The Department of Archaeology at Durham University is seeking applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship in Geoarchaeology under the NERC-funded IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership scheme.
The project, which is entitled “Geoarchaeological Approaches to Pictish Settlement Sites: Assessing Heritage at Risk” (Ref IAP-17-65), will use an innovative suite of geoarchaeological techniques to evaluate the preservation of Pictish Period buildings and the potential that fragmentary buildings have to reconstruct daily life in early medieval Scotland if analysed using geoarchaeological methods. There is currently a tremendous gap in our understanding of daily life in early medieval Scotland due to the poor preservation of Pictish buildings and the occupation deposits within them (Hall and Price 2012). In lowland and coastal areas, Pictish buildings are generally truncated by deep ploughing (e.g. Rhynie, Clarkly Hill), coastal erosion (e.g. Dunnicaer), or urban development (e.g. Burghead), while those uncovered in upland areas seem to have no preserved floor deposits for reasons that are yet to be understood (e.g. Lair in Glenshee). Geoarchaeological techniques clarify site formation processes and are a powerful research tool for identifying floor deposits, distinguishing their composition, and linking this composition to daily activities, floor maintenance processes, and living conditions, but they have yet to be applied to Pictish Period dwellings. This project will be the first to employ a suite of geoarchaeological techniques already proven to be highly effective on Viking Age sites as well as ethnographic case studies in Scotland and Iceland.
The student engaged to undertake this research will analyse a set of around 250 sediment samples collected over the last three years from fragmentary Pictish buildings excavated at Rhynie, Burghead, Clarkly Hill, Dunnicaer, and Lair, and there is also the potential of collecting new samples from the site of Pitcarmick. The samples will in the first instance be analysed using integrated soil micromorphology, X-ray fluorescence (XRF), magnetic susceptibility, loss-on-ignition, pH, and micro-refuse analysis to determine preservation conditions and site formation processes, and to evaluate the ideal combination of techniques for reconstructing aspects of daily life and living conditions in early medieval Scottish settlements. The results of this first analytical stage will determine which additional state-of-the-art techniques should be applied to the samples, such as faecal lipid biomarker analysis and variable pressure-scanning electron microscopy (VP-SEM).
During Years 1 and 2, the student will do a six-month placement with CASE partner Historic Environment Scotland under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Brown, HES Archaeological Science Manager. During this placement, the student will receive training in cultural heritage management and conservation, and will contribute to HES guidelines on soil science and sampling of archaeological sites, putting the knowledge and skills gained during the PhD into immediate use by a key stakeholder.
Outputs of the project will include geoarchaeological reports for the site excavators and HES, co-authored publications and conference presentations, and a geoarchaeological guidelines document for Historic Environment Scotland. As a whole, this innovative project will provide crucial new information about (a) the preservation of Pictish Period buildings in a range of environmental settings, (b) the research potential of fragmentary or damaged buildings to provide crucial information about daily life in the early medieval period if analysed using scientific methods, and (c) the major risks to the survival of this group of cultural heritage sites now and in the future. The project will fulfil several key aims of the Scottish Archaeology Strategy, especially enhancing our understanding of the early medieval period, improving our ability to care for and protect cultural heritage resources, and increasing innovation and skills in geoarchaeology, a field that needs more highly trained practitioners.
Further information about this project, and a list of references: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/iap-17-65-geoarchaeological-approaches-to-pictish-settlement-sites-assessing-heritage-at-risk/
Further information about how to apply: http://www.iapetus.ac.uk/aboutstudentships/
PhD supervisory team: Dr. Karen Milek (Durham University) and Dr. Paul Adderley (University of Stirling)
Funding for: UK (full funding), EU (excludes maintenance grant)
Funding amount: Research and associated travel expenses, tuition fees, and a tax-free maintenance grant at the UK Research Council’s national rate, which is currently £14,553 per annum
Deadline for applications: 19 January 2017