Samantha Sanft

Postdoctoral Associate


As an anthropological archaeologist, I specialize in the archaeology of North American Indigenous groups and community-engaged research. My work analyzes the properties, timing, and distribution of nonlocal materials across the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Haudenosaunee homeland to reassess exchange networks and highlight the role of small group agency in the past. My teaching and research focus on centering Indigenous and Black histories and futures in New York State.

I am currently leading archaeological fieldwork at the St. James AME Zion Church Community Excavations Project in Ithaca, New York. The church was built in the 1830s and is the oldest AME Zion church still in active use, in the world. This is a community-engaged project including students and faculty from the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Culture Studies, middle and high school students from Ithaca-area schools, and the St. James AME Zion Church community. 

Previously, I co-led archaeological excavations at the circa 1688-1715 Onöndowa’ga:’ town at White Springs, a project conducted in collaboration with representatives of the Onöndowa'ga:' (Seneca Nation) descendant community. I was also a member of the Dating Iroquoia Project, a collections-based research project refining radiocarbon chronologies for Northern Iroquoian site sequences.

Research Focus

Anthropological archaeology; American Indian and Indigenous Studies; community-based archaeology; collections management; museum studies; Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) archaeology and history; systems of exchange in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century northeastern North America; settlement patterns; material culture studies; shell bead wampum; copper; radiocarbon dating and chronological modeling


Sanft, Samantha M.
2021            The Circulation of Shell and Copper Objects in the circa 1450-1600 Haudenosaunee Homeland. Ph.D. Dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Birch, Jennifer, Sturt W. Manning, Samantha Sanft, Megan A. Conger
*2021            Refined Radiocarbon Chronologies for Northern Iroquoian Site Sequences: Implications for Coalescence, Conflict, and the Reception of European Goods. American Antiquity 86(1):61-89.

Sanft, Samantha M.
2020            Funk Foundation Final Report: Radiocarbon Re-Dating and Bayesian Chronological Modeling, 16th Century Cayuga-Region Sites. Report on file, Funk Foundation. Ballston Spa, New York.

Manning, Sturt W., Jennifer Birch, Megan A. Conger, Samantha Sanft
*2020             Resolving Time Among Non-Stratified Short-Duration Contexts on a Radiocarbon Plateau: Possibilities and Challenges from the AD 1480-1630 Example and Northeastern North America. Radiocarbon 62(6):1785-1807.

Samantha M. Sanft
2020             Dating the Circulation of Shell and Copper Beads in the Fifteenth- through Seventeenth-Century Northeast. The SAA Archaeological Record 20(4):62-66.

Birch, Jennifer, Sturt W. Manning, Megan A. Conger, Samantha Sanft
2020             Introduction: Why are we Dating Iroquoia? Building chronologies to write enhanced archaeological histories. The SAA Archaeological Record 20(4):38-39.

Manning, Sturt W., Jennifer Birch, Megan A. Conger, Michael W. Dee, Carol Griggs, Carla S. Hadden, Alan G. Hogg, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Samantha Sanft, Peter Steier, Eva M. Wild
*2018            Radiocarbon Re-dating of Contact Era Iroquoian History in Northeastern North America. Science Advances 4(12). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0280.

Sanft, Samantha M.
*2018             Beads and Pendants from Indian Fort Road: Native Cultural Continuity and Innovation in the Sixteenth Century Haudenosaunee Homeland. Northeast Anthropology 85-86:1-20.

Sanft, Samantha M.
2013            Beads and Pendants from Indian Fort Road: A Sixteenth Century Cayuga Site in Tompkins County, New York. M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

*peer-reviewed publications

ANTHR Courses - Spring 2024

ARKEO Courses - Spring 2024

ANTHR Courses - Fall 2024

ARKEO Courses - Fall 2024