Elizabeth Sawchuk, PhD

Pronouns: She/her/hers


Faculty of Arts - Anthropology Dept


Area of Study / Keywords

Bioarchaeology Sub-Saharan Africa Health and Disease Food Production Dental Anthropology Holocene Climate Change Mortuary Archaeology Ancient DNA Ethics


Dr. Sawchuk is an Adjunct Professor and former Banting Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Anthropology. She holds a B.A. (Hon) (2008) and M.A. (2012) in Anthropology from the University of Alberta and a Ph.D. (2017) in Anthropology from the University of Toronto. After completing a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stony Brook University in New York, she returned to the University of Alberta as a Lecturer and Adjunct Professor 2019-20 and a Banting Scholar 2020-22.  

She is now the Assistant Curator of Human Evolution at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. She is also affiliated with Case Western Reserve University (Ohio), Stony Brook University (New York), and the Turkana Basin Institute (Kenya).


Dr. Sawchuk is a bioarchaeologist and anthropological archaeologist who studies the African past and human population history. She is particularly interested in how herding and farming spread into sub-Saharan Africa beginning ~5000 years ago, and how ancient peoples navigated issues of climate change, shifting economic/land use strategies, and contact with foreign groups. She has worked at field sites across Kenya and Tanzania, and co-directs excavations in northern Kenya as part of the Later Prehistory of West Turkana (LPWT) project. She also collaborates on an international Archaeology-Ancient DNA project looking at human population structures in Holocene Africa, and advocates for ethical approaches to aDNA and other research involving human remains. Her work integrates diverse lines of evidence from osteology, dental anthropology, mortuary archaeology, paleogenomics, material culture studies, and ethnographic records to understand how past peoples coped with major changes in their world and what lessons can be learned from their experiences. Her research has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Turkana Basin Institute, and the National Geographic Society.

Dr. Sawchuk’s current research around Lake Turkana, Kenya investigates how the transition from foraging to mobile pastoralism affected peoples’ lives and bodies. She was recently awarded a SSHRC Insight Development Grant with co-PI Professor Lesley Harrington to explore patterns of ‘health’ among the earliest herders in eastern Africa. 

If you would like a PDF copy of any of Dr. Sawchuk's publications, please email her and she will be happy to share!


ANTHR 150: Race and Racism

ANTHR 206: Introduction to Archaeology

ANTHR 209: Introduction to Biological Anthropology 


Genetics and the African past.

Author(s): Prendergast ME, Sawchuk E, Sirak KA
Publication Date: 10/19/2022
Publication: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History
DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.013.143
External Link: https://oxfordre.com/africanhistory/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277734-e-143

Buffering new risks? Environmental, social and economic changes in the Turkana Basin during and after the African Humid Period

Author(s): Hildebrand E, Grillo K, Chritz K, Fischer ML, Goldstein ST, Janzen A, Junginger A, Kinyanjui R, Ndiema E, Sawchuk EA, Beyin A, Pfeiffer SK
Publication Date: 10/4/2022
Publication: The Holocene
Volume: 32
Issue: 12
DOI: 10.1177/0959683622112176
External Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/09596836221121766

Ancient human DNA and African population history.

Author(s): Sirak K, Sawchuk E, Prendergast M
Publication Date: 5/18/2022
Publication: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology
DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190854584.013.484
External Link: https://oxfordre.com/anthropology/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190854584.001.0001/acrefore-9780190854584-e-484

Ancient DNA and deep population structure in sub-Saharan African foragers

Author(s): Lipson M†, Sawchuk EA†, Thompson JC, Oppenheimer J, Tryon CA, Ranhorn KL, de Luna K, Sirak KA, Olalde I, Ambrose SH, Arthur JW, Arthur KJW, Ayodo G, Bertacchi A, Cezero-Román JI, Culleton BJ, Curtis MC, Davis J, Gidna AO, Hanson A, Kaliba P, Katongo M, Kwekason A, Laird MF, Lewis J, Mabulla A, Mapemba F, Morris A, Mudenda G, Mwafulirwa R, Mwangomba D, Ndiema E, Ogola C, Schilt F, Willoughby P, Wright DK, Zipkin A, Pinhasi R, Kennett DJ, Manthi FK, Rohland N, Patterson N, Reich D, Prendergast ME († = co-first authors)
Publication Date: 2/23/2022
Publication: Nature
Volume: 6-4
Issue: 290-296
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04430-9
External Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04430-9

Ancient DNA

Author(s): E.A. Sawchuk
Publication Date: 10/28/2021
Publication: The Encyclopedia of Ancient History: Asia and Africa
DOI: 10.1002/9781119399919.eahaa00606
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119399919.eahaa00606

Ethics of DNA research on human remains: five globally applicable guidelines

Author(s): Alpaslan-Roodenberg, S; Anthony, D; Babiker, H; Bánffy, E; Booth, T; Capone, P; Deshpande-Mukherjee, A; Eisenmann, S; Fehren-Schmitz, L; Frachetti, M; Fujita, R; Frieman, CJ; Fu, Q; Gibbon, V; Haak, W; Hajdinjak, M; Hofmann, KP; Holguin, B; Inomata, T; Kanzawa-Kiriyama, H; Keegan, W; Kelso, J; Krause, J; Kumaresan, G; Kusimba, C; Kusimba, S; Lalueza-Fox, C; Llamas, B; MacEachern, S; Mallick, S; Matsumura, H; Morales-Arce, AY; Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, G; Mushrif-Tripathy, V; Nakatsuka, N; Nores, R; Ogola, C; Okumura, M; Patterson, N; Pinhasi, R; Prasad, SPR; Prendergast, ME; Punzo, Luis Punzo, J; Reich, D; Sawafuji, R; Sawchuk, E; Schiffels, S; Sedig, J; Shnaider, S; Sirak, K; Skoglund, P; Slon, V; Snow, M; Soressi, M; Spriggs, M; Stockhammer, PW; Szécsényi-Nagy, A; Thangaraj, K; Tiesler, V; Tobler, R; Wang, C-C; Warinner, C; Yasawardene, S; Zahir, M
Publication Date: 10/20/2021
Publication: Nature
Volume: 599
Page Numbers: 41-46
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04008-x
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04008-x

Human burials at the Kisese II rockshelter, Tanzania

Author(s): Laird MF, Sawchuk EA, Kwekason A, Mabulla AZP, Ndiema E, Tryon CA, Lewis JE, Ranhorn KL
Publication Date: 2/21/2021
Publication: American Journal of Physical Anthropology
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.24253

Ancient genomes reveal complex patterns of population movement, interaction and integration in sub-Saharan Africa

Author(s): Wang K†, Goldstein ST†, Bleasdale M, Clist B, Bostoen K, Bakwa-Lufu P, Buck LT, Crowther A, Dème A, McIntosh RJ, Mercader J, Ogola C, Power R, Sawchuk E, Robertshaw P, Wilmsen EN, Pretraglia M, Ndiema E, Manthi FK, Krause J, Roberts P, Boivin N, Schiffels S († = co-first authors)
Publication Date: 6/12/2020
Publication: Science Advances
Volume: 6
Issue: 24
Page Numbers: eaaz0183
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaz0183

“M. C. Gatto, D. J. Mattingly, N. Ray, and M. M. Sterry (Eds.): Burials, Migration, and Identity in the Ancient Sahara and Beyond. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2019, 561 pp., ISBN 978-1-108-47408-5”

Author(s): Sawchuk, EA
Publication Date: 2/15/2020
Publication: African Archaeological Review
Volume: 37
Page Numbers: 319-321
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-020-09371-0

Ancient West African foragers in the context of African population history

Author(s): Lipson M, Ribot I, Mallick S, Rohland N, Olalde I, Adamski N, Broomandkhoshbacht N, Lawson AM, Lopez S, Oppenheimer J, Stewardson K, Asombang R, Bocherens H, Bradman N, Cornelissen E, Crevecoeur I, Lavachery, de Maret P, Mbida Mindzie C, Orban R, Sawchuk E, Semal P, Thomas MG, Van Neer W, Veeramah KR, Kennett DJ, Patterson N, Hellenthal G, Lalueza-Fox C, MacEachern S, Prendergast M, Reich D
Publication Date: 1/22/2020
Publication: Nature
Volume: 577
Page Numbers: 665-670
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-1929-1

Late Pleistocene to Holocene human palaeoecology in the tropical environments of coastal eastern Africa

Author(s): Roberts P, Prendergast M, Janzen A, Shipton C, Blinkhorn J, Zech J, Crowther A, Sawchuk E, Ndiema E, Petraglia M, Boivin N
Publication Date: 2020
Publication: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Volume: 537
Page Numbers: 109438
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2019.109438

Archaeological discoveries are happening faster than ever before, helping refine the human story

Author(s): Sawchuk E, Prendergast M
Publication Date: 12/23/2019
Publication: The Conversation (US)
External Link: https://theconversation.com/archaeological-discoveries-are-happening-faster-than-ever-before-helping-refine-the-human-story-128743

The tiny ostrich eggshell beads that tell the story of Africa’s past

Author(s): Sawchuk E, Miller JM
Publication Date: 12/18/2019
Publication: The Conversation (Africa)
External Link: https://theconversation.com/the-tiny-ostrich-eggshell-beads-that-tell-the-story-of-africas-past-128577

Ostrich Eggshell Bead diameter in the Holocene: regional variation with the spread of herding into southern and eastern Africa

Author(s): Miller JM, Sawchuk EA
Publication Date: 11/27/2019
Publication: PLoS ONE
Volume: 14
Issue: 11
Page Numbers: e0225143
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0225143

The bioarchaeology of mid-Holocene pastoralist cemeteries west of Lake Turkana, Kenya

Author(s): Sawchuk EA, Pfeiffer S, Klehm C, Cameron ME, Hill AC, Janzen A, Grillo KM, Hildebrand EA
Publication Date: 11/1/2019
Publication: Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Volume: 11
Page Numbers: 6221-6241
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12520-019-00914-4

Ancient DNA reveals a multi-step spread of the first herders into sub-Saharan Africa

Author(s): Prendergast ME†, Lipson M†, Sawchuk EA†, Olade I, Ogola C, Rohland N, Sirak KA, Adamski N, Bernardos R, Broomandkhoshbacht N, Callan K, Culleton BJ, Eccles L, Harper TK, Lawson A-M, Mah M, Oppenheimer J, Stewardson K, Zalzala F, Ambrose SH, Ayodo G, Louis Gates Jr H, Gidna A, Katongo M, Kwekason A, Mabulla A, Mudenda GS, Ndiema EK, Nelson C, Robertshaw P, Kennett DJ, Manthi FK, Reich D († = co-first authors)
Publication Date: 5/30/2019
Publication: Science
Volume: 365
Issue: 6448
Page Numbers: eaaw6275
External Link: http://doi.org/10.1126/science.aaw6275

How ancient DNA is revealing the origins of livestock herding in Africa

Author(s): Prendergast M, Sawchuk E
Publication Date: 5/30/2019
Publication: The Conversation (US)
External Link: https://theconversation.com/ancient-dna-is-revealing-the-origins-of-livestock-herding-in-africa-114387

Ancient DNA is a powerful tool for studying the past – when archaeologists and geneticists work together

Author(s): Sawchuk E, Prendergast M
Publication Date: 3/11/2019
Publication: The Conversation (US)
External Link: https://theconversation.com/ancient-dna-is-a-powerful-tool-for-studying-the-past-when-archaeologists-and-geneticists-work-together-111127

Cemeteries and the spread of pastoralism from the Sahara through eastern Africa

Author(s): Sawchuk EA, Goldstein ST, Grillo KM, Hildebrand EA
Publication Date: 9/1/2018
Publication: Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
Volume: 157
Page Numbers: 187-205
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2018.08.001

A monumental cemetery built by eastern Africa’s first herders near Lake Turkana, Kenya

Author(s): Hildebrand EA, Grillo KM, Sawchuk EA, Pfeiffer S, Conyers L, Goldstein ST, Hill AC, Janzen A, Klehm C, Helper M, Kiura P, Ndiema E, Ngugi C, Shea J, Wang H
Publication Date: 8/20/2018
Publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume: 115
Issue: 36
Page Numbers: 8942-8947
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1721975115

Snail Shell Beads in sub-Saharan African Archaeological Record: When, Where and Why?

Author(s): Miller JM†, Sawchuk EA†, Reedman A, Willoughby PR († = co-first authors)
Publication Date: 7/30/2018
Publication: African Archaeological Review
Volume: 35
Issue: 3
Page Numbers: 347-378
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-018-9305-3

Boots on the ground in Africa’s ancient DNA “revolution”: archaeologist perspectives on ethics and the need for best practices

Author(s): Prendergast ME†, Sawchuk EA† († = co-first authors)
Publication Date: 6/1/2018
Publication: Antiquity
Volume: 92
Issue: 363
Page Numbers: 803-815
External Link: https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2018.70

New archaeological investigations at the Lothagam harpoon site at Lake Turkana

Author(s): Goldstein ST, Hildebrand EA, Storozum MJ, Sawchuk EA, Lewis JE, Ngugi C, Robbins LH
Publication Date: 12/1/2017
Publication: Antiquity
Volume: 91
Issue: 360
Page Numbers: e5
External Link: https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2017.215

A Terminal Pleistocene Later Stone Age to Recent Iron Age Record at Mlambalasi Rock Shelter, Southern Tanzania

Author(s): Biittner KM, Sawchuk EA, Miller JM, Werner JJ, Bushozi P, Willoughby PR
Publication Date: 5/27/2017
Publication: African Archaeological Review
Volume: 34
Issue: 2
Page Numbers: 275-295
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-017-9253-3

Terminal Pleistocene Later Stone Age human remains from the Mlambalasi Rock Shelter, Iringa Region, Southern Tanzania

Author(s): Sawchuk EA, Willoughby PR
Publication Date: 9/1/2015
Publication: International Journal of Osteoarchaeology
Volume: 25
Issue: 5
Page Numbers: 593-607
External Link: https://doi.org/10.1002/oa.2323