Bioarchaeological perspectives on subsistence economy and land use during the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age and the Roman period (1600 BC – 400 AD) in South-eastern Bulgaria

This placement will investigate the Thracian agro-pastoral economy by combining and integrating isotopic analyses performed on archaeological teeth, bones and plant remains.

Department: Archaeology

Supervised by: Delphine Frémondeau

The Placement Project

The student will work as part of a 3-year international project conducted in collaboration with Belgian and Bulgarian research institutes. Through an integrated approach combining zooarchaeology, archaeobotany and stable isotope analysis, this project aims at documenting the subsistence economy and land use during the Late Bronze Age, Iron Age and the Roman period (1600 BC – 400 AD) in South-eastern Bulgaria. As part of Ancient Thrace, this area played a key role as a bridge between Classical Civilisations and the temperate ‘Barbarian’ Europe, becoming a unique entity interacting between East and West. Over the period of interest, major social and economic changes occurred: increased stratification of society; intensification of production and the establishment of a market economy. At the same time, we are detecting the first large scale anthropogenic activities in the paleo-ecological archives in Southeastern Europe. Through a combination of stable isotope analysis of plant and faunal remains, this project seeks to reconstruct key parameters such as manuring and crop watering practices as well as livestock diet and management (including the use of forest resources). The placement will focus on one of several sites investigated by the project, allowing the student to make a unique contribution to the overall project with their research.


The placement will involve the following tasks undertaken by the students: 1) sequential sampling of teeth and preparation for IRMS measurements (d18O, d13C); 2) processing of bone samples for stable isotope analysis of bone collagen (d15N, d13C); 3) preparation of charred plant samples for IRMS measurements (d15N, d13C); 4) organise, plot and interpret the resulting isotope data; 5) produce a short written report on the outcomes of the placement.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

This placement would suit students with a good appreciation of archaeological science, environmental science, or ecology as well as with an interest in archaeology. Willingness to undertake preparatory reading into the field of isotope analysis for reconstructing past land use strategies and subsistence economy is essential. Previous laboratory experience and knowledge of statistics are advantageous but not essential, while basic skills in Excel would be appreciated.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

The student will develop their organisational skills (through keeping track of samples and managing their time when scheduling analytical work), gain advanced experience of working in a laboratory environment with technical and research staff and other students; gain specialist knowledge of analytical protocols used in isotope analysis of faunal and plant remains; gain experience with the organisation, analysis and interpretation of analytical results; gain specialist knowledge in the interpretation of faunal and plant isotope data; practice their written communication skills by producing a short report on the findings.

Place of Work

SAGES Buildings (Archaeology and Wager Buildings)

Hours of Work

09:00 am - 5:00 pm

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 12 June 2017 - Friday 21 July 2017

How to Apply

Submission of a CV and a cover-letter to the PI (Dr. Delphine Frémondeau) and the Co-I (Dr. Gundula Müldner, Head of Palaeodietary Research Laboratory in SAGES), then selection by an interview panel.

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