Friday, 22 November 2013

Rudolph, how did you get your nose so bright? PhD opportunities in reindeer archaeology

So it's a tenuous link, but Christmas is just around the corner, I wanted to write a festive blog post and this is as close as I could get. 

Fully-Funded PhD Research Project (UK/EU students only) Department of Archaeology, School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen

Supervisors: Dr. Kate Britton, Dr. Rick Knecht, Dr. Vaughan Grimes (external, MUN)
Application deadline: Friday 6th December 2013
Start date: Flexible, but should be between February 1st and August 1st 2014 (a later start date in Autumn 2014 may be negotiable)

Details: This studentship is part of a new, large international AHRC-funded research project at the University of Aberdeen, Department of Archaeology, led by Dr. Rick Knecht – Understanding Cultural Resilience and Climate Change on the Bering Sea through Yup'ik Ecological Knowledge, Lifeways, Learning and Archaeology (ELLA). Focusing on the precontact village site of Nunnalleq (AD 1350- 1700) in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta, this community-based archaeology project aims to use both the products and processes of archaeological research to understand how Yup'ik Eskimos in coastal Western Alaska adapted to rapid climate change in the late prehistoric past, in order to inform and empower descendant Yup'ik communities struggling with contemporary global warming. 

This PhD studentship will focus on the isotope ecology and biogeography of caribou in late Holocene Western Alaska, a key subsistence species for the precontact Yup’ik. Caribou continue to play an important role in the seasonal subsistence menu today, but recent climatic shifts have influenced the seasonality, distribution and migrations of herds, impacting subsistence activities. The impact of larger scale climatic change on this species, such as that experienced during the Little Ice Age (a pre-modern global temperature excursion event), is not known, but may provide vital clues about future variability. 

Through the sequential-sampling and subsequent strontium and oxygen isotope analysis of archaeological caribou teeth, this project will reconstruct migratory behaviour of this species in different phases of the Nunalleq site, mapping variations in the behaviour of this prey species during the Little Ice Age. Archaeological data will be compared to the behaviour of modern herds in the region, in order to establish any broad-scale diachronic trends, providing insights into the long-term effects climate change may have on caribou in the Y-K Delta. Data will be compared with isotope data from on-going palaeodietary studies and procurement technologies at the site, relating possible changes in the ecology of this species to subsistence choices and technology. The importance of caribou to modern and archaeological groups in the Y-K Delta will be explored, with reference to their subsistence, technological and ideological roles. 

Analytical work will take place in laboratories at the University of Aberdeen, and at Memorial University, Newfoundland. 

We are looking for talented and ambitious researchers in the relevant discipline.
Your qualifications should include: 
• an undergraduate degree in Archaeology (or related discipline) with first class honours or upper second class honours (or equivalent) 
• a master's degree in Archaeology (or related discipline) with an excellent academic record 
• excellent command of English and good academic writing skills 
• experience of archaeological laboratory work is essential, experience with stable isotope analysis, zooarchaeology, and/or Arctic archaeology is highly desirable 
• student must be prepared (and eligible) to travel to the USA and Canada, and is expected to participate in archaeological fieldwork in Alaska  

In addition to the online form, applications should include the following: 
1) A personal statement introducing yourself, describing your motivation to conduct the research, and placing your interests/experience within the context of the project and the range of work conducted by the Department of Archaeology, University of Aberdeen, and the ELLA project. 
2) A full CV demonstrating academic excellence, including publications and presentations (if applicable)  

The third supervisor on this project is Dr. Vaughan Grimes (external advisor, Memorial University, Newfoundland)  

The start date for this project is flexible, but should be between February 1st and August 1st 2014 (a later start date in Autumn 2014 may be negotiable.

Funding notes:
Available to UK nationals who have been normally resident in the UK for the three years prior to nomination for funding. If a student is a national of a Member State of the EU other than the UK, they are eligible for a full studentship award if they can establish a relevant connection with the UK and Islands, i.e. if they have been ordinarily resident in the UK throughout the three year period immediately preceding the start of their course. EU students who cannot establish a relevant connection may be eligible for fees-only award. For full details please visit this website.


Application Procedure 

Formal applications can be completed online

You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Archaeology, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. Please ensure that you quote the project title and supervisor on the application form. You should also indicate that you are self-funded.

Informal enquiries can be made to, Dr Kate Britton ( or Dr Rick Knecht (, University of Aberdeen. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ( 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Digging deeper: Late Holocene Dietary Change in the San Francisco Bay Area

This month's Digging Deeper comes to you from California Archaeology and one of the most popular articles in its online archive, 'Late Holocene Dietary Change in the San Francisco Bay Area' by Eric Bartelink.

Scholars of California prehistory continue to debate the importance of different food resources to the native diet during the late Holocene. Resource intensification models for central California predict temporal declines in the abundance of large game relative to smaller fauna, as well as a shift towards greater use of vegetal foods. These changes are commonly linked to human-driven resource depression and overpopulation, although climatic factors may also have played a role.

This study uses data from stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes of human bone to evaluate evidence of paleodietary change among late Holocene human populations (ca. 4950-200 cal B.P.) from the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay, California. Carbon and nitrogen isotope values of bone collagen demonstrate significant temporal variation and indicate a shift in emphasis from high trophic-level marine protein toward a greater emphasis on terrestrial resources and lower trophic-level marine foods. Carbon isotope values of bone apatite provide additional information not recorded in bone collagen, and suggest an increased emphasis on vegetal resources during the latter part of the prehistoric sequence (after ca. 2150 cal B.P.). Alternatively, the isotopic data presented here could provide evidence for regionally specific diets or variation due to human population movement throughout the San Francisco Bay area.

The following is an extract from the article's introduction:

"With an estimated population of at least 310,000 individuals, native California was one of the most densely settled landscapes in North America at the time of European contact. Early researchers attributed this demographic anomaly to California’s natural resource abundance of large game, fish, shellfish, and plant foods. This abundance is often cited as the reason agriculture failed to develop in prehistoric California—it simply was not needed, although some scholars have argued that intensive use of stored food staples (such as acorns and small seeds) can be considered a type of proto-agriculture. The richness and diversity of the central California landscape described in early ethnohistoric accounts further advanced the notion that native peoples had little impact on their natural environment, producing an archaeological record lacking evidence of significant culture change.

Recently, this paradigm has been questioned by scholars arguing that rebounds in game populations during the historic period occurred only after human population numbers declined due to the spread of foreign-introduced infectious diseases. Resource abundance in prehistoric California has been seriously challenged by a number of recent zooarchaeological studies. Archaeofaunal research in the San Francisco Bay area, the Sacramento Valley, and the Pacific Coast shows evidence of resource depression, measured by temporal declines in high return, large game relative to low return, smaller fauna in late Holocene sites. The widespread distribution of mortar and pestle technology, beginning around 4500 cal B.P. in California, has been linked to the shift toward more intensified use of lower return vegetal resources such as acorns and small seeds. These different lines of evidence all suggest that an expansion in diet breadth occurred during the late Holocene in central California."

>> Read the full article for free

Monday, 11 November 2013

What we're looking forward to at Museums 2013

This week we are exhibiting at Museums 2013, the annual conference and exhibition of the Museums Association, in Liverpool, UK and in this week's post Laura Bradford, one of our Publishing Executives, shares her thoughts on the programme...

"This is my first Museums Association conference and judging by the flurry of announcements about themes and keynote speakers, it’s not going to disappoint. In a time of on-going turmoil for the museums and heritage sector, the range of sessions and topics here promise to address the challenges organisations face today and question how they can adapt to survive and flourish. The Museums Association provides a vital resource for news and commentary on the museums sector and I’m sure their conference will once again set to inspire and encourage delegates to tackle the challenges facing museums and heritage organisations today.

Museums 2013 aims to address the matter of wellbeing. Liverpool is leading the 2012 Decade of Health and Wellbeing national campaign and so is perfectly placed to ask these questions. Can museums play a part in improving the wellbeing of their audiences? Should museums concentrate on engaging with audiences rather than protecting their collections? How can museums do this whilst building foundations for the future?

Three key themes set the structure for the conference; ‘The Therapeutic Museum’ asks how museums can play a part in improving mental health and wellbeing. Sessions will look at the partnership and funding opportunities between museum organisations and health and social care providers; engaging and empowering older people to take an active role in museums; and ensuring museums publicise the difference they make to encourage more organisations to follow. Research at the New Walk Museum in Leicester did just that—they studied frequent and infrequent visitors to the museum, and conducted interviews and self-reported data using the State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Participants reported a reduction in their levels of anxiety after visiting the museum. The full study was published in the peer reviewed journal Museums & Social Issues.

‘Tomorrow’s World’ aims to address how organisations can learn from the challenges we face today in order to plan for a sustainable future—not just for the short term, but changes that could shape the museums experience for our grandchildren and great grandchildren. In a time of severe cuts in funding and depleting resources, museums have had to become savvy to new sustainable measures and money saving techniques. Sessions on this theme will explore how to implement new and perhaps leftfield ideas, looking at the unconventional ways in which museums can engage with audiences. The International Museum of Women (IMOW) for example is an online-only museum which has harnessed online technology to create a new way of engaging. Journal of Museum Education has dedicated an issue to the growing use of digital technology in museums and one article by Katherine Whitney explores how the IMOW specifically has used technology to accomplish their aims.

‘The Emotional Museum’ will run sessions addressing whether museums are doing enough to engage with their audiences. In recent years, museums have realised that they need to revolutionise their exhibitions in order to attract diverse audiences—reams of information just doesn’t cut it anymore. Audiences seek more interactive and empathetic information to allow them to engage with the exhibition and make it a memorable experience. Sessions focus on case studies including how some museums have challenged social attitudes relating to prejudices and discrimination, and how other museums have tried to adapt their exhibits to make them more engaging. Journal of Museum Education published a special issue recently on this topic, entitled ‘Protecting the Objects and Serving the Public: an On-going Dialogue’, which seeks to discover how museums can prioritise the visitor engagement whilst maintaining the exhibition of artefacts.

I’ve only looked at the key themes and already run out of space! There is so much to explore at this year’s conference including keynote speeches from the director at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights Ricardo Brodsky, shadow culture minister Helen Goodman, and TV presenter Lucy Worsley; networking events and tours around Liverpool’s top cultural hotspots; workshops on all aspects of museums engagement, as well as CV building workshops and internship management advice. Last but not least, don’t forget to visit the Museums 2013 Exhibition for your chance to meet and network with the world’s leading suppliers and consultants. It’s going to be a busy one!"

Monday, 4 November 2013

I've got the sea, I've got the secret: groundbreaking discoveries at the Sea of Galilee

Column capital and column shaft fragments by the side
of the street in modern Migdal
The Sea of Galilee is quite the hot bed of archaeological activity these days - two articles recently published in Tel Aviv and Palestine Exploration Quarterly have caused a bit of a stir in the archaeology and heritage communities.

'Archaeological Evidence For A Previously Unrecognised Roman Town Near The Sea Of Galilee' by Ken Dark suggests the remains of Dalmanoutha have been discovered, the Biblical town on the shores of the Sea of Galilee mentioned in the Gospel of Mark as the destination of Jesus after he fed 4,000 people with a few fish and a few loaves of bread. The article has been picked up by a number of outlets including, The Independent, NBC News and The Huffington Post.

Professor Dark offered us his reaction to all the attention:

"My recent paper ‘Archaeological Evidence For A Previously Unrecognised Roman Town Near The Sea Of Galilee’ in Palestine Exploration Quarterly was very widely reported in the world media. While these reports generally accurately summarised the archaeological material, the tentative identification of the site with Biblical Dalmanoutha in my paper is over-emphasised in many of them, sometimes giving the impression that the search for Dalmanoutha was the focus of my research. In fact, the site reported in my paper was found in fieldwork undertaken as part of a far wider multi-period project examining the landscape around the Sea of Galilee, rather than as site-centred ‘Biblical Archaeology’.

What I said about the identification of the site was just that, as this seems to be a large, probably urban, settlement on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, it is logical to suppose that it is mentioned in textual sources. Historians working on this region in the Roman period had suggested that there were textually-attested towns called Tarichaea, Gennesaret, Dalmanoutha and Magadan/Magdala on the coast. As Tarichaea seems to have been south of Tiberias (and so far from this site), Magadan/Magdala is usually said to be the site currently being excavated just south of this ‘new’ settlement, and Gennesaret may be a region-name rather than a locality, that leaves Dalmanoutha. However, I stressed in the conclusion to my paper that this wasn’t the only possible identification."

The Sea of Galilee is Israel's largest salt water lake
'Climate and the Late Bronze Collapse: New Evidence from the Southern Levant' by Dafna Langgut, Israel Finkelstein and Thomas Litt has been published in the latest issue of Tel Aviv and presents a study of fossil pollen grains in sediments extracted from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee which reveals evidence of a climate crisis that traumatised the Near East from the middle of the 13th to the late 12th century BCE. It is claimed the crisis brought about the collapse of the great empires of the Bronze Age. The article was the focus of a lengthy piece in the New York Times as well as being picked up by National Geographic and  

"In a short period of time the entire world of the Bronze Age crumbled," explains one of the authors, Prof. Finkelstein. "The Hittite empire, Egypt of the Pharaohs, the Mycenaean culture in Greece, the copper producing kingdom located on the island of Cyprus, the great trade emporium of Ugarit on the Syrian coast and the Canaanite city-states under Egyptian hegemony – all disappeared and only after a while were replaced by the territorial kingdoms of the Iron Age, including Israel and Judah.

>> Download ‘Archaeological Evidence For A Previously Unrecognised Roman Town Near The Sea Of Galilee for free

>> Download 'Climate and the Late Bronze Collapse: New Evidence from the Southern Levant' for free