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Magdalenian People: Inferring Human Behaviour at the End of the Last Ice Age from Molecular and Isotopic Analyses of Skeletal Remains.


Project Description

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship, to be undertaken at the Natural
History Museum (London) and the University of York (BioArCh, Department of
Archaeology). This studentship, funded by the Calleva Foundation, will be jointly
supervised by Professor Ian Barnes and Dr Silvia Bello at the Natural History
Museum and Professor Oliver Craig at the University of York. The project is part of
the Calleva 3 research programme initiated by Professor Chris Stringer, and is
aligned with other NHM ancient human DNA projects being led by Dr Selina Brace.
This is a three-year (full-time) project entitled “Magdalenian People: Inferring Human Behaviour at the End of the Last Ice Age from Molecular and Isotopic Analyses of Skeletal Remains”, to commence
by 1 st January 2020. The student will work between the Natural History Museum and
the University of York.

Project Summary
Modern burial practices are extremely varied and closely associated with cultural
identities. Cannibalism is usually considered to be a form of violence and, in extreme
cases, survival in times of crisis, but it is rarely considered as an aspect of funerary
rituals in past societies. However, our recent work on Magdalenian (~15,000 years
old) human remains from Gough’s Cave (Bello et al., 2011, 2015, 2016, 2017)
provides compelling evidence for cannibalism as part of a complex, ritual behaviour
during the Upper Palaeolithic. The question remains as to whether this was a
phenomenon specific to Britain at that time, or a more widespread practice found
throughout the Magdalenian world.

There are at least six Palaeolithic individuals from Gough’s Cave represented in the
NHM collection, and they are unusual not only in that they are among the only
human remains from this period in the UK, but also because they show clear signs of
being systematically butchered and eaten. Work on this assemblage will explore the
basis of that behaviour, and investigate the relationships of the Gough’s Cave
Magdalenian people with each other and with populations in continental Europe of
similar date (about 14-15,000 years ago). The collection contains a range of skeletal
elements, including skull-cups, engraved bone, and heavily modified post-cranial
remains. One further aim will be to establish whether these all belong to the same
small number of individuals, or include curated remains brought from elsewhere.
A second, comparative group of individuals can be found in the recently identified,
butchered human remains from Bruniquel Cave, which were purchased by the British
Museum in the mid-1800s. The extent and manner in which these bones have been
modified by butchery practices is still unclear, as is their exact date, and their cultural
and genetic relationship with the Gough’s Cave individuals.

This project will use facilities and expertise at York and the NHM to conduct ancient
DNA, radiocarbon, isotopic and taphonomic analyses in order to address a range of
questions about the origin and nature of these exceptional archaeological
assemblages.

Funding Notes

The full studentship award for students with UK residency* includes fees and a
stipend of £17,009 per annum for 3 years. Additional funds are available to support
the cost of training, work placements, and other development opportunities. Students
with EU residency are eligible for a fees-only studentship award. International
applicants are normally not eligible to apply for this studentship.
*UK residency means having settled status in the UK that is no restriction on how
long you can stay in the UK; and having been “ordinarily resident” in the UK for 3
years prior to the start of the studentship

References

Applicants must have a good first degree (usually a minimum 2:1) or a Masters
degree (or other equivalent experience) in biology, genetics, zoology, archaeological
science, biological anthropology, or a related biological science discipline. They
should be highly motivated individuals with a keen interest in archaeology and/or
genetics. The closing date for applications is 12:00 noon (UK time) 11th October 2019

Related Subjects

How good is research at University of York in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 18.78

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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