History •  Latin America •  Military and Archaeology

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The Archaeologist was a Spy: Sylvanus G. Morley and the Office of Naval Intelligence

Louis R. Sadler
Charles H. Harris III

Sylvanus G. Morley (1883-1948) has been highly regarded for over a century for his archaeological work among the Maya pyramids. As director of the Carnegie Archaeological Program, he supervised the reconstruction of Chichen Itza, one of today's most visited sites in Central America.

Harris and Sadler present information showing Morley used his archaeological skills and contacts to covertly spy for the U. S. Office of Naval Intelligence during World War I. His primary charge was to detect and report German activity along the more than 1200 miles of eastern Central American and Mexican coastlines. To aid him in this special "fieldwork," Morley recruited other archaeologists, assigned them specific territories in which to work, and, together, they maintained a constant vigil.

"In this remarkable story of a remarkable man and his colorful associates, Harris and Sadler bring to vivid life an unknown story of early American intelligence. They illuminate the start of today's vast spy apparatus. A lively, scholarly, and useful job."--David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers and Hitler's Spies.

"This is superior scholarship. Rumors and allegations existed about anthropologists acting as spies, but this is the first credible account. Sadler and Harris have written the most significant book available on U.S. intelligence during World War I in Latin America. For historians of intelligence agencies, this is a must read volume."--William H. Beezley, University of Arizona

"(Charles Harris and Ray Sadler) have written the most significant book available on U.S. intelligence during World War I in Latin America. For historians of intelligence agencies, this is a must read volume."--William H. Beezley, professor of history, University of Arizona, and director of the Oaxaca (Mexico) Graduate Field School in Modern Mexican History


Louis R. Sadler is emeritus history professor at New Mexico State University.

Charles H. Harris III is emeritus history professor at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces.


"This is an important book that breaks through the well-maintained silence surrounding the historic connections between anthropology and espionage and should be read by a wide audience."



"This volume combines superior scholarship with a gripping study. . . . The Archaeologist Was a Spy is a real-life thriller set in a fascinating locale and time."


American Archaeology

"As a result of careful, painstaking research, Harris and Sadler have uncovered and written a fascinating story. This is the account of the secret side of the life of the well-known archaeologist, Sylvanus G. Morley, an expert on the Maya and American spy during World War I."



" The Archaeologist was a Spy gives long overdue recognition to some able agents and expands the public record on ONI World War I operations. It is well documented with copies of Morley's reports and primary source citations. . . (This) book is a valuable contribution to the intelligence literature."


Studies in Intelligence

"In this engagingly written, informative book, Mr. Harris and Mr. Sadler set the archaeologists' mission within broader perspective of Washington's Latin American strategy, describe their adventures throughout the region, and help fill an important gap in the history of U.S. intelligence."


Cloak-and-Dagger Book Reviews

"This book is brilliantly written and could well set the standard whereby all such partial biographies should be judged. For those interested in Maya archaeology and history, real-life spy thrillers, or the lives of the great American scientists, it is hard to beat."


Roundup Magazine

"Readers of this handsomely designed book will be rewarded with a fascinating look at the wartime travails of a man who was at once both a dedicated spy for the U. S. Navy and a renowned archaeologist."


Journal of Military History

"This fascinating book, which is quite difficult to put down once opened, chronicles and assesses not only Morley's contributions to archaeology and intelligence, but also the organization, methods, and ventures of ONI clandestine operations in World War I. It makes a significant contribution to the study of American intelligence operations."


Military Heritage

"It's an utterly fascinating historical account which has only recently become known. History enthusiasts won't want to miss it!"


WTBF- AM/FM Book Bit

"This is a very readable, entertaining, and interesting book. . . . The first book on a topic that has too long been ignored, this study raises important questions for further research."


The Americas

"Scholars will benefit from this book for decades to come."


American Historical Review

"This book is the product of extensive, groundbreaking research, masterful collation and expertise, truly 'suberb scholarship' as one reviewer put it. . . . The Archaeologist was a Spy is a rare example of an excellent read that brings to light an untold tale of selfless heroes and a great reference book that fills a gaping hole in a piecemeal historiography."


The Submarine Review

6.5 x 9.5 in. 464 pages 22 halftones, 6 maps