Newly established Shelly Saunders/Koloshuk Family Scholarship to attract world’s best anthropology graduate students

Shelly Saunders and students conducing field work. Credit: McMaster Daily News

A $1 million dollar gift by Victor Koloshuk to honour the legacy of his late wife, the renowned biological anthropologist Shelly Saunders, is being used to establish the Shelley Saunders/Koloshuk Family Scholarship. The scholarship is poised to help attract the best national and international students interested in pursuing graduate degrees in biological anthropology to the McMaster University, Department of Anthropology. For graduate students on the look out to join the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre, this is great news to help potentially support them during their Master’s and/or Doctoral studies.

Many many thanks to Victor, Shelly and the entire Koloshuk family for their tremendously generous gift!

McMaster Daily News Article

Shelly Saunders, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, was also instrumental in the establishment of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre. Credit: McMaster Daily News

Ancient DNA and Forensic Analysis Questions Pablo Neruda’s Cause of Death

Members of the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre and forensic researchers in Denmark presented their initial findings on the putative causes surround Pablo Neruda’s death. The preliminary work of two years has culminated in a week of discussions with an international forensic panel in Santiago Chile. Debi and Hendrik travelled to Santiago to take part and continue to work on the analysis of the data currently generated.

Link to New York Times Article
Link to Reuters

Credit: Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters

Genetic Discontinuity between the Maritime Archaic and Beothuk Populations in Newfoundland, Canada

Authors: Ana T. Duggan, Alison J.T. Harris, Stephanie Marciniak, Ingeborg Marshall, Melanie Kuch, Andrew Kitchen, Gabriel Renaud, John Southon, Ben Fuller, Janet Young, Stuart Fiedel, G. Brian Golding, Vaughan Grimes, Hendrik Poinar

Curr. Biol., Vol. 27, Oct. 2017, DOI:


Situated at the furthest northeastern edge of Canada, the island of Newfoundland (approximately 110,000 km^2) and Labrador (approximately 295,000 km^2) today constitute a province characterized by abundant natural resources but low population density. Both landmasses were covered by the Laurentide ice sheet during the Last Glacial Maximum (18,000 years before present [YBP]); after the glacier retreated, ice patches remained on the island until ca. 9,000 calibrated (cal) YBP. Nevertheless, indigenous peoples, whose ancestors had trekked some 5,000 km from the west coast, arrived approximately 10,000 cal YBP in Labrador and ca. 6,000 cal YBP in Newfoundland. Differential features in material culture indicate at least three settlement episodes by distinct cultural groups, including the Maritime Archaic, Palaeoeskimo, and Beothuk. Newfoundland has remained home to indigenous peoples until present day with only one apparent hiatus (3,400–2,800 YBP). This record suggests abandonment, severe constriction, or local extinction followed by subsequent immigrations from single or multiple source populations, but the specific dynamics and the cultural and biological relationships, if any, among these successive peoples remain enigmatic. By examining the mitochondrial genome diversity and isotopic ratios of 74 ancient remains in conjunction with the archaeological record, we have provided definitive evidence for the genetic discontinuity between the maternal lineages of these populations. This northeastern margin of North America appears to have been populated multiple times by distinct groups that did not share a recent common ancestry, but rather one much deeper in time at the entry point into the continent.

Link to Current Biology Article

Surrounding Press Stories:

Link to The Globe and Mail Article

Congratulations Ana Duggan, Banting Fellow

Congratulations to Ana Duggan on receiving a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. Her proposed research, titled “Illuminating lost Canadian history: biomolecules chronicle past and present aboriginal populations”, will examine the ancient aboriginal populations of the East Coast of Canada for insights into the migration routes used to reach the area and the relatedness of the ancient populations. Her work will shed light on the relationships of historic and contemporary aboriginal groups, merging well-established oral narratives with carefully studied material and genetic clues to contextualize this important part of Canada’s legacy. Congratulations once again, Ana!

Smallpox and Malaria findings featured in the current issue of World Archaeology

CWA Issue 81Recent work by the McMaster University Ancient DNA Centre and collaborators on the sequencing of a smallpox genome from a 17th century Lithuanian child mummy and the identification of malaria in Roman Italy has been featured in the current issue of World Archaeology (CWA 81). The issue is already available in the UK and will be available in North America by the end of the month.


Click the image below to see more information about this issue of World Archaeology and see the other interesting stories inside.


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