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Marie Curie Researcher: ChemArch: Examining the representation of wooden artefacts in prehistoric archaeological assemblages (York/Nice) - ESR1

Department of Chemistry

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About the Project

Wooden artefacts from prehistoric sites provide a wealth of information, including on early woodworking technologies and woodland management practices. Wood, however, does not survive well in the archaeological record, with recovery often only possible in waterlogged deposits or arid conditions. This PhD project aims to understand the survival and degradation of prehistoric wooden artefacts (including carbonised materials) under different burial conditions, to properly contextualise the technological repertoire at archaeological sites - particularly to understand what is missing. 

The PhD project will be based at the University of York (UK) for 2 years, and CNRS in Nice (France) for 1 year. Depending on existing expertise, the successful applicant will receive training in FTIR, Py-GCMS, SEM, LC & LC-MS, and microscopic analysis, molecular degradation and archaeology. The student will join a vibrant research grouping with expertise in geochemistry, analytical chemistry, archaeology, Quaternary science, palaeoenvironment and climate change. The preparative and analytical skills developed will be a great strength in any field of chemistry. The student will be fully supported by the project team in archaeological, geological and geochemical aspects of the project. The supervisory team is Kirsty Penkman (UoY, Lead) - chemistry; Kirsty High (UoY) - wood conservation, chemistry; and Isabelle Théry-Parisot (CNRS, 2nd) - wood identification. There may also be secondment opportunities at York Archaeological Trust and the National Museum of Denmark.

This PhD studentship is part of the ChemArch international doctoral training network, which is focused on the chemistry and molecular biology of prehistoric artefacts. The aim of the network is to undertake doctoral training to create the next generation of artefact scientists, and the advanced training will include: training 'on the job' with museums and with industry partners; peer to peer learning; making the most of online collaborative learning tools; training in outreach by professionals; putting your future first with bespoke career planning; and five 'pan-network workshops' in London, Nice, Barcelona and Copenhagen.

Important eligibility criteria:

  • Mobility rule: on 1 September 2021 you must not have resided or carried out your main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the UK for more than 12 months in the preceding 3 years. Compulsory national service and/or short stays such as holidays are not considered.
  • Further eligibility criteria: To be eligible for this role you must, on 1 September 2021 be in the first four years (full-time equivalent research experience) of your research career and have not been awarded a doctoral
  • Qualifications: Please note that in order to register for a doctorate at the second university you must fulfil their eligibility requirements for a Master’s level qualification Chemistry, heritage science, archaeology, or the biological or environmental sciences. You should also hold a Undergraduate degree in Chemistry (or related relevant subject such as heritage conservation science, archaeological, biological or environmental sciences); minimum 2:1 or equivalent grade. Please check the entry requirements for your country:
  • Applicants who do not have English as their first language will need to meet or exceed the requirements for PhD entry:

Additionally, all Chemistry research students have access to our innovative Doctoral Training in Chemistry (iDTC): cohort-based training to support the development of scientific, transferable and employability skills.

The Department of Chemistry holds an Athena SWAN Gold Award and is committed to supporting equality and diversity for all staff and students. The Department strives to provide a working environment which allows all staff and students to contribute fully, to flourish, and to excel:

For more information about the project, application process or funding, see: or click on the supervisor's name above to email the supervisor. 

This PhD will start on 1 September 2021.  

Funding Notes

The project “ChemArch: The organic chemistry and molecular biology of archaeological artefacts” is funded by the European Commission under its Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions. The consortium provides 15 funded PhD positions, 5 of which are at York. PhD students on this scheme are employed as Marie Curies Early Stage Researchers and paid a salary for 36 months. The full time salary for this project is £41,570 or £45,470 per annum (depending on family). You must meet the important eligibility criteria (see project description).

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