Cressman was born outside of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, the son of a physician. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1923, but feeling doubts about his vocation, began studying sociology and anthropology at Columbia University in New York. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1928, and that same year, he left the priesthood.
In 1929, he took a position as Professor of Sociology at the University of Oregon. The Department of Anthropology was founded by him six years later. His first hire for the department was Homer Barnett. Cressman was the chair of the department from 1935 until his retirement in 1963.
His most significant discovery came in 1938, when he discovered a pair of perfectly preserved shredded sagebrush bark sandals at Fort Rock in Oregon that were radiocarbon dated from 10,500 to 9,300 years old, making them the oldest footwear ever discovered.
Cressman's first wife was anthropologist Margaret Mead, to whom he was married from 1923-1927. After their divorce, he married Dorothy Cecelia Loch, a Scotswoman, in 1928. Loch, whom he always called "Cecelia", was an invaluable help in his career. They were married for 49 years, until her death in 1977, and had one daughter.
- The Sandal and the Cave
- A Golden Journey: Memoirs of an Archaeologist
- Klamath Prehistory
- Prehistory of the Far West: Homes of Vanished Peoples
- Guggenheim Fellowship
- John Alsop King Fellowship
- Charles E. Johnson Memorial Award
- Associated Press (1999-12-01). "World's Oldest Shoes In Oregon -- 10,000-Year-Old Sandals Found In 1938 Among 70 Pairs Unearthed Within Cave". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- Luther Cressman at the Minnesota State University, Mankato.
- Bishop B. “Northwest Archaeologist Luther Cressman, 96, Dies.” Eugene Register Grand 7 April 1994.
- Dana T. “ Oregon’s Luther Cressman Harbors no Regrets from Archaeological Storm.” Oregonian 19 Mar. 1987.
- Ellis B., Dank H., “Anthropologist Luther Cressman Dies at age 96.” Oregonian 8 April 1994.
- Travis–Cline, S. “Remembering the Golden Journey.” Oregon Heritage 1994.
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