Genetic Analysis of Prehistoric Canis Remains from Across the North American Arctic: Implications for Interactions Among their Human Companions


Sarah Brown (post-doctoral researcher)

Ben Sacks (Director CDCL, Co-PI)

Christyann Darwent (zooarchaeology, PI)

Funded By NSF Arctic Social Sciences (1108175)

Humans have occupied Arctic North America for roughly 4,000 years. Through the course of time, the cultures of the Arctic have increasingly depended on the use of dogs for hunting and transportation. Given the importance of dogs to northern culture and their intertwined relationship to humans, this research project is designed to address questions related to the timing and spread of dogs from Asia to Alaska and Canada/Greenland and the development of local breeds.

Using modern genetic methods to extract DNA from ancient tooth and bone remains from well dated archaeological contexts in combination with radiocarbon-dating and analysis of recent samples, we will

(1) Provide a detailed temporal-spatial analysis of dog remains across the North American Arctic

(2) Analyze the genetic history of prehistoric (Paleoeskimo), contact period (Thule), and modern Arctic dogs using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the Y chromosome

(3) Contribute to anthropological and archaeological discussions concerning the movements and cultural interactions of indigenous peoples across the north.

A portion of our samples will come from excavations Dr. Darwent has ongoing in Alaska, and Greenland. The remaining dog samples will come from faunal remains associated with Arctic excavations from the following museums; The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology (Brown University), Museum of the North (University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Canadian Museum of Civilization (Gatineau/Ottawa), and the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage center (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories).