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Earl Halstead Morris

Death: June 24, 1956 (66)
Immediate Family:

Son of Scott Neering Morris and Juliette Amanda Morris
Husband of Ann Axtell Morris
Father of Elizabeth Ann "Liz" Morris and Sarah Lane Morris

Managed by: Private User
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About Earl Morris

Earl Halstead Morris, known as Earl Morris or Earl H. Morris, was an American archeologist known for his contributions to Southwest archaeology. He is also believed to have been an inspiration for the character Indiana Jones from George Lucas' popular Indiana Jones franchise. He was born on October 24, 1889 in New Mexico, grew up near what became the Aztec Ruins National Monument, and died on June 24, 1956 in Boulder, Colorado. After his death, Morris was buried in Aztec, New Mexico.

Early Life and Family

Born in 1889 in Chama, New Mexico Territory, Earl Morris was the only child of Juliette Amanda Halstead and Scott Neering Morris. What would become Earl's lifelong interest in Native American material culture began with his father, who was a collector of Native American antiquities and pothunter. Earl married fellow archaeologist Ann Axtell in 1923 and they had two daughters, Elizabeth Ann and Sarah Lane. Elizabeth later went on to get a degree in anthropology from the University of Arizona. After a lingering illness Ann died in 1945. In 1947, he married Lucile Bowman.


Morris received formal education from the University of Colorado in Boulder where he received his B.A. in Psychology in 1914 and his Master's in 1916. In 1917, attended Columbia University but had to leave prior to receiving his doctorate. He also earned several honors. In 1931 the University of Colorado awarded him the Norlin Medal, and then in 1942 he received an honorary Doctor of Science degree. In 1953, Morris was awarded the Alfred Vincent Kidder Award for excellence in the fields of Southwestern and Mesoamerican archaeology.

Archaeological Fieldwork and Publications

Aside from the influence of his father, Morris's archaeological activity began in earnest after meeting Edgar L. Hewett on a train in 1912. Later that year, he began his first field excavation in the La Plata district of Southwestern Colorado. In 1912 he also worked at Quirigua, Guatemala, where he returned for additional work in 1914. After his studies, Morris returned to Aztec Ruins in 1917 as a representative of the American Natural History Museum to explore the historic pueblo. In 1924, Morris worked for the Carnegie Institution of Washington and spent the next five years excavating at Chichen Itza, Yucatán.

Morris’s first wife Ann Axtell Morris was critical to his research. She traveled in tandem with him and other notable figures in archaeology throughout the Southwest United States and Mexico with support from the Carnegie Institution to conduct fieldwork in the 1920s and 1930s. Among the many projects she was a part of, Ann was an important addition to the task of documenting and reconstructing the Temple of the Warriors in Chichen Itza.

Earl Morris led a number of excavations in the field from 1916 to 1940 for the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU), the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the School of American Archaeology (SAA). The plethora of archaeological investigations he participated in lead to the production of 69 publications in the period of 1911-1956 and to the accumulation of extensive museum collections of pottery, stone implements, baskets, sandals, and related materials at the institutions for which he worked. As a prominent member of the archaeological community, Morris corresponded and collaborated with influential archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists of his time including Nels Nelson, A. V. Kidder, Jesse Nusbaum, Walter Fewkes, Edgar Hewett, Clark Wissler, A. E. Douglass, Junius Henderson, and Sylvanus G. Morley.


The contributions of Earl Morris to the field of North American archaeology includes vast collections of artifacts as well as archives of his personal and professional notes, correspondence, and publication materials. These materials are currently housed at several institutions, but a large proportion of them are curated with the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History (CUMNH) and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Of note, the CUMNH collections of objects collected by Morris are accompanied by the Earl H. Morris Archive, which contains a variety of documents and photographs that came from his fieldwork and research, that continue to promote new research and foster interest in the past.

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Earl Morris's Timeline

October 24, 1889
November 9, 1933
June 24, 1956
Age 66