College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Dennis H. O'Rourke

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences - Anthropology
Foundation Distinguished Professor
Associate Director, Laboratory of Biological Anthropology
Primary office:
Fraser Hall
Room 635
1415 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence, Kansas 66045

Dennis O’Rourke (KU – PhD in Anthropology, emphasis in genetics) - Foundation Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas, Director of the KU ancient DNA Laboratory, Associate Director of the Laboratories of Biological Anthropology, and Professor Emeritus University of Utah.

My research focuses on the use of molecular genetic methods to address long-standing questions in prehistory. My students and collaborators have conducted fieldwork and research projects in Mexico, the Caribbean, the US Southwest and California, and the North American arctic. Most recently, my group has focused attention on ancient DNA methods to investigate the colonization and dispersal of the North American arctic, and how this informs us about the earlier initial colonization of the Western Hemisphere. Utilizing genomic analyses of both human and archaeofaunal and archaeobotanical materials, my research interests and efforts increasingly are at the intersection of anthropological genetics, bioarchaeology, and paleoecology.

Research Interests

  • Anthropological genetics/genomics
  • Ancient DNA
  • Migration
  • Colonization and regional population history
  • Bioarchaeology
  • The Americas
  • Siberia
  • The Circum-arctic

Selected Publications


Stinson, S., B. Bogin and D.H. O’Rourke (2012) HUMAN BIOLOGY: AN EVOLUTIONARY & BIOCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE, 2nd Edition. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Stinson, S., B. Bogin, R. Huss-Ashmore and D.H. O'Rourke, eds. (2000) HUMAN BIOLOGY: AN EVOLUTIONARY & BIOCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE. New York: Wiley-Liss, Inc.

O'Rourke, D.H., G.M. Petersen and F.E. Johnston, eds. (1983) GENETICS, EVOLUTION AND DISEASE. New York: Alan R. Liss, Inc. (Also appeared as American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Vol. 62, No. 1)

Journal Articles

Hoffecker, J.F., S.A. Elias, D.H. O'Rourke, G.R. Scott and N.H. Bigelow (2016) Beringia and the Global Dispersal of Modern Humans. Evol. Anthrop. 25:64-78. DOI: 10.1002/evan.21478. 

Tackney, J., B.A. Potter, J. Raff, M. Powers, S. Watkins, D. Warner, J.D. Reuther, J.D. Irish, and D.H. O'Rourke (2015) Two Contemporaneous Mitogenomes from Terminal Pleistocene Burials in Eastern Beringia. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., USA, 

Raghavan, M., M. DeGiorgio, A. Albrechtsen, I. Moltke, P. Skoglund, T.S. Korneliussen, B. Gronnøw, M. Appelt, H.C. Gulløv, M. Friesen, W. Fitzhugh, H. Malmström, S. Rasmussen, J. Olsen, L. Melchior, B.T. Fuller, S.M. Fahrni, T. Stafford Jr., V. Grimes, M.A.P. Renouf, J. Cybulski, N. Lynnerup, M.M. Lahr, K. Britton, R. Knecht, .J Arneborg, M. Metspalu, O.E. Cornejo, A-S Malaspinas, Y Wang, M Rasmussen, V Raghavan, TVO Hansen, E Khusnutdinova, T Pierre, K Dneprovski, C Andreasen, H. Lange, M.G. Hayes, J. Coltrain, V.A. Spitsyn, A. Götherström, L. Orlando, T. Kivisild, R. Villems, M.H. Crawford, F.C. Nielsen, J. Dissing, J. Heinemeier, M. Meldgaard, C. Bustamante, D.H. O’Rourke, M. Jakobsson, M.T.P. Gilbert, R. Nielsen and E. Willerslev (2014) The Genetic Prehistory of the New World Arctic. Science. 345: DOI: 10.1126/science. 1255832.

Hoffecker, J.F., S.A. Elias and D.H. O’Rourke (2014) Out of Beringia? Science (Perspective), 343:979-980. DOI: 10.1126/science.1250786.

Broughton, J.M., R.K. Beck, J.B. Coltrain, D.H. O’Rourke and A.R. Rogers (2012) A Late Holocene Population Bottleneck in California Tule Elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes): Provisional support from ancient DNA. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. DOI 10.1007/S10816-012-9167-Y (Published online 13 Dec. 2012).

Raff , J., D.A. Bolnick, J. Tackney and D.H. O’Rourke (2011) Ancient DNA Perspectives on American Colonization and Population History. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 146:503-514. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21594.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2011) Contradictions and Concordances in American Colonization Models. Evolution: Education & Outreach. 4(2): 244-253. DOI: 10.1007/s12052-011-0336-3.

Enk, J., R. Debruyne, A. Devault, C.E. King, T. Treangen, D.H. O’Rourke, S.L. Salzberg, D. Fisher, R. Macphee and H. Poinar (2011) Complete Columbian Mammoth mitogenome suggests interbreeding with Woolly Mammoths. Genome Biology. 12:R51. DOI: 10.1186/gb-2011-12-5-r51

Raff, J. J. Tackney and D.H. O’Rourke (2010) South From Alaska: A Pilot aDNA Study of Genetic History on the Alaska Peninsula and Eastern Aleutians. Human Biology 82: 677-694. (Special Issue on the Origins of the Populations of the Aleutian Islands. Edited by M.H. Crawford, D.L. West and D.H. O’Rourke)

O’Rourke, D.H., D.L. West and M.H. Crawford (2010) Unangan Past and Present: The Contrasts Between Observed and Inferred Histories. Human Biology 82: 759-764. (Special Issue on the Origins of the Populations of the Aleutian Islands. Edited by M.H. Crawford, D.L. West and D.H. O’Rourke)

West, D., D.H. O’Rourke and M.H. Crawford (2010) Introduction: Origins and Settlement of the Indigenous Populations of the Aleutian Archipelago. Human Biology 82:481-486. (Special Issue on the Origins of the Populations of the Aleutian Islands. Edited by M.H. Crawford, D.L. West and D.H. O’Rourke)

O’Rourke, D.H. and J. Raff (2010) The Genetic History of the Americas: The Final Frontier. Current Biology. 20:R202– R207, DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2009.11.051.

Smith, S., Haye, M.G., Cabana, G., Coltrain, J.B., Huff, C. and D.H. O’Rourke (2009) Inferring Population Continuity versus Replacement with aDNA: A Cautionary Tale from the Aleutian Islands. Human Biology. 81(4): 19-38.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2009) Human Migrations: The Two Roads Taken. Current Biology. 19(5): R203-R205. DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2009.01.021.

Enk, J.M., D.R. Yesner, K.J. Crossen, D.W. Veltre and D.H. O’Rourke (2009) Mitochondrial DNA Sequence of a Mid-Holocene Woolly Mammoth from the Pribilof Islands, Alaska: Implications for Mammoth Evolution, Dispersal, and Pleistocene Refugia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 273: 184-190. DOI:10:1016/j.paleo.2008.12.019.

Goebel, T., M. Waters and D.H. O’Rourke (2008) The Late Pleistocene Dispersal of Modern Humans in the Americas. Science. 319:1497-1502.

Marchani, E.E., A.R. Rogers and D.H. O’Rourke (2007) The Thule expansion: Rejecting population histories using mtDNA data and computer simulation. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 134(2):281-284.

Coltrain, J.B., M.G. Hayes and D.H. O’Rourke (2006) A Radiometric Evaluation of Hrdlicka’s Aleutian Replacement Hypothesis: Population Continuity and Morphological Change. Current Anthropology 47(3):537-548.

Coltrain, J.B., M.G. Hayes and D.H. O’Rourke (2004) Sealing, Whaling, and Caribou: The Skeletal Isotope Chemistry of Eastern Arctic Foragers. Journal of Archaeological Science. 31: 39-57.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2003) Anthropological Genetics in the Genomic Era: A Look Back and Ahead. American Anthropologist. 105(1):101-109.

Carlyle, S.W., R.L. Parr, M.G. Hayes and D.H. O'Rourke (2000) The Context of Maternal Lineages in the Greater Southwest. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 113(1):85-101.

O’Rourke, D.H., M.G. Hayes and S.W. Carlyle (2000) Spatial and Temporal Stability of mtDNA Haplogroup Frequencies in Native North America. Human Biology 72(1):15-34.

O'Rourke, D.H., S.W. Carlyle and R.L. Parr (1996) Ancient DNA: A review of methods, progress, and perspectives. Amer. J. Hum. Biol. 8(5): 557-571.

Parr, R.L., S.W. Carlyle, and D.H. O'Rourke (1996) Ancient DNA analysis of Fremont Amerindians of the Great Salt Lake Wetlands. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 99(4):507-519.

Suarez, B.K., C.L. Hampe, D. O'Rourke, P. Van Eerdewegh, and T. Reich (1995) Sib-based detection of QTLs. Genetic Epidemiology. 12(6):675-680.

Bamshad, M., M.H. Crawford, D.H. O'Rourke and L.B. Jorde (1994) Biochemical heterozygosity and morphologic variation in a colony of Papio hamadryas hamadryas baboons. Evolution 48(4):1211-1221.

O'Rourke, D.H., A. Mobarry and B.K. Suarez (1992) Patterns of genetic variation in Native America. Human Biology 64(3):417-434. (Invited Review for special issue of journal commemorating Columbian quincentenary)

Shearin, N.L., E.J. King and D.H. O'Rourke (1989) DNA preservation in Precolumbian remains from the American Southwest. Human Evolution. 4(4):263-270.

O'Rourke, D.H. and A.S. Lichty (1989) Spatial analysis and gene frequency maps of native North American populations. Collegium Antropologicum. 13(1):73-84.

Crawford, M.H., E.J. Devor, D.H. O'Rourke, L.A. Yakovleva, A.F. Voevodin and B.A. Lapin (1987) Genetics of primate lymphomas in a baboon (Papio hamadryas) colony of Sukhumi, U.S.S.R. Genetica. 73:145-157.

McCullough, J.M. and D.H. O'Rourke (1986) Geographical distribution of consanguinity in Europe. Ann. Hum. Biol. 13(4):359-367.

O'Rourke, D.H. and B.K. Suarez (1986) Patterns and correlates of genetic variation in South Amerindians. Ann. Hum. Biol. 13(1):13-31.

O'Rourke, D.H., B.K. Suarez and J.D. Crouse (1985) Genetic variation in North Amerindian populations: Covariance with climate. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 67(3):241-250.

Suarez, B.K., D.H. O'Rourke and J.D. Crouse (1985) Genetic variation in North Amerindian populations: Association with sociocultural complexity. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 67(3):233-239.

Suarez, B.K., J.D. Crouse and D.H. O'Rourke (1985) Genetic variation in North Amerindian populations: The geography of gene frequencies. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 67(3):217-232.

Crawford, M.H., D.H. O'Rourke, D. Dykes, B. Lapin and H. Polesky (1984) Inbreeding, heterozygosity and lymphoma risk among the baboons (Papio hamadryas) of Sukhumi, U.S.S.R. Amer. J. Primat. 6:143-153.

O'Rourke, D.H., P. McGuffin and T. Reich (1983) The genetics of manic-depressive illness. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 62(1):51-60. (Reprinted in: GENETICS, EVOLUTION AND DISEASE, D.H. O'Rourke, G.M. Petersen and F.E. Johnston [eds.], Alan R. Liss, Inc.).

O'Rourke, D.H. and G.M. Petersen (1983) Biological anthropology and genetic disease research: Introduction. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 62(1):1-2. (Reprinted in: GENETICS, EVOLUTION AND DISEASE, D.H. O'Rourke, G.M. Petersen and F.E. Johnston (eds.), Alan R. Liss, Inc.).

O'Rourke, D.H., I.I. Gottesman, B.K. Suarez, J. Rice and T. Reich (1982) Refutation of the general single locus model for the etiology of schizophrenia. Amer. J. Hum. Genet. 34(4):630-649.

Suarez, B.K., D.H. O'Rourke and P. Van Eerdewegh (1982) Power of the affected sib pair method to detect disease susceptibility loci of small effect: An application to multiple sclerosis. Amer. J. Med. Genet. 12:309-326.

Rice, J., I.I. Gottesman, B.K. Suarez, D.H. O'Rourke and T. Reich (1982) Ascertainment bias for non-twin relatives in twin proband studies. Hum. Hered. 32:202-207.

O'Rourke, D.H. and M.H. Crawford (1980) Odontometric microdifferentiation of transplanted Mexican Indian populations: Cuanalan and Saltillo. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. 52(3):421-434.

Crawford, M.H. and D.H. O'Rourke (1978) Inbreeding, lymphoma, genetics and morphology of the Papio hamadryas colony of Sukhumi. J. Med. Primat. 7:355-360.

Invited Book Chapters

Tackney, J., J.B. Coltrain, J. Raff and D.H. O’Rourke (2016) Molecular Windows on Arctic Prehistory. In: Handbook of Arctic Archaeology. O. Mason and M. Friesen, eds. Oxford University Press: London.

Figueiro, G., J. Tackney and D.H. O’Rourke (2015) Ancient DNA Perspectives on South American Population History. In: Early Man in South America: New Paradigms in Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene Biological Anthropology, Mark Hubbe and Andre Strauss, eds. In Press.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2014) Molecular Approaches to Colonization and Population History in the North American Arctic. In: Human Evolution: Adaptations, Dispersals and Social Developments. The First Peopling of the Americas and World Heritage Convention (HEADS 5, World Heritage Papers), N. Sanz, ed. UNESCO.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2012) Why Do We Migrate? A Retrospective. In: The Causes and Consequences of Migration: An Evolutionary Perspective, Campbell B.C. and Crawford M. (eds.). Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

West D, J.B. Coltrain, M.G. Hayes, D.H. O’Rourke, C. Lefèvre, D. Corbett, F. Bouchet and A. Savinetsky (2012) A Human Burial from the Andreanof Islands, Alaska. In: The People Before: The Geology, Paleocology and Archaeology of Adak Island, Alaska. West D., V. Hatfield, E. Wilmerding, C. Lefevre and L. Gualtieri, eds. BAR International Series 2322. Archaeopress: Oxford.

O’Rourke, D.H. and J. Enk (2012) Genetics, Geography, and Human Variation. In: Human Biology: An Evolutionary and Biocultural Approach, 2nd ed., S. Stinson, B. Bogin and D. O’Rourke, eds. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Stinson, S., B. Bogin,, R., D. O’Rourke and R. Huss-Ashmore (2012) Human Biology: An Evolutionary and Biocultural Perspective. In: Human Biology: An Evolutionary and Biocultural Approach, 2nd ed., S. Stinson, B. Bogin and D. O’Rourke, eds. John Wiley & Sons: New York.

Scott, G.R. and D.H. ORourke (2010) Genes across Beringia: A Physical Anthropological Perspective on the Dené-Yeniseian Hypothesis. In : Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska Vol. 5(1-2) (New Series). Special Issue: The Dené-Yeniseian Hypothesis. J. Kari and B. Potter, eds.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2010) Human Molecular Genetics. In: A Companion to Physical Anthropology. Clark Spenser Larsen, editor. Wiley-Blackwell: New York.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2007) Ancient DNA and its application to reconstruction of human evolution and population history. IN: Anthropological Genetics: Theory, Methods & Applications, M.H. Crawford, ed. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2006) Classical marker variation in Native North Americans. IN: Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 3, Environment, Origins and Population, D. Ubelaker (vol. ed.). Smithsonian Institution: Washington, DC.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2005) Biomolecular Archaeology: Summary and Speculationns. IN: Biomolecular Archaeology: Genetic Approaches to the Past, David M. Reed, ed. Occasional Paper No. 32. Southern Illinois University Press: Carbondale.

Hayes, M. G., J.B. Coltrain and D.H. O’Rourke (2005) Molecular archaeology of the Dorset, Thule, and Sadlermiut: Ancestor-descendant relationships in Eastern North American arctic prehistory. IN: Contributions to the Study of the Dorset Palaeo-Eskimos, P. Sutherland (ed.). Mercury Series, Archaeological Paper 167. Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec.

O’Rourke, D.H., M.G. Hayes and S.W. Carlyle (2005) The Consent Process and aDNA Research: Contrasting Approaches in Northern North America. IN: Biological Anthropology and Ethics. Trudy Turner (ed.). State University of New York Press: Albany.

Hayes, M.E., J.B. Coltrain and D.H. O’Rourke (2003) Mitochondrial analyses of Dorset, Thule, Sadlermiut, and Aleut skeletal samples from the prehistoric North American Arctic. IN: Mummies in a New Millenium. Proceedings of the 4th World Congress on Mummy Studies. N. Lynnerup, C. Andreasen and J. Berglund, eds. Copenhagen: Danish Polar Center.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2003) Genetic Considerations in Multigenerational Space Travel. IN: Interstellar Travel and Multi-Generation Space Ships, Y. Kondo, F.C. Bruhweiler, John Moore, and C. Sheffield (eds.). Apogee Books: Burlington, Ontario.

O'Rourke, D.H., M.G. Hayes and S.W. Carlyle (2000) Ancient DNA Studies in Physical Anthropology. IN: Annual Review of Anthropology, 29:217-242. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews, Inc.

O’Rourke, D.H. (2000) Genes, Geography, and Human Variation. IN: Human Biology: An Evolutionary & Biocultural Perspective. Stinson, S., B. Bogin, R. Huss-Ashmore and D.H. O'Rourke, eds. Wiley-Liss, Inc.

O'Rourke, D.H., R.L. Parr and S.W. Carlyle (1999) Molecular genetic variation in prehistoric inhabitants of the Eastern Great Basin. IN: Understanding Prehistoric Lifeways in the Great Basin Wetlands: Bioarchaeological Reconstruction and Interpretation. B.E. Hemphill and C.S. Larsen (eds.), University of Utah Press.

O'Rourke, D.H., R.M.Baume, J.H. Mielke and M.H. Crawford (1984) Dental variation in Black Carib populations. IN: Current Developments in Anthropological Genetics, Vol. 3. Black Caribs: A Case Study in Biocultural Adaptation, Chapter 10, pp. 169-187. M.H. Crawford (ed.). New York: Plenum.

O'Rourke, D.H. and V. Bach Enciso (1982) Primate social organization, ecology and genetic variation. IN: Current

Developments in Anthropological Genetics, Vol. 2. Ecology and Population Structure, Ch. 1, pp. 1-28. M.H. Crawford and J.H. Mielke (eds.). New York: Plenum.

O'Rourke, D.H. and M.H. Crawford (1976) Odontometric analysis of four Tlaxcaltecan communities. IN: The Tlaxcaltecans: Prehistory, Demography, Morphology and Genetics. Chapter 9, pp. 81-92. M.H. Crawford (ed.). University of Kansas Anthropology Series, No. 7. KU Printing Service, Lawrence, KS.

Book Reviews

Human Population Genetics. John H. Relethford, Wiley-Blackwell. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. (2013) 152(3):432.

Prehistoric Foragers of the Cis-Baikal, Siberia: Proceedings of the First Conference of the Baikal Archaeology Project. Edited by A. Weber and H. McKenzie, CCI Press. Sibirica. (2012) 11(2):89-91.

Anthropology and the New Genetics, Gísli Pálsson, Cambridge. Amer J. Phys. Anthrop. (2008) 138(1): 121-122. Ancient DNA, Edited by B. Herrmann and S. Hummel, Springer-Verlag. Internatl. J. Osteoarch. (1996) 6:255.1-255.3.

Genetics of Cellular, Individual, Family, and Population Variability, Edited by Charles F. Sing and Craig L. Hanis, Oxford University Press. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. (1995) 97(4):455-457.

The History and Geography of Human Genes, by L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza, Princeton University Press. Science. (1995) 267:1530-1532. (10 March)

Understanding Genetics: A Molecular Approach, by Norman V. Rothwell, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hum. Biol. (1994) 66(5):950-951.

The Foundations of Human Genetics, by Krishna R. Dronamraju, Charles C. Thomas, Publisher. Hum. Biol. (1990) 62(6):856-857.

Genetic Variation and Its Maintenance. With Particular Reference to Tropical Populations, Edited by D.F. Roberts and G.F. DeStefano, Cambridge University Press. Hum. Biol. (1988) 60(6):955-956.

The Inheritance of Personality and Ability, by R.B. Cattell, Academic Press. Amer. J. Phys. Anthrop. (1984) 65(2):221-222.

The Genetics of Altruism, by Scott A. Boorman and Paul R. Levitt, Academic Press. Amer. Anthrop. (1983) 85(1):157-158.


D.H. O’Rourke, Assoc. Ed. For Anthropological Genetics.  International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology, Wenda Trevethan, Senior Editor, Wiley-Blackwell. (Under Contract; projected publication date: 2015)

D. H. O’Rourke, Ed. Companion to Anthropological Genetics, Wiley-Blackwell. (Under Contract; projected publication date: 2015)

Selected Grants

O'Rourke, D. H., (Co-Principal), Collaborative Research: Birnirk prehistory and the emergence of Inupiaq Culture in Northwestern Alaska: archaeological and anthropological perspectives, PLR-1523059, National Science Foundation, $295,423, - 12/31/2015) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, G. H., (Principal), Paleoepidemiology of Epidemic Disease in Prehistoric Europe, Funding Incentive Seed Grant, University of Utah, $33,000, - 12/31/2014) . Other University. Status: Funded.

Coltrain, J., (Principal), O'Rourke, D. H., (Co-Principal), Stable and Radio-Isotope Chemistry of the Nuvuk Mortuary Assemblage, Point Barrow, AK, OPP-0820790, National Science Foundation, $134,247, (01/01/2008 - 12/31/2009) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, D. H., (Principal), Hayes, M. G., (Principal), Collaborative Research: IPY: Reconstruction of Human Genetic History Along the North Slope, OPP-0732846, National Science Foundation, $552,543, - 12/31/2007) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, D. H., (Principal), SGER: Morphometric Assessment of Prehistoric Skeletal Series from Nuvuk, Point Barrow, Alaska, OPP-0535356, National Science Foundation, $39,858, (01/01/2005 - 12/31/2007) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, D. H., Collaborative Research: Molecular Perspectives on Aleut Origins, OPP-0327641, National Science Foundation, $271,006, (01/01/2003 - 12/31/2006) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, D. H., (Principal), Biocomplexity in the Environment Incubation Grant: A Temporal Perspective on Biocomplexity in the Aleutian Islands, BCS-BE 0119759, National Science Foundation, $75,000, (01/01/2001 - 12/31/2002) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, D. H., SGER: Identification of ancient Sin Nombre Hantavirus in the Prehistoric Southwest, BCS-0123732, NSF, $25,571, (01/01/2001 - 12/31/2002) . Federal. Status: Funded.

O'Rourke, D. H., (Principal), Collaborative Research: Origins of Aleut Populations: Molecular Perspectives, OPP 9974623, NSF, $182,980, (01/01/1999 - 12/31/2002) . Federal. Status: Funded.

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