Susan Pfeiffer

Susan Pfeiffer
Research Professor of Anthropology
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

The skeletal biology of past peoples, focusing on Southern African Khoe-San and North American Lower Great Lakes; repatriation and the establishment of sustained working relationships with aboriginal peoples.

Research Interests: Bioarchaeology, palaeopathology, adult age estimation methods, natural selection in past Homo sapiens, evolutionary theory, African foragers & pastoralists, First Nations of the Great Lakes region


1976 Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto 

* Thesis Title: The Skeletal Biology of Archaic Populations of the Great Lakes Region (Advisor: F.J. Melbye). 

1972 M.A., Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

1968 B.A. in Religion, University of Iowa


In press      Pfeiffer, S., Sealy, J., Harrington, L., Loftus, E., Maggs, T.    A Late Holocene community burial area: evidence of diverse mortuary practices in the Western Cape,  South Africa. PLOS ONE. Accepted 03/04/2020.


2019          Beresheim, A., Pfeiffer, S., Grynpas, M. Ontogenetic changes to bone microstructure in human ribs. Journal of Anatomy. 236:3:448-462.


2019          Pfeiffer, S. , Cameron, M.E., Beresheim, A., Sealy, J. Diet and adult age-at-death among mobile foragers: A synthesis of bioarchaeological methods. American Journal of  Physical Anthropology 2019;1–17.


2019          Sawchuk, E.A., Pfeiffer, S., Klehm, C.E., Cameron, M.E., Hill, A.C., Janzen, A., Grillo, K.M., Hildebrand, E.A. The bioarchaeology of mid-Holocene pastoralist cemeteries west of Lake Turkana, Kenya. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 11:6221-6241.


2019          Schell, L.M., Gallo, M., Pfeiffer, S., Lee, F., Garry, D., Yucel, R., Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment. Trends in height, weight, BMI, skinfolds, and measures of overweight and obesity from 1979 through 1999 among American Indian Youth: The Akwesasne Mohawk. International Journal of Obesity. DOI: 10.1038/s41366-019-0349-5.


2019          Pfeiffer, S., Harrington, L., Lombard, M. The people behind the samples: Biographical features of Past Hunter-Gatherers from KwaZulu-Natal who yielded aDNA. International Journal of Palaeopathology. 24:158-164.


2019          Beresheim, A., Pfeiffer, S., Grynpas, M.D., Alblas, A. Use of Backscattered Scanning Electron Microscopy to Quantify the Bone Tissues of Mid-Thoracic Human Ribs. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 168:262-278. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23716.


2019          Cameron, M.E., Pfeiffer, S. An additional person from “Diaz Street Midden,” Saldanha Bay, Western Cape. South African Archaeological Bulletin. 73(208): 138-142.


2018          Beresheim, A., Pfeiffer, S., Alblas, A. The influence of body size and bone mass on cortical bone histomorphometry in human ribs. Anatomical Record. 301:1788-1796. DOI: 10.1002/ar.23933


2018          Pfeiffer, S., & Harrington, L. Regional Continuity and Local Challenges to Resilience among Holocene Hunter-Gatherers of the Greater Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. In D. Temple & C. Stojanowski (Eds.), Hunter-Gatherer Adaptation and Resilience: A Bioarchaeological Perspective (Cambridge Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology, pp. 26-46). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316941256.002


2018           Hildebrand, E.A., Grillo, K.M., Sawchuk, E.A., Pfeiffer, S.K., Conyers, L.B., Goldstein, S.T., Hill, A.C., Janzen, A., Klehm, C.E., Helper, M., Kiura, P., Ndiema, E., Ngugi, C., Shea, J.J., and Wang, H. A monumental cemetery built by eastern Africa’s first herders near Lake Turkana, Kenya. 6 pp. + Supporting Information. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201721975 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1721975115


2018           Beresheim AC, Pfeiffer SK, Grynpas MD, Alblas A. Sex-specific patterns in cortical and trabecular bone microstructure in the Kirsten Skeletal Collection, South Africa. Am J Hum Biol. 2018;e23108.


2017           Vairamuthu, T., Pfeiffer, S. A juvenile with compromised osteogenesis provides insights into past hunter-gatherer lives. International Journal of Palaeopathology 20:1-9.


2017             Pfeiffer, S., J.C. Sealy, R.F. Williamson, C. Forrest, L. Lesage. Patterns of weaning among ancestral Huron-Wendat communities, determined from nitrogen isotopes. American Antiquity 82:2: 244-261. DOI:



2017 Faculty of Arts & Science nominee for J. B. Smith Graduate Supervision award

2016 J. Norman Emerson Medal, Ontario Archaeological Association

2016 Students’ Choice: Outstanding Anthropology Course Instructor, Anthropology Students Association

2013 Symposium, Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology, UTSC, October 19, 2013: Canadian Contributions to Bioarchaeology in Honour of Susan Pfeiffer

2004-- Senior Fellow, Massey College, University of Toronto

2001 University of Toronto Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teacher Award (Social Sciences)

1995-- Association of Southern African Professional Archaeologists (ASAPA)

1988-- Sigma Xi

1968-- Phi Beta Kappa