Ruins and Restoration on the Colorado Plateau: Earl Morris and the PWA (Public Works Administration)

Author(s): Kelly Pool

Year: 2015


In 1934, the Carnegie Institution "loaned" archaeologist Earl Morris to the National Park Service to supervise the repair of ruins in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, and Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico. The NPS had received funding in 1933 for long-term development projects through New Deal emergency work relief programs, one of which was the Public Works Administration. The PWA provided money for physical improvements in parks and monuments, including funding for restoration and stabilization of prehistoric ruins. Morris was recommended for the job as an acknowledged expert, with previous reconstruction experience at sites such as Chichen Itza and Canyon de Chelly’s Mummy Cave. With the help of unemployed locals, Native Americans, and experienced fieldhands, Morris reconstructed the Great Kiva he had excavated a decade earlier at Aztec and stabilized the Mesa Verde ruins, most notably Cliff Palace. Morris’ work served as a model for future projects, and a permanent MVNP stabilization team headed by PWA foreman Al Lancaster grew out of this work. After the PWA, other New Deal programs such as the CCC continued to undertake stabilization projects in these and other Colorado Plateau parks and monuments.

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Cite this Record

Ruins and Restoration on the Colorado Plateau: Earl Morris and the PWA (Public Works Administration). Kelly Pool. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395056)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -108.984; min lat: 35.425 ; max long: -105.205; max lat: 37.719 ;