Spring 2021 - ARCH 383 D100

Molecular Bioarchaeology (3)

Class Number: 4720

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    ARCH 101, ARCH 131, or 201.



Introduces molecular biology techniques used to analyze DNA to address archaeological questions and applications to degraded DNA samples for forensic identification of human remains and conservation of endangered species.


Ancient DNA (aDNA) recovered from archaeological human, animal, and plant remains holds important genetic information that can be used to address many important archaeological questions. The methodology of ancient DNA has also proven to be very useful for the analysis of recent but yet degraded forensic DNA samples in many cold or old cases. This course provides students with opportunities to learn the fundamental principles and methods of DNA and aDNA analyses, and to appreciate their unique contributions to archaeological research of the past, to forensic investigations of challenging forensic cases of the present. Through computer lab exercises, students will gain hands-on experience in DNA sequence retrieval, sequence analysis and data interpretation. By participating in class discussions and debates, students will learn how to critically review published aDNA research and avoid potential misuses or overuses of DNA data in archaeology and forensics.

Working in groups of 2-3, students will develop a mock research proposal that uses DNA/aDNA analysis to obtain the genetic information to study a research question/topic or forensic case of their interests. The proposal project is conceived, developed, and finalized through group brainstorming and class presentations.


  • Written Exam (open-book) 40%
  • Lab Report 15%
  • Participation in Publication Critiques 10%
  • Group Presentation and Class Participation 10%
  • Proposal Development and Write-Up 25%



Matisoo-Smith, Elizabeth and K. Ann Horsburgh. 2012 DNA for Archaeologists. Left Coast Press.

Note: The PDF version of this book can be downloaded via SFU Library
ISBN: 9781598746815

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Students with Disabilities (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

Deferred grades will be given only on the basis of authenticated medical disability.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).