PhD studentship in Geoarchaeology

Durham University - Archaeology

Funding for: UK (full funding), EU (excludes maintenance grant)

Funding amount: Research and associated travel expenses, tuition fees, and a tax-free maintenance grant at the UK Research Council’s national rate, which is currently £14,553 per annum.

Title: Geoarchaeological Approaches to Pictish Settlement Sites: Assessing Heritage at Risk

Supervisory team: Dr. Karen Milek (Durham University) and Dr. Paul Adderley (University of Stirling)

The Department of Archaeology at Durham University is seeking applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship in Geoarchaeology under the NERC-funded IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership scheme.

The project, which is entitled “Geoarchaeological Approaches to Pictish Settlement Sites: Assessing Heritage at Risk” (Ref IAP-17-65), will use an innovative suite of geoarchaeological techniques to evaluate the preservation of Pictish Period buildings and the potential that fragmentary buildings have to reconstruct daily life in early medieval Scotland if analysed using geoarchaeological methods. In lowland and coastal areas, Pictish buildings are generally truncated by deep ploughing (e.g. Rhynie, Clarkly Hill), coastal erosion (e.g. Dunnicaer), or urban development (e.g. Burghead), while those uncovered in upland areas seem to have no preserved floor deposits for reasons that are yet to be understood (e.g. Lair in Glenshee). Geoarchaeological techniques clarify site formation processes and are a powerful research tool for identifying floor deposits, distinguishing their composition, and linking this composition to daily activities, floor maintenance processes, and living conditions, but they have yet to be applied to Pictish Period dwellings. This project will be the first to employ a suite of geoarchaeological techniques already proven to be highly effective on Viking Age sites as well as ethnographic case studies in Scotland and Iceland.

The student engaged to undertake this research will analyse a set of around 250 sediment samples collected over the last three years from fragmentary Pictish buildings excavated at Rhynie, Burghead, Clarkly Hill, Dunnicaer, and Lair, and there is also the potential of collecting new samples from the site of Pitcarmick. The samples will in the first instance be analysed using integrated soil micromorphology, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), magnetic susceptibility, loss-on-ignition, pH, and micro-refuse analysis to determine preservation conditions and site formation processes, and to evaluate the ideal combination of techniques for reconstructing aspects of daily life and living conditions in early medieval Scottish settlements. The results of this first analytical stage will determine which additional state-of-the-art techniques should be applied to the samples, such as faecal lipid biomarker analysis and variable pressure-scanning electron microscopy (VP-SEM).

During Years 1 and 2, the student will do a six-month placement with CASE partner Historic Environment Scotland under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Brown, HES Archaeological Science Manager. During this placement, the student will receive training in cultural heritage management and conservation, and will contribute to HES guidelines on soil science and sampling of archaeological sites, putting the knowledge and skills gained during the PhD into immediate use by a key stakeholder.

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Northern England