College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Anthropology

Dr. Brian M. Kemp

Ph.D., University of California, Davis
Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator
Molecular Anthropology


Dr. Brian M. Kemp is a molecular anthropologist with an expertise in the field of ancient human genetics. He earned his PhD in Anthropology in 2006 from the University of California-Davis and holds a BS degree in Anthropology/Zoology from the University of Michigan. He has been jointly appointed in the Department of Anthropology and the School of Biological Sciences at WSU since the fall of 2007.

Put broadly, the bulk of his research is focused on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosomal DNA variation in extant and prehistoric Native American populations. He uses these data to address questions about the entrance of humans into the Americas and the ensuing ~15,000 years of prehistory that are not approachable from culture history alone. In particular, he is interested in detecting parallels between the genetic and archaeological records, as signatures of past demographic shifts, population interactions, and population movements have been recorded in our genomes.

The ability to analyze DNA from ancient humans, animals, and plants (i.e. ancient DNA) opens up a tremendous potential for studying evolution. However, the potential of aDNA evidence is tempered by the challenging nature of its retrieval. In this case, another major focus of his research has been in improving methods for the recovery of genetic data from ancient remains, which has direct applicability to forensic science as well.

Most recently he has come to appreciate that one can reconstruct portions of ancient human behavior by observing the changes that humans had on the genetic composition of other species, the most common form of which is domestication. Moreover, ancient trash piles (i.e. what archaeologists refer to as middens) uncovered at archaeological sites represent treasure troves of genetic data concerning the plants and animals that were available at the time of occupation.


Introduction to Physical Anthropology (ANTH 260)

Genes, Langauge and Culture (ANTH 561)

Entrance of Humans into the Americas [From a (Largely) Molecular Perspective] (ANTH 561)

Molecular Anthropology (ANTH 561)

Evolutionary Method and Theory in Anthropology and Archaeology (ANTH 562)


Select Publications

2014 Kemp BM, Monroe C, Judd KG, Reams E, and Grier C. "Evaluation of Methods that Subdue the Effects of Polymerase Chain Reaction Inhibitors in the Study of Ancient and Degraded DNA." Journal of Archaeological Science 42: 373-380.

2013 Barta JL, Monroe C, and Kemp BM. "Further Evaluation of the Efficacy of Contamination Removal From Bone Surfaces". Forensic Science International 231:340-348.

2011 Winters M, Barta JL, Monroe C, and Kemp BM "To clone or not to clone: Method analysis for retrieving consensus sequences in ancient DNA samples." PLoS One 6(6): e21247.

2010 Kemp BM, and Schurr TG. "Ancient and Modern Genetic Variation in the Americas." Auerbach BM (ed.): Biological and Archaeological Variation in the New World pp. 12-50.

2010 Kemp BM, González-Oliver A, Malhi RS, Monroe C, Schroeder KB, McDonough J, Rhett G, Resendéz A, Peñaloza-Espinosa RI, Buentello-Malo L, Gorodesky C, and Smith DG. "Evaluating the Farming/Language Dispersal Hypothesis with Mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal DNA variation in the Southwest and Mesoamerica." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

2010 Speller CF, Kemp BM, Wyatt SD, Monroe C, Lipe WD, Arndt UM, and Yang DY. "Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Analysis Reveals Complexity of Indigenous North American Turkey Domestication." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

2007 Kemp BM, Malhi RS, McDonough J, Bolnick DA, Eshleman JA, Rickards O, Martinez-Labarga C, Johnson JR, Lorenz JG, Dixon EJ,
Fifield TE, Heaton TH, Worl R and Smith DG. "Genetic analysis of early Holocene skeletal remains from Alaska and its implications for the settlement of the Americas." American Journal of Physical Anthropology 135: 605-621.


College Hall 363



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