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 ( 

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