The ODYSSEY Archaeological Research Program, housed in the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) at the University of Kansas, was established in 2003 with a generous endowment from Joseph and Ruth Cramer. Under the direction of Dr. Rolfe D. Mandel, KGS Senior Scientist and Professor in the Department of Anthropology, the goal of this program is to search for evidence of the earliest people to inhabit the Central Great Plains and western portions of the Midwest, and to gain a better understanding of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene paleoenvironments that affected those people. To date, this field- and laboratory-based effort has focused on Paleoindian archaeology and geoarchaeology in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. In addition to funding thesis and dissertation research that is related to the mission of the program, ODYSSEY supports undergraduate and graduate students involved in the program's summer field investigations.
The first field season was in 2003, and since then ODYSSEY research teams have worked annually at many sites, including a cluster of Early Paleoindian sites on the High Plains near Kanorado, Kansas; the Claussen site in northeastern Kansas; the Vincent-Donovan site in south-central Kansas; the Big Eddy site in southwestern Missouri; the Alley Spring site in southeast Missouri; and the Brookings Mammoth site in eastern South Dakota. The KU Anthropology Department's Archaeology Field School, under the direction of Dr. Jack Hofman, has participated in several of the ODYSSEY projects, including excavations at Kanorado and the Claussen site.
In addition to having a strong field-oriented research program, ODYSSEY has laboratory components devoted to the study of climatic and environmental changes based on various aspects of soils, fauna, and botanical evidence recovered from archaeological sites and survey areas. Specialized facilities at the Kansas Geological Survey that are involved with ODYSSEY-related paleoenvironmental research include the Isotope Preparation Laboratory and the Geoarchaeology and Paleoenvironment Research Laboratory.