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QUADRAT DTP: Chronology and Changing Cultures on the Mongolian Steppe

Project Description

Learn state of the art chronological tools in one of the most dynamic archaeological environments in Asia.


Mongolia has been the most rapidly developing archaeological territory in Eastern Eurasia. There are high-quality excavated data, cutting edge bioarchaeological approaches to mobility, diet and multi-species interaction, and collaborative international teams who develop and deploy anthropological models. The archaeological record of Mongolia is second-to-none for examining the emergence of nomadic pastoralism, the mobility of humans and animals in the past, and the development of complex societies rooted in landscapes of mobility.

Ultimately, a robust and detailed archaeological chronology must underlie all statements made about past cultures. Radiocarbon dating has come late to the Mongolian archaeology and it is only recently that the numbers of dates collected by field research projects has begun to grow. Still, the total number of dates run is only in the hundreds. As a result, typically used chronological periods are large, unwieldy and mostly typologically based. To date, no broadly productive synthesis and chronological model flexible and dynamic enough to critically examine these chronological periods and the attributes associated with them has been built. This PhD project aims to build such a model. It will use the existing corpus of dates and analyses plus many additional newly dated samples drawn from Northern and Southern Mongolia. The breadth of this project allows for both large scale regional synthesis and modelling as well as detailed examination of specific large sites or defined small local regions.

The project will also critically examine the tripartite relationship between chronology, subsistence and mortuary and ritual monuments. Traditionally in Eurasian archaeology diet and types of archaeological context are related i.e. humans and animals recovered from the same types of mortuary sites are considered to have the same social structures, interspecies relationships and the same diets. Data on carbon and nitrogen isotopes analysed independently or in tandem with radiocarbon dating are now routinely used to examine paleodiet in a broad sense. This data provides both basic dietary frameworks as well as the deep and broad models of dietary make-up and diversity that breathe life into reconstructions of past subsistence systems.

Research Training - During this Ph.D. project you will:

1) Collate and access existing radiocarbon dates from all past and ongoing research in Mongolia. In doing so access data published in a variety of languages (Russian, Mongolian, French, Korea, Chinese).

2) Collect, prepare and date samples of human and animal bone from archaeological contexts, particularly from un-examined excavations in Mongolia.

3) Carry out up-to-date synthesis and modelling of those dates in relation to the cultural processes demonstrated in the archaeological record (e.g. Oxcal)

4) Investigate aspects of palaeodiet revealed in isotopic analysis carried out in tandem with radiocarbon dating. Including the use of the Bayesian mixing models.

5) Write both technically specific and synthetic papers on the methods, chronology, topics and region.


Candidates should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. Applicants with a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree may be considered providing they have a Distinction at Master’s level.


• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geosciences
• State name of the lead supervisor as ‘Name of Proposed Supervisor’ on application
• State ‘QUADRAT DTP’ as Intended Source of Funding
• Select to apply now

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the NERC QUADRAT-DTP and is available to UK/EU nationals who meet the UKRI eligibility criteria. Please visit View Website for more information.

The studentship provides funding for tuition fees, stipend and a research training and support grant subject to eligibility.

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

FTE Category A staff submitted: 13.40

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

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