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The ancient inhabitants of the middle Nile valley: dental morphology and biological affinity across time and changing cultures


   Faculty of Science

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  Prof J. D. Irish, Dr D Antoine, Dr L Girdland Flink  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is a call for applications for a three-year fully funded PhD studentship for UK and EU citizens in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University and the British Museum.

The human skeletal remains (n>2000 individuals) from the 4th Nile Cataract area of Upper Nubia (i.e. northern Sudan), plus assemblages from other regional sites at The British Museum, provide a unique opportunity to explore further the origins and affinities of ancient Nubian peoples. This PhD project builds on a 15-year study by the DoS, Prof Irish, to discern population relationships across ancient Egypt, Nubia, and beyond using dental nonmetric trait analyses; the difference is scope. The PhD will provide unmatched regional detail not addressed before—in this case, relatedness in Neolithic to medieval peoples from an area just several square kilometres in size. Moving outward from this point, comparisons with 1) geographically proximate samples of various ages at the Museum, and 2) those farther afield in Nubia, Egypt, and elsewhere (data from Irish), will spatiotemporally ‘place’ the 4th Cataract peoples within greater Northeast African prehistory. Assembly of these data will go far toward complementing existing Northeast African biological data, and specifically, the affinity of peoples inhabiting these areas and whose material cultures form a core part of the British Museum collections.

The Arizona State University Dental Anthropology System (ASUDAS) will be used to collect the data. The student will be trained by Irish, who recently co-wrote a Cambridge Press manual on the ASUDAS, to confirm data comparability. Up to 36 dental traits will be used to assess intra-sample variation and inter-sample affinities. Model-free and model-bound analyses of these data will encompass various techniques to identify key traits, quantify any intra-site trait variation, estimate phenetic similarity among 4th Cataract and comparative samples, assess fit of the isolation-by-distance model, and estimate genetic structure and micro-differentiation. The results will be used to test existing hypotheses, and lead to new ones about origins and affinities, migration, and microevolution. Lastly, like Irish’s broad-based investigation, to test for concordance and correlation among methods, intra-regional relationships will be contrasted with published anthropological information. As well, results will complement ongoing research projects using alternate data in skeletons from the same sites, by second supervisor Dr Antoine and others, to characterize these peoples more fully. Overall, we will gain a better understanding of these Nile valley peoples, to contextualise and interpret cultural shifts seen in objects and other collections curated at the Museum.

Research Questions:

• Who were the ancient peoples of Upper Nubia from 4000BC - AD1500, as represented at the 4th Cataract and surrounding middle Nile valley sites?
• How closely related were they to one another?
• Were they indigenous to the region, immigrants from the north and/or south, or a genetic and cultural mosaic?
• Is there genetic continuity with more recent peoples?
• Do patterns change over time and correlate with differences in social and cultural practices, attested through architecture, objects or other archaeological evidence?

It is expected that the PhD student will refine these research questions after a period of literature review and a pilot study.

The equipment necessary for the analyses is available at Liverpool John Moores University. Data will be collected off site at the British Museum, where the human skeletal remains are curated. Funding will cover travel between Liverpool and London, data collection and conference attendance.

Funding Notes

Only UK & EU citizens can apply for this studentship. The project is to be Match Funded by LJMU and the British Museum. Funding will consist of full tuition fees for three years and the award of a living stipend at UK Research Council rates (2018/19 figure - £14,777). Funding will also consist of up to £1500 per annum towards project costs (bench fees). Funding will be subject to satisfactory progress.

References

For an informal discussion about this opportunity please email Prof Joel D Irish // J.D.Irish@ljmu.ac.uk for more information.

Applicants should email a CV, covering letter detailing their suitability for the project and contact details of two referees to Prof Joel D Irish // J.D.Irish@ljmu.ac.uk // (0)151 231 2387.

Applicants must be available for interview (The deadline for applications is 17:00 on Friday 24th August 2018. Interviews will be held for shortlisted candidates in Liverpool on Friday 7th September 2018. Skype interviews will be possible for candidates unable to attend in person ).

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