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 University Distinguished 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, western portions of the Midwest, and elsewhere to gain a better understanding of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene paleoenvironments that affected those people. This field- and laboratory-based effort has focused on Paleo-American archaeology and geoarchaeology in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, and the Yukon Territory of Canada. In addition to funding thesis and dissertation research related to the program’s mission, 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 Scheuerman Mammoth site in west-central Kansas; the Claussen and Coffey sites 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; the Brookings Mammoth site in eastern South Dakota; the Magic Mountain site in eastern Colorado; the San Esteban Rockshelter and the Genevieve Lykes Duncan sites in southwest Texas; and the Bluefish Caves site in the Yukon Territory of Canada. The KU Anthropology Department's Archaeology Field School has participated in several Odyssey projects, including excavations at Kanorado, Coffey, and the Claussen sites.
In addition to having a robust field-oriented research program, Odyssey has laboratory components devoted to studying climatic and environmental changes based on various aspects of soils, faunal, and botanical evidence recovered from archaeological sites and survey areas. Specialized facilities at the Kansas Geological Survey involved with Odyssey-related paleoenvironmental research include the Isotope Preparation Laboratory and the Geoarchaeology and Paleoenvironment Research Laboratory.