Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dr. Shelley R. Saunders


It has been argued that the real anthropological potential of ancient DNA has yet to be realized (Stoneking 1995). Ancient DNA Research can only become truly anthropological when it is integrated holistically through a multidisciplinary approach within the bio-cultural framework. Reconstructions of past societies by definition necessitates the synthesis of other sources of culturally relevant information. Attempts to interpret Upper Canadian pioneer population history from the ancient DNA recovered from two historic cemeteries (the nineteenth-century St Thomas' Anglican Church cemetery, Belleville, Ontario, and the Farewell Family Cemetery on Harmony Road, Oshawa, Ontario) revealed that there were a number of possible evolutionary explanations for the observed pattern in both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA data. The reconstruction of past sociocultural variables to facilitate further interpretation relied on the collection of scholarly historic research, primary records analysis, and archaeological theory and observations. Through this analysis it was shown that conclusions regarding past population history could not be drawn from any single source of information. It was possible to observe the intragenerational and intergenerational kinship alliances influenced by a land resource stress through the establishment of a social context and an interment chronology. This finding provides strong empirical evidence in support of the Saxe (1970) and Goldstein (1976) theory which predicts the presence of a vital resource pressure when kinship structure is hypothesized inarchaeological mortuary practice. While this theory may have use in broader archaeological contexts, it is maintained that its application can only be evaluated through a multidisciplinary approach involving ancient DNA and other relevant cultural evidence.

McMaster University Library

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