Almost since its inception in 1892, the University of Oklahoma has had faculty interested in Oklahoma’s archaeological heritage. Serious research on the state’s archaeological sites and materials began in 1936 when the university joined with state and private agencies to sponsor WPA excavations across the state. Kenneth Orr, Ph.D. studied WPA recovered materials from the Spiro mounds site and published early reports on this most famous archaeological site in Oklahoma. Orr became the first curator of archaeology with the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in 1943. In 1947, he was succeeded by Robert E. Bell, Ph.D.
Bell’s work is the foundation of Oklahoma prehistory. Trained in New Mexico and Chicago, Bell brought a rigorous and wide frame of reference in anthropology and archaeology to the University of Oklahoma. His specific research interests on the Plains and in the Midwest included dating techniques, lithic analysis, Early Man studies, artifact typology, field methods, and photography. Bell played a key role in developing the University of Oklahoma Department of Anthropology (1947) and the Oklahoma Archeological Survey (1970). His other statewide accomplishments include the development of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society (1952), the Oklahoma Highway Salvage Project (1956) and the Oklahoma River Basin Surveys Project (1962). As an educator, and through numerous publications and a four-year stay as editor of American Antiquity, Bell made significant contributions to Oklahoma and American archaeology. Bell retired as head curator of social sciences and curator of archaeology in 1980.
On July 1, 1996, Don G. Wyckoff, Ph.D., was hired as associate curator of archaeology for the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He also held the position of associate professor with the department of anthropology, University of Oklahoma. Wyckoff has a long career association with archaeological studies in Oklahoma, including obtaining his bachelor's and master's degrees in anthropology at OU, serving as staff archaeologist for the Oklahoma River Basin Survey Project from 1962 to 1968 and as state archeologist and director of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey from 1968 to 1996. During these years he conducted excavations at over 50 prehistoric sites in various parts of the state with special interests in the Caddoan archaeological tradition in both the Arkansas and Red River Basins of eastern Oklahoma, and ancient hunter-gatherer camps in eastern Oklahoma. He received his Ph.D. in 1980 from Washington State University where he specialized in the Quaternary studies program. Since 1985 he has used that knowledge to develop research on early Holocene-late Pleistocene archaeological, paleontological and geological sites eastern and northwestern Oklahoma. His research findings are published in such journals as Geoarchaeology, Current Research in the Pleistocene, Southeastern Archaeology, Journal of American Archaeology, Plains Anthropologist and the Bulletin of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society. He has long advocated positive working relationships with avocational archaeologists and served many years as bulletin editor of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society. Wyckoff retired in 2011, but is continuing an active program of research, publication and outreach.
The archaeology department welcomed its newest curator, Marc Levine, Ph.D., on Jan. 1, 2013.