Anthropology Department Directory


K. Ann Horsburgh

Assistant Professor

Ph.D. 2008 Stanford University
Heroy Hall 414



I am a molecular anthropologist (PhD Stanford 2008) with training in both anthropology (BA, MA Hons Auckland) and biology (BSc Auckland) and a primary research focus on the interaction between genetics, culture and history. In addition to my role as a Assistant Professor at Southern Methodist University, I am an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.


As a molecular anthropologist I employ both modern and ancient genetic data to address classic anthropological issues. While methodologically my research is allied with the life sciences, it is theoretically and conceptually situated with the Americanist four-field anthropological tradition. My primary geographic and temporal foci are in Holocene Africa, as it provides a model system for studying historical processes evident in world prehistory, including large scale human migrations and post-domestication breeding of animals shaped by cultural values and novel natural environments. While analyses of genetic variation in modern populations can provide valuable insights, our ability to interpret contemporary patterns is frequently hampered by recent historical events. In the 1890s, for example, a rinderpest epidemic resulted in the death of 75-90% of the cattle in sub-Saharan Africa. We cannot, therefore, assume that the patterns of genetic variation on modern African cattle reflect those of the pre-rinderpest populations. The analysis of ancient DNA is expensive, time-consuming, and constrained by levels of organic preservation, but is a critical corrective to the synchronic nature of modern genetic analyses.


Matisoo-Smith, E., and K.A. Horsburgh. 2012. DNA for Archaeologists. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California. 

The ability to use DNA evidence is revolutionizing our understanding of the past. This book introduces archaeologists to the basics of DNA research so they can understand the powers and pitfalls of using DNA data in archaeological analysis and interpretation. By concentrating on the principles and applications of DNA specific to archaeology, the authors allow archaeologists to collect DNA samples properly and interpret the laboratory results with greater confidence. The volume is replete with case examples of DNA work in a variety of archaeological contexts and is an ideal teaching tool for archaeologists and their students.

Journal Articles

Horsburgh, K.A., McCoy, M.D. (2017). Dispersal, Isolation, and Interaction in the Islands of Polynesia: A Critical Review of Archaeological and Genetic EvidenceDiversity 9, 37. doi: 10.3390/d9030037.


Horsburgh KA, Orton J, and Klein RG. 2016. Beware the Springbok in Sheep’s Clothing: How Secure Are the Faunal Identifications upon Which We Build Our Models? African Archaeological Review:1-9.


Rawlence NJ, Collins CJ, Anderson CNK, Maxwell JJ, Smith IWG, Robertson BC, Knapp M, Horsburgh KA, Stanton J-AL, Scofield RP et al. . 2016. Human-mediated extirpation of the unique Chatham Islands sea lion and implications for the conservation management of remaining New Zealand sea lion populations. Molecular Ecology 25(16):3950-3961.


Horsburgh, KA, Moreno-Mayar, J, and Gosling, A. 2016. Revisiting the Kalahari debate in the highlands: ancient DNA provides new faunal identifications at Sehonghong, Lesotho. Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa.

Horsburgh, K.A., and Moreno-Mayar, J.V. 2015. Molecular identification of sheep at Blydefontein Rock Shelter, South Africa. Southern African Humanities 27:65-90.

Horsburgh, K.A. 2015. Molecular anthropology: the judicial use of genetic data in archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Science 56:141-145.

Greig, K., Boocock, J., Prost, S. , Horsburgh, K.A., Jacomb, C., Walter, R., and Matisoo-Smith, E. 2015. Complete Mitochondrial Genomes of New Zealand's First Dogs. PLoS ONE 10(10):e0138536.

Horsburgh, K.A., S. Prost, A. Gosling, J. Stanton, C. Rand, E. Matisoo-Smith. 2013. The Origins of the Nguni Breed of African Cattle (Bos spp.): Complete mitochondrial genomes of haplogroup T1. Public Library of Science ONE (PLoS ONE) 8(8), e71956.

Orton, J., Mitchell, P., Klein, R., Steele, T., Horsburgh, K.A 2013. Early dates for cattle from Namaqualand, South Africa: implications for the origins of herding in southern Africa. Antiquity 87, 108-120. 

Knapp, M., K.A. Horsburgh, S. Prost, J. Stanton, H.R. Buckley, R.K. Walter, E.A. Matisoo-Smith. 2012. Complete mitochondrial DNA genome sequences from the first New Zealanders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 109(45), 18350-18254.

Knapp, M., Clarke, A.C., Horsburgh, K.A., Matisoo-Smith, E.A. 2012. Setting the stage – Building and working in an ancient DNA laboratory. Annals of Anatomy 194, 3-6.

Horsburgh, K.A., Rhines, A. 2010. Genetic characterization of an archaeological sheep assemblage from South Africa’s Western Cape. Journal of Archaeological Science 37, 2906-2910.

Horsburgh, K.A. 2008. Wild or domesticated? An ancient DNA approach to canid species identification in South Africa’s Western Cape. Journal of Archaeological Science 35, 1474-1480. 

Kaestle, F.A., K.A. Horsburgh 2002. Ancient DNA in Anthropology: Methods, applications and ethics. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 4, 92-130.

Matisoo-Smith, E.A., K.A. Horsburgh, J.H. Robins, A.J. Anderson. 2001. Genetic variation in archaeological Rattus exulans remains from Emily Bay, Norfolk Island. Records of the Australian Museum Supplement 27, 81-84.

Allen, M.S., E.A. Matisoo-Smith, K.A. Horsburgh. 2001. Pacific “Babes”: Pigs origins, dispersals, and the potentials of mitochondrial DNA analysis. International Journal of Archaeozoology 11, 4-13.

Book Chapter

Horsburgh, K.A., E. Matisoo-Smith, M.E. Glenn, K.J. Bensen. 2003. A genetic study of a translocated guenon: Cercopithecus mona on Grenada. In: Glenn, M.E. and M. Cords, eds. The Guenons: Diversity and Adaptation in African Monkeys. Kluwer Academic Publishers.