Mayans, Dies at 55". New York Times. April 22, 1998. Retrieved 2009-02-14.
Linda Schele, a onetime studio art teacher who made a fateful vacation visit to Mexico that turned her life upside down and helped revolutionize Mayan scholarship, died on Saturday at a hospital near her home in Austin, Tex. She was 55 and widely known for her pioneering work in decoding inscriptions on Mayan monuments. Her husband, David, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.
- Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9. OCLC 26605966.
- Coe, Michael D.; Mark van Stone (2005). Reading the Maya Glyphs (2nd ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-28553-4. OCLC 60532227.
- D'Amico, Rob (2008-05-02). "Living Maya: Austin becomes a hotbed of past and future Maya knowledge" (online edition). The Austin Chronicle (Austin, TX: Austin Chronicle Corp.). OCLC 32732454. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- Freidel, David (November 1999). "Linda Schele and Maya Archaeology 1943–1998". SAA Bulletin (Washington, DC: Society for American Archaeology) 17 (5). ISSN 0741-5672. OCLC 22379033. Archived from the original (online edition) on 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- Kettunen, Harri J. (1998). "Linda Schele in memoriam" (online publication). Revista Xaman (Helsinki: Ibero-American Center, Helsinki University). 5/1998. Retrieved 2008-05-15.[dead link] (Finnish) (English)
- The Linda Schele Drawing Collection
- The Maya Meetings
- Edgewalker : A conversation with Linda Schele, a documentary
- Contact information for the Linda Schele Endowment