Spring 2022 - ARCH 383 D100

Ancient and Forensic DNA (3)

Class Number: 6201

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM
    AQ 3159, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Any lower division ARCH, BISC, BPK, CHEM, CRIM or HSCI course.



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 from GenBank, sequence analysis and data interpretation. By participating in class discussions, students will learn how to critically review published ancient and forensic DNA work and how to avoid potential misuses or overuses of DNA data in archaeological research and forensic investigations.

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 an archaeological question / topic or forensic /case scenario of their interests. The proposal project is conceived, developed and finalized through brainstorming and class presentations.


  • Written exam 40%
  • Lab report 15%
  • Participation in publication critiques 10%
  • Group presentation and class participation 10%
  • Proposal development and write-up 25%



Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith and K. Ann Horsburgh. DNA for Archaeologists. Left Coast Press, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-1598746815. 

Jane Moira Taupin. Introduction to Forensic DNA Evidence for Criminal Justice Professionals. CRC Press; 2014. ISBN-13: 978-1-4398-9910-6

[Note, the PDF of these two books can be downloaded via SFU Library]

One or two extra journal articles/book chapters may also be assigned weekly.  

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) 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 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware 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.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.