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A close-up photo of Professor Anagnostis Agelarakis, PhD, taken from over his shoulder, as he examines an archaeological artifact in his lab. He is wearing a headset with a magnifier that gives him a close look at the artifact, which is in a container and is covered in soil. Another container contains archaeological objects that have been separated from the soil.
Anagnostis Agelarakis, PhD, professor of anthropology in the Department of History, examines an artifact in Adelphi's archaeology lab.

For Anagnostis Agelarakis, PhD, professor in Adelphi's history department, archaeology is an endlessly generative practice.

鈥淓very project leads to so many others,”he said.鈥淵ou keep uncovering things that invite you to go deeper, to go further, to not just stop at the surface level. And from there, you see that everything you find is connected.” In fact, the seeds of discovery planted during Dr. Agelarakis’ doctoral research in the 1980s, a study ofHomo sapiensskeletal remains from the Shanidar Cave in Iraq, have continued to bear valuable fruit throughout the past several decades. Most recently, several Shanidar samples he contributed to a new project analyzing genomic data from the Southern Arc鈥攁 region bridging Southeastern Europe with Western Asia, often referred to as the 鈥渃radle of Western civilization”鈥攑roved to be the oldest out of 727 total samples spanning the past 11,000 years, providing the research team with a vital analytic foundation.

A photograph of Professor Anagnostis Agelarakis, PhD, examining one of three skulls on a countertop in his lab. Two of his students look on.

Research by Dr. Agelarakis has been widely published in scholarly journals and covered by news media throughout the world.

Led by Iosif Lazaridis, PhD, and David Reich, PhD, at Harvard University, the project was a cross-disciplinary initiative dedicated to developing the first-ever comprehensive archaeogenetic history of the Southern Arc during the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages, dating back about 7,000 to 3,000 years. Along with more than 200 co-authors from around the globe, Drs. Lazaridis and Reich turned their findings into a trio of studies published inSciencein August 2022: 鈥淭he genetic history of the Southern Arc: A bridge between West Asia and Europe,”1鈥淎 genetic probe into the ancient and medieval history of Southern Europe and West Asia”2and 鈥淎ncient DNA from Mesopotamia suggests distinct Pre-Pottery and Pottery Neolithic migrations into Anatolia.”3The research used a data set of unprecedented scope and size to close 鈥渕ajor gaps in sampling in time, space and cultural context” (鈥淭he genetic history of the Southern Arc”), in the process decoding some long-standing mysteries about migration patterns, cultural diffusion and linguistic evolution among early Indo-European peoples.

Dr. Agelarakis’ Shanidar Cave sample, which dates back to the ninth millennium B.C., established a prehistoric baseline for project researchers working on later periods. Armed with information about Shanidarians’ age ranges, genders, diets, anatomy, travel patterns and survival ratios, they were able to identify connections between different groups that traversed the Southern Arc, as well as the cultural practices, skills and technologies they brought with them. According to Dr. Agelarakis, the project’s novelty cannot be overstated. 鈥淭his is something I’m excited to tell my grandchildren about, how we’re able to complete a massive worldwide project that relies solely on ancient genomic samples,” he noted. 鈥淲e’re the first to be able to substantiate these kinds of conclusions through molecular tracking.”

The project also lays important groundwork for other research. A recent study Dr. Agelarakis co-authored with another team, 鈥淎ncient DNA reveals admixture history and endogamy in the prehistoric Aegean” (Nature, Ecology & Evolution, 2023), builds on work completed by the Lazaridis-Reich project to illuminate connectedness in an entirely different region. In analyzing the flow of genetic signatures in Crete, the Greek mainland and the Aegean Islands between the seventh and first millennia B.C., the authors were able to confirm the biological dimensions of certain cultural transitions that had never before been mapped. Ultimately, they write, 鈥淥ur results highlight the potential of archaeogenomic approaches in the Aegean for unraveling the interplay of genetic admixture, marital and other cultural practices.”

While Dr. Agelarakis looks forward to continuing his work on the Shanidarian samples, he is most excited about sharing the broader lessons of archaeogenetics with his students. 鈥淚n some ways, these perspectives appear to be new, but really they’re just strengthening what we’ve been saying all along, that we are all siblings,” he explains. 鈥淕enetically speaking, our differences are minuscule; it’s only in our upbringing and our education that we create difference. We all began as hunters and gatherers in prehistoric times. I always tell my students that we have to use this data to fulfill our responsibility as custodians to the Earth鈥攖hat we have to look to our common past in order to ensure a common future.”


1Agelarakis, Anagnostis, et al. 鈥.”Science, vol. 377, Iss. 6609, 26 August 2022.

2Agelarakis, Anagnostis, et al. 鈥.”Science, vol. 377, iss. 6609, 25 August 2022, pp. 940-951.

3Agelarakis, Anagnostis, et al. 鈥.”Science, vol. 377, iss. 6609, 25 August 2022, pp. 982-987.

4Agelarakis, Anagnostis, et al.鈥.”Nature Ecology & Evolution, vol. 7, 2023, pp. 290-303.

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