Category Archives: News

Tania Li presented with SSHRC Insight Award

Professor Tania Li has been presented with an SSHRC Insight Award. This is a national award that recognizes outstanding achievement arising from a research project funded partially or completely by SSHRC. It is given to an individual (or team) in mid-peak career whose project has resulted in a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world. The project’s research outcomes must have led to demonstrable impact within and/or beyond the academic community. Read more here. Congratulations Tania!!!

Bence Viola’s research on a Neanderthal-Denisovan hybrid

New developments in the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA have transformed our understanding of the interactions between modern humans and some of their archaic relatives. We know now that these groups exchanged genes when they met, as we find small pieces of Neanderthal DNA in present day humans. Another surprising discovery was that Asia was inhabited by a previously unknown group related to Neanderthals, named the Denisovans after the site of Denisova in the Russian Altai.

Dr. Viola has been involved in this research for more than 10 years, and this summer he and his colleagues made another unexpected discovery. Among the tens of thousands of unidentifiable bone fragments from Denisova cave, collagen fingerprinting identified a piece that seemed to be human. DNA analyses at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig showed that this individual was neither a Denisovan, nor a Neanderthal, but carried DNA from both groups in roughly equal proportions. We knew before that both Neanderthals and Denisovans lived in the region, but we had no direct evidence for contacts. This individual, the daughter of a Neanderthal mother and Denisovan father shows that these populations interacted. Many questions remain though: how did these contacts look? Were they peaceful, or not? Were we just unbelievably lucky to have found this individual, or are there many hybrids out there? Hopefully the continuing research will allow us to answer at least some of these questions.

Read the full article in the CBC News

Susan Pfeiffer and recent PhD graduate Elizabeth Sawchuk’s research on pillar sites near Lake Turkana

Researchers at Stony Brook U, the home of the Turkana Basin Institute, anticipated that their excavation of a “pilar site” might encounter human remains. They recruited Pfeiffer to the 2012 field team. She, in turn, recruited Sawchuk who had just completed her Masters degree at U Alberta. This began a program of exploration that now includes a huge swath of eastern Africa, exploring mid-Holocene communities. The extent and complexity of “monumentality” among these apparent pastoralists is both impressive and unexpected.

Read the full article on the


Max Friesen’s Project to Preserve Traditional Knowledge

In late July, a group of 10 people with ties to Bathurst Inlet travelled there to collect oral history stories, traditional knowledge, myths, legends, and Inuinnaqtun phrases. This is part of a five-year traditional knowledge preservation project spearheaded by the Kitikmeot Heritage Society and Professor Max Friesen. The team also includes PhD student Taylor Thornton, whose research will link archaeological sites to traditional knowledge in a publicly-accessible online mapping application.

Read the full article in the CBC News.

Diverse Exchanges: Osaka Respect Summer School in Multicultural Studies

Earlier this spring, the Osaka University RESPECT (Revitalizing And Enriching Society Through Pluralism, Equity And Cultural Transformation) Summer School in Multicultural Studies was held in Toronto, sponsored by the Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs and the Department of Anthropology.

This year, the fifth and final year, twelve graduate students came for the intensive week-long program from April 26th to May 4th. While the program evolved over the five years, its core focus was on teaching the visiting students the possibilities, challenges, and realities of multiculturalism as a national policy in Canada and an everyday practice of living in Toronto. It was divided into three core clusters combining seminars and field trips around the city. The program culminated each year in a joint-graduate student workshop, which brought together presentations from the Osaka University graduate students with students from the University of Toronto. While the program in Toronto has come to an end, there are plans for Osaka University to invite UofT students in 2019.

Read the full report.

Susan Pfeiffer Receives JJ Berry Smith Supervision Award

We are thrilled to announce Dr. Susan Pfeiffer is the recipient of the JJ Berry Smith Supervision Award. Susan has taught in the Department of Anthropology since 1999. During that time, she has supervised 12 PhD and 21 Master’s students. A “strong advocate for graduate students,” Susan has been praised for being an academic “known for her integrity” whose own work with human remains and the sensitive intersections between history and identity affirm “her commitment to the interwoven concerns of both science and humanism.” In the words of twelve former students, “Susan has had a profound impact on her advisees by fostering a strong, collaborative, and challenging academic community; setting high standards and pushing [her students] to address important questions; and demonstrating impeccable ethics in a field fraught with political implications.”

Recipients received a JJ Berry Smith Supervisory Award Certificate, their name on a plaque housed at the School of Graduate Studies, as well as a SGS Conference or Travel Grant to be awarded by the recipient to support a current doctoral student.

Congratulations, Susan!

Victoria Sheldon & Aleksa Alaica receive 2017-18 TA Award

Congratulations to Victoria Sheldon and Aleksa Alaica, whose nominations for the 2017-18 departmental TA Award were both successful.

In recognition of her contributions to the STEP program, Aleksa helped undergraduate students pursue their academic and career goals, connecting them with professional archaeologists and anthropologists.

Victoria designed realizable goals, provided superior feedback on essays and assignments, and nurtured enthusiasm to try new things in the classroom. She achieved high standards while being a TA in an astonishing six courses.

Students of Anthropology: Hazel Stuart and the Indigenous Peoples of Papua New Guinea


A new artifact display was unveiled at the Department of Anthropology building on the St. George Campus this month. Students of Anthropology: Hazel Stuart and the Indigenous Peoples of Papua New Guinea, located on the third floor of building, presents a selection of artifacts and travel ephemera recently donated to the Department by Hazel Stuart. Stuart, at the time a recent anthropology graduate of the University of Western Ontario, volunteered at a Papua New Guinea high school from 1973 to 1975. She donated her collection to the University of Toronto for it to be used by students and publicly displayed.

The display explores the social, economic, and spiritual climates of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, as well as the process of collecting and the work of anthropologists, through the Indigenous cultural objects and travel ephemera collected by Stuart with assistance from her friend Donna Chowder.

The display was curated and constructed by graduate students Madison Stirling and Emily Welsh of the University of Toronto’s Master of Museum Studies Program in collaboration with the Department of Anthropology. The project was funded by the Faculty of Information and the Department of Anthropology.

Madison Laurin Wins Richard B. Lee Award

Congratulations to Madison Laurin, the 2017 recipient of the Richard B. Lee award for her essay, “The Everyday Study of Resource Politics,” written for ANT 486H1S: Special Topics: Socio-Cultural Research Seminar: Politics of Resources: Accumulation, Agency and Nature under Contemporary Capitalism. The Awards Committee appreciated the critical review of the pertinent literature, and the ethnographic case-studies (Ontario, Hawai’i and Standing Rock) demonstrated the politics of refusal demands consideration in interpreting indigenous responses to corporate policies and resource extraction. The Committee also commended the clear and engaging writing style.