The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Quest funds student research

After an endowment by the Cramer family in 1996, the SMU Department of Anthropology has created a program for faculty and graduate students to excavate Paleoindian sites across the southern plains of the U.S. Dr. David Meltzer, a leading expert on Paleoindians and SMU faculty member, directs the QUEST Program. During the summers, QUEST conducts field research at several different sites with the remainder of the year devoted to lab work. The QUEST field crew generally consists of Dr. Meltzer and six to 12 graduate students from SMU and other schools.à

Since 1997, SMU faculty and graduate students have been teaming up with experts from around the U.S. to research the origins, environment and adaptations of Paleoindians in North America.

The QUEST program sends research teams to numerous sites throughout the Southern Plains each summer to conduct fieldwork. The rest of the year is devoted to the cataloguing, analysis and publishing of that research.

The QUEST Archaeological Research Program at SMU was made possible by an endowment from Joseph and Ruth Cramer.

The program is directed by David Meltzer, a well-known expert on Paleoindians and an SMU professor. Meltzer believes that the program caters to graduate students in “a myriad of ways; but most important, it provides fieldwork opportunities, data for their dissertation research, and financial support throughout the year.”

Judy Cooper, a graduate student at SMU, agrees that the program is a great opportunity, but it is a lot of fun as well.

“I have had a blast working in different areas of the country that I have never seen,” she said. “The crew is great because we all work hard and get the job done, but know how to have fun doing so.”

Cooper has worked with the QUEST program since 2002. Since then she has been hired as a research assistant to Dr. Meltzer, working on various Quest projects approximately 20 hours a week throughout the year in addition to participating in summer excavations.

When asked to describe a typical day on the site, Cooper said that students work somewhere around 10 hours a day, usually rising at 6 a.m. and excavating until around 4:30 p.m. After this, participants shower and take turns cooking and washing dishes. After a full day’s work, they enjoy a few hours of relaxation before calling it a night.

The main objective of the QUEST program is to research Paleoindian archaeology in the Southern Plains of the U.S. Each site has a unique set of research goals and strategies and therefore explores a different aspect of Paleoindian life.

The focus of each site ranges from the weapons used by Paleoindians to whether or not these hunters were responsible for the extinctions of various animals from that time period.

Excavations during the summer 2005 season focused on sites in West Texas and up into Colorado. A paper on the “Bonfire Shelter,” located in Texas, is expected to be published in “American Antiquity” in the near future.

Director David Meltzer was interested in this field long before the Cramers’ endowment made QUEST possible. In fact, according to Meltzer, it was his previous research that caught the Cramers’ attention, thus leading to the development of the program.

Meltzer, according to graduate student Chris Wolff, is presently “the world’s leading expert on Paleoindians.”

Meltzer has been working in the field of archaeology since the age of 15 and has been working at SMU since 1984. His research has been supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution. He has published his research in over 120 publications and has written several books.

This program is just one of many offered by the SMU Department of Anthropology which, according to advisor Victoria Lockwood, “works hard to encourage and further the interests of our students.”

Meltzer believes that these programs, in conjunction with productive faculty and intelligent students, are responsible for SMU’s strong reputation in the up-and-coming field of anthropology.

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