Genetic and Scientific Evidence Workshop

Use class time to explore one or more of these historical episodes that uses scientific, archaeological, and/or genetic evidence.

1) To what extent are the Jewish people a genetically distinct group whose ancestry can be traced to the land of Palestine, now known as Israel?

Jewish Researcher Attacks DNA Evidence Linking Jews to Israel (Genetic Literacy Project, 2013)

“When Ancient DNA Gets Politicized,” Smithsonian Magazine, July 2019

2) What can genetics tell us about Egyptian mummies?

“Egyptian Mummies Yield Genetic Secrets” (Nature, 2013)

“Black or White? Egyptian Race Mystery Now Solved,” ThinkBig (January 2022)

“First Genome Data from Ancient Egyptian Mummies,” Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (May 2017)

3) Who were early Europeans and what can we know about them from genetic evidence?

“Who Killed the Men of England” in the 4th Century AD? (Harvard Magazine, 2009)

“The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe,” Nature (2016) — view an animated map video about the researcher’s findings

“Scientists Say Otzi the Iceman Has Living Relatives, 5300 Years Later” (NBC News, 2013)

“The Iceman’s Last Meal” (NOVA, 1998)

4) More on Neanderthal Genealogy

Using WSU library resources, track down and read two articles from the scientific journal Nature. Their titles are:

“The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai mountains”


“An early modern human from Romania with a recent Neanderthal ancestor”

What are their findings? How might historians use their conclusions and/or their evidence? Explore how these articles were covered in news outlets at the time.

5) How can science and genetics help us understand plant domestication? (i.e. who invented corn?)

The Evolution of Corn (University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center)

“Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9000 Years” (New York Times, 2010)

“DNA Evidence from 5310-Year-Old Corn Cob Fills Gaps in History” (Science Daily, 2016)

6) A Case of Science / History “Fake News”…?

“Canadian Teenager Star Pupil Finds Lost Mayan City by Studying Ancient Charts of the Night Sky from his Bedroom” The Telegraph, May 2016

No, he didn’t (New York Magazine, May 2016)

7) Tracking the 1918 Flu

“100-Year-Old Lungs Yield Genetic Samples of 1918 Flu Viruses” The Scientist, May 18, 2021

Measuring Mortality in 1918 Flu and Covid-19 Pandemics Health Affairs Forefront, (April 2021)

Taubenberger J., “The Origin and Virulence of the 1918 ‘Spanish’ Influenza Virus,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, March 2006.

8) If you want more on the Jefferson / Hemings story…

The Monticello historic site has dramatically changed its public history programming on this in the last five years. Examples here and here.

Unearthing Sally Hemings’ Legacy (PBS NewsHour, 2018)

Archeology of Monticello Slave Quarters (Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery)

“Slave Subsistence Strategies at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation: Paleoethnobotanical Analysis and Interpretation of the Site 8 Macrobotanical Assemblage,” MA Anthropology Thesis, Univ of Tennessee (2016) by Stephanie Nicole Hacker

Archives and Manuscripts

Tuesday Links

What’s in an Archive? (Delaware Public Archives)

Visiting the Archives (Hawaii State Archives)

1991: switching from analog to digital card catalogs (San Francisco City Public Library)

Archival Finding Aid examples: Jane Swift / Ellen Barksdale Brown

Thursday Links

Remember to bring laptops on Thursday so we can play with these types of sources

Letters and Diaries Online

Martha Ballard Diary

Journals of Lewis and Clark

Joseph Smith Papers Project

Ireland 1916-1923 Letters Project

Paleography Tutorial

Paleographical Commons at the Yale Beinecke Library

Try Your Hand at Transcribing Some Originals

By the People Library of Congress transcription projects

Documenting the American South

Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846-1849

JARDA – Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive