The Argonaut Archaeological Research Fund (AARF), based in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona, is a privately endowed research program focused on understanding the earliest peopling of the Greater Southwest. This field-based endeavor deals primary with Paleoindian archaeology and geoarchaeology in New Mexico, Arizona, far western Texas, southern California, and in Mexico, northern Sonora and Chihuahua. AARF deals with all aspects of Paleoindian archaeology in the region, but is particularly focused on the earliest classical Paleoindian occupations (Clovis and Folsom) and evidence for any earlier human presence in the region.
AARF is one of six archaeological research funds in the United States focused on the peopling of the New World. All are tied to major research universities, are directed by established archaeologists or geoarchaeologists, and most have a specific geographic focus.
- The Quest Archaeological Research Fund at Southern Methodist University (David Meltzer, Executive Director) is devoted to the Great Plains and western slope of the Southern Rocky Mountains
- The Great Basin Paleoindian Research Unit (formerly the Sundance Archaeological Research Fund) at the University of Nevada - Reno (Goeffrey Smith, Executive Director) focuses on the Great Basin
- The North Star Archaeological Research Fund at Texas A&M University (Michael Waters, Executive Director) looks to the southeast and eastern United States
- The Odyssey Archaeological Research Fund at the Kansas Geological Survey and University of Kansas (Rolfe Mandel, Executive Director) deals with the midcontinental U.S.
- Loren Davis at Oregon State University is Executive Director for the Keystone Archaeological Research Fund. KARF focuses primarily on the West Coast of North America, largely the Oregon Coast and interior and Baja California in Mexico.
These projects were established through the remarkable generosity of two people: the late Joe Cramer (1919-2013) and his wife Ruth Cramer of Denver, Colorado. Joe Cramer was a geologist, retired from many years in the oil patch. He had a long interest in archaeology, particularly the contentious issue of when people first arrived in the Americas. He decided to actively address this question beginning in the early 1990s and, as a result of his successes in petroleum exploration, provided funding for the five research endowments specifically focused on Paleoindian studies. The Cramer endowments are the only long-term research programs in the United States focused exclusively on Paleoindian archaeology and geoarchaeology. This is a remarkable legacy for the Cramers and for the study of the peopling of the New World.