Geoarchaeological program at KU receives $6.9M gift

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LAWRENCE — A geoarchaeological program at the University of Kansas that is digging up the mysteries of the earliest people to inhabit the region will get a $6.9 million boost with an estate gift from a late geologist and his wife.

Joseph L. and Maude Ruth Cramer of Denver established the Odyssey Archaeological Research Fund at KU in 2002 with a $1 million gift. The additional $6.9 million estate gift will further benefit research by the Kansas Geological Survey and the KU archaeology program in the Department of Anthropology. Joseph died in 2013, and Ruth died in 2018.

The gift will enhance support for the Odyssey Geoarchaeology Research Program, which is dedicated to using geoscientific methods to search for evidence of the earliest human presence in the Central Great Plains and western portions of the Midwest, and to gaining a better understanding of the environments that affected those people. Those efforts have taken place in the field and in laboratories and have focused on Paleo-Indian archaeology and geoarchaeology in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Rolfe Mandel is executive director of the Odyssey Program. He also is director of the Kansas Geological Survey and a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology.

Mandel said Joseph Cramer, who went by Joe, had an interest in archaeology that started at a young age. And even though his career took him down the path of petroleum geology, he had a passion for the concept of searching for the earliest people in the Americas.

“Joe knew research is expensive, and he didn’t want scientists and students to spend all their time trying to generate money,” Mandel said. “He was willing to provide the support and often said, ‘Now go do it.’”

In addition to funding thesis and dissertation research related to the mission of the program, Odyssey supports undergraduate and graduate students involved in the program’s summer …

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