PhD position for residue and use-wear on grinding tools

ESR6: Exploring the function of grinding stones using old and new methods (York/Copenhagen)


Microwear analysis is well established in archaeological scientific research and has been applied to a range of prehistoric stone artefacts. In comparison, chemical and molecular analyses of ground stone tools are far less established, with doubts regarding the preservation of organic molecules. This project will focus on ground stone artefacts, which offer the best potential for residue preservation due to their porosity. During prehistory, ground stone tools probably fulfilled a wide range of functions, for example, processing organic (bone, seeds, plant fibres, wood) and inorganic materials (minerals, pigments) but overall little is known despite their ubiquity on later prehistoric sites, particularly during the Neolithic.

What will you learn?

You will be trained at UoY in experimental archaeology at the YEAR Centre and microscopy (with Aimée Little) and aDNA (with Nathan Wales) before moving to UCPH to undertake analysis of samples extracted from experimental grinding stones and artefacts from comparatively different burial conditions: Late Epipalaeolithic and Pre-pottery Neolithic A sites in northeast Jordan (Richter) and Ness of Brodgar Neolithic site in Scotland, liaising with ESR 9 and ESR 11. You will undertake a pilot test to recover proteins from grinding stones (with Jessica Hendy), with any visible residues first recorded and “mapped” by microscopic analysis using York’s long working distance metallurgical microscope (with Aimée Little).

Who will be my supervisors?

Aimée Little, University of York (Lead)

Jessica Hendy, University of York

Nathan Wales, University of York

Tobias Richter, University of Copenhagen

Secondment Opportunities

The student will have the opportunity to be seconded to ORCA (Ness of Brodgar excavations) to undertake carry out in-field sampling of grindstones during on-going excavations. As well as excavation experience, this will allow samples of the surrounding soil matrix to be sampled, analysed (acidity, composition, etc.) and used as a control against which potential cross-contamination of the grinding stones from the depositional environment can be assessed.

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