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Ceramics Identities in Medieval Northeast Asia

Project Description

In Medieval Northeast Asia the economic networks of a selection of successful states and empires spanned the ecological and cultural frontiers of Eurasia. The success with which these states (Jin, Khitan, Liao, Tangut, Mongol Empire, Parhae etc.) administered diverse populations and economies brings the concepts of ‘frontier’ and ‘borderland’ themselves into question. As the concept of frontier crumbles, choices made by individuals and small communities in the region become more nuanced and dynamic. This PhD project further delves into these categories of identity and economy through the study of ceramics distributions and typologies across diverse landscapes within these Medieval Eurasian states.

The data available is drawn from primarily from archaeological surveys, excavations in Mongolia and Northeast China supplemented with publications and collections from the wider northeast Asian region. The researcher must be willing to tackle basic questions such as typology and function in sherd assemblages as well as critically make larger inferences about identity, ethnicity and economic decision making. Medieval and historical archaeology in this region is in its infancy and the researcher involved in this project will begin by building existing general ceramic chronologies and models of site function up to the level of precision needed to study identity and economy in Medieval northeast Asia.

Depending on the approach chosen this project could use different techniques to study the ceramics and their contexts and develop into lab or fieldwork in Mongolia, China or Russia where the artefacts themselves are stored. This is, however, not a required element of any research proposal.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have, an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Archaeology, Anthropology, Materials Science, Geology, Asian Studies.

Knowledge of: Experience with archaeological ceramics is important. A reading knowledge of Mongolian, Chinese, Russian or Korean could be helpful, but are not essential.

Funding Notes

To qualify for Elphinstone funding you MUST have a First Class Degree or equivalent OR a 2.1 Honours Degree or Equivalent, PLUS MSc at Commendation/Distinction level in a relevant subject. Please note Elphinstone funding pays tuition fees only.


This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Archaeology. Formal applications can be completed online: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply. You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR, EXACT PROJECT TITLE AND INDICATE YOU WISH TO BE CONSIDERED FOR ELPHINSTONE FUNDING ON THE APPLICATION FORM. Applicants are limited to applying for a maximum of 2 projects. Any further applications received will be automatically withdrawn.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr J Wright ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter and to discuss potential project proposal development.. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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