Ann Axtell Morris

Ann Axtell Morris painting in an archaeological site.
Ann Axtell Morris painting in an archaeological site.

Quick Facts

Ann Axtell, born February 9, 1900, was a prominent archeologist, artist, and author.  After graduating from Smith College, Ann met Earl Halstead Morris and they married in 1923.  During the 1920’s and 1930’s, "archeology power couple" Ann and Earl worked together during extensive multi-year excavations throughout the American Southwest and in Mexico, including five seasons at Chichen Itza, Yucatan in partnership with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Although Earl's work tended to eclipse Ann's, she played a critical role in his research. She is significant as a pioneer in archeology at a time when the discipline largely did not accept women's participation.


Ann spent much of her time recording and painting architecture, petroglyphs and pictographs, and landscapes; as well as the everyday tasks of expedition life. She developed methods and standards for pictoral documentation that are still in use today. At a time when archeologists used black-and-white photography to record sites and artifacts, Ann's colorful drawings captured information that would have been lost. She also conducted ethnographic studies of indigenous people who had historically lived near archeological places.


Along with her artwork, Ann wrote two books about her experiences as an archeologist and the significance of her findings. “Digging the Yucatan” and “Digging in the Southwest” show her extensive knowledge and skill as an archeologist and provide a glimpse into her vibrant world. Ann worked at archeological excavations in places that are now national parks, including Aztec Ruins National Monument, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and Mesa Verde National Park.


Ann and Earl Morris had two daughters, Elizabeth Ann and Sarah Lane.  Elizabeth studied Anthropology at the University of Arizona, and following in her parents footsteps, became an Archaeologist and Professor at Colorado State University.


For further information about Ann Axtell Morris and the work of other women in the field of federal archaeology, check out “Implementing the Antiquities Act: A Survey of Archaeological Permits 1906-1935.”



  1. Florence C. Lister and Robert H. Lister (1993), Earl Morris & Southwest Archaeology. Western National Parks Association.

  2. Aaron Theis (2013). "Ann Axtell Morris: Art in Archaeology of the Southwest and Mesoamerica." Archaeological Institute of America.

  3. Robert F. Burgh.  "Earl Halstead Morris, 1889-1956."  American Anthropologist, Vol. 59, Iss. 3.