Reconstructing the histories of those who lived long ago, piecing together their stories from DNA evidence as well as historical records, archaeological information, and insights from descendent communities, is part the work of Deborah Bolnick, associate professor of anthropology.
All of this is tied to efforts to gain a clearer, more unbiased picture of the past, and a better understanding of how historical events and social inequalities shape human genetic variation. In particular, she works with Indigenous partners and other researchers to investigate how colonialism impacted Native populations.
This Snapshot is a glimpse into one of her projects, based on St. Catherines Island off the coast of Georgia. The island was inhabited by Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, and was the site of one of the earliest Spanish missions during the colonial period. Here, Bolnick and her colleagues study the impacts of Spanish missionization on the Guale people in the 16th and 17th centuries.