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Funded PhD position testing great ape stone tool skills (Comparative Cognitive Archaeology) | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Funded PhD position testing great ape stone tool skills (Comparative Cognitive Archaeology)

Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology; Institute for Archaeological Sciences; Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences; University of Tübingen.

Three-year PhD position working on “Tools and Culture among Early Hominins" to work on the 5-year ERC funded project STONECULT.

Background: Cultural adaptations have allowed humans to colonise the planet. While discovering the roots of human culture has been described as one of the most important scientific questions of our time (Science, 2005, anniversary issue), it remains unclear when such forms of culture first arose in our lineage. Previous research has argued that similar social learning mechanisms underlie modern human as well as early hominin technology. But only the latter shows prolonged periods of stasis – suggesting the underlying mechanisms were different. A better model for early hominins might be living non-human great apes. Instead of copying tool making behaviour from others with high fidelity (as modern humans do), ape tools seem to be based on socially mediated individual reinventions (so-called latent solutions; Tennie et al. 2009 Phil Trans B 364: 2405-2415).

The overarching STONECULT project will experimentally test whether early material culture is a manifestation of modern-human-like cultural ability or whether it is best accounted for with the latent solutions model.

The PhD candidate will experimentally test the four genera of non-human great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and gorillas) on various tool-use domains to investigate the necessary cognitive mechanisms involved in developing these skills. Access to zoological institutions for data collection has already been guaranteed, and the successful candidate will be expected to spend substantial lengths of time in or near Birmingham, UK, testing at Twycross Zoo (or equivalent locations).

Applicants should be interested in working in an interdisciplinary and dynamic team of international researchers from different academic backgrounds. The successful candidate will work within a large consortium, consisting of several PhD and Postdoctoral researchers. The PhD thesis can be written in English or German.



- Solid background (usually at masters level) in either archaeology, anthropology, biology, psychology or primatology or another related field
- An interest and (ideally) an ability to analyse and compare archaeological material culture
- Highly motivated
- An ability to work independently and efficiently, as well as working as part of a team
- Strong communication skills
- Both oral and – especially important – good written language (English) skills
- Willingness to present results in international, peer-reviewed journals and at conferences (posters as well as talks)


- It would be beneficial if candidates had previous experience working with non-human primates and/or running experiments with humans or animals, but this is not required
- Experience working with 3D scans and models of archaeological material culture would be beneficial, but is not required

Once engaged within the project, the student will be encouraged to suggest additional complementary research questions that could be answered with the data collected or with additional data.

Starting date will be mid-July 2017 (preferably not much later). The employment (German pay scale E13 TV-L, 50%; 3 years) will be arranged by the administration of the University of Tübingen. Funding includes material costs, a desk space and accommodation and travel expenses to testing institutions and selected conference (note: no tuition fees are charged in Germany).

The University of Tubingen is one of Germany’s eleven universities in the top ‘Excellent’ class, one of Europe’s oldest universities, and currently ranked 89th in the world. The city of Tubingen is an international town with over 28 thousand German and international students, sharing the colourful bustle and typical atmosphere of a young and cosmopolitan students' town. The Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology is located in the Institute of Pre-and Protohistory of the University of Tübingen and houses diverse collections of archaeological finds, fossil hominid material, ethnographic finds, as well as a wide range of photographic and written documentation from field projects, all within the city’s castle. International students, please see Find a PhD for more information on doing a PhD in Germany.

Disabled persons will be preferred in case of equal qualification. The University seeks to raise the number of women in research and teaching and therefore urges qualified women academics to apply for this position.

If you are interested in this position, please send your application with the following documentation:
- Cover letter (1-2 pages), detailing why you are a suitable candidate for the project – for example, your qualifications, interests, and relevant experience.
- Curriculum Vitae (including publications, if any)
- Copies of most relevant certificates
- Names and addresses of three referees
- Grade transcripts
- A short research proposal (minimum 350 and maximum 500 words; excluding references) consisting of an outline of what you envision the core project to be. Please state the research question(s), say why it is important and novel (in comparison to what has already been discovered in the area) and how you might tackle it (e.g. outline methodology of test and data analysis).

Please send all in electronic form (one pdf-file including all documents, with the subject line “PhD position testing great ape stone tool skills”), to both Dr. Claudio Tennie: and (in CC, simultaneously) to Elisa Bandini:

Claudio Tennie will invite the top candidates for interview (in person, or via Skype) mid- to end of May 2017. At interview, candidates will first give a 5-10 minute presentation about their proposal. Candidates will be notified within ca. two weeks after the last interview. The PhD start date will then be Mid July 2017 at the earliest.

Deadline for sending applications is 12.00 (midday, German time) 8th May 2017: For further background information, see: Claudio Tennie and for any questions, please contact Elisa Bandini:

ERC-funded postdoc in Palaeolithic archaeology – University of Tübingen, Germany

The University of Tübingen is seeking a postdoctoral researcher in Palaeolithic archaeology, to be filled as soon as possible. The position is funded for 3.5 years at the German public service pay scale E 13 TV-L by the European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant “PALAEOSILKROAD”, and will be hosted in the Department of Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology. The goal of the PALAEOSILKROAD project is to discover new Palaeolithic sites in the Tian Shan, Dzungar, and southern Altai foothills of Kazakhstan and use them to examine how hominin dispersals, population segmentation, and behavioural adaptations are correlated with past climatic phases during the last glacial cycle (ca. 110 000-11 500 years ago). Together with the PI and the Kazakh Co-PIs, the successful candidate will develop the research program and carry out the fieldwork.


  • PhD in anthropology or archaeology with specialty in Palaeolithic archaeology
  • Demonstrated ability to lead survey and excavation teams
  • Fieldwork availability (4 seasons of 3-5 months each, beginning 2017)
  • Adequate knowledge of the Russian language or willingness to learn it quickly
  • Desirable:

    Prior experience with systematic survey, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, and geomorphology

    Please send a 1-page cover letter stating your research interests along with a CV and the names of two referees to Radu Iovita ( before May 3rd, 2017.

    Applications from persons with disabilities will be given preference if all other qualifications are equal. The University of Tübingen strives to increase the proportion of women in research and teaching and therefore especially encourages qualified female scientists to apply. Employment takes place via the Central Administration of the University.

    PhD - Personal Ornaments | Université de Bordeaux


    Social and Cultural diversity during the Gravettian in Europe


    Francesco d'Errico
    Lab: UMR PACEA

    Solange Rigaud
    Lab: UMR PACEA


    It has been shown that the analysis of prehistoric personal ornaments is key to document long distance circulation networks (Eriksen, 2002; Poveda, 2012; Rigaud and Gutiérrez-Zugasti, 2016), cultural diversity of past populations (Rigaud et al., 2015; Vanhaeren, 2010; Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2006) and their social structure (Rigaud et al., 2010; Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2001). However, most studies only focus on the technology and function of ornaments (i.e. manufacture processes, modes of suspension….) without developing a more global, integrated approach.

    The personal ornaments from the Gravettian have been the subject of relatively few studies (c. 30-25 ka BP) (Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2006; White, 200) compared to those of the early and later Upper Palaeolithic (Bullinger and Thew, 2006; Gravel-Miguel, 2015; Poplin, 1983; Taborin, 1991). Such a lack of documentation is surprising when considering the wide Pan-European geographic spread of this cultural adaptation and the impressive amount of personal ornaments discovered in many Gravettian primary burials. While the archaeological literature demonstrates the richness of this record (Álvarez Fernández, 2007; d’Errico and Rigaud, 2011; Taborin, 2000), only three publications have attempted to study personal ornaments of this period to reach broad conclusions on Gravettian culture and social organisation. A recent study on beads associated with Gravettian primary burials has identified a north/south divide in the bead type associations and interpreted this pattern as the reflection of cultural diversity (d’Errico and Vanhaeren 2015). Two other studies are based on information collected from Gravettian skeletons buried with their personal ornaments (Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2003; White, 1999). Data support the idea that Gravettian communities were socially diverse and that inherited social inequality may have been in some cases at work.

    This PhD project promotes the application of similar approaches with the aim of documenting bead type association variability and characterizing the mechanisms responsible for such a diversity at the European, regional and individual scales. Collected data will provide crucial information on the cultural geography and social organization of the Gravettian communities. Ultimately, evolutionary processes involved in social and cultural diversification will be explored.

    The project will also develop methods to compare personal ornaments and biological data in order to explore in tandem the biological and cultural diversity of the Gravettian populations. The feasibility of the project is guaranteed by the richness and diversity of the personal ornaments of this period, the supervisors’ expertise in this field of research, the existence of a personal ornament database available to the PhD student, and unpublished data dealing with several major Gravettian burials previously collected by one of the supervisors.

    The bead database will be reassessed and complemented through the analysis of key archaeological assemblages. Biological information on primary burials and associated personal ornaments are available in the literature. Unpublished archaeological and biological data will be available through the development of new collaborations. The PACEA laboratory hosts a project granted by the National Agency for Research (GRAVETT'OS, directed by S. Vilotte) whose aim is, among others, to reevaluate and produce accurate anthropological data for the Gravettian.

    International collaborations with a network of geneticists and population biologists working on the Upper Palaeolithic may allow the Phd student to explore the relationship between cultural and biological diversity of past populations on new grounds.

    The pertinence of the statistical tools to process archaeological and biological data for exploring evolutionary mechanisms has already been demonstrated (Rigaud et al. PlosOne 2015, Rogers et al. PNAS 2008, Lycett PlosOne 2014). The cultural and biological diversity within and between human populations (Rzeszutek et al. 2012, Ross et al. 2013), mechanisms of convergence, blending, conservatism and the role of isolation by distance on the transfer of cultural traits over long distances (Smouse et al. 1986 , Huson and Bryant, 2006, Rigaud et al. 2015), will be tested.

    The supervisors, assisted by an international pluridisciplinary PhD committee, will provide to the PhD student the archaeological background required to build the dataset and adapted statistics training.

    Application Information

  • The preparation of the PhD entails three years research at the Bordeaux University, Pacea Laboratory under the supervision of Francesco d’Errico and Solange Rigaud.

  • As required by the University of Bordeaux, a pluridisciplinary committee will assist the supervisors and the PhD candidate during the three years research project.

  • A 3-years full salary is mandated to conduct a PhD project at the University of Bordeaux.

  • To be eligible to the 3 years fellowship, candidates should apply to the graduate school “Sciences et Environnement” of the Bordeaux University

  • Two eligible candidates will be pre-selected by the supervisors. Each candidate will then be evaluated based on her/his CV, Master thesis ranking and be interviewed by the Doctoral School committee. The candidates should have obtained their Master degree and, ideally, be ranked within the 5 best students of their academic year.

  • If the Doctoral School committee does not identify an eligible candidate, the PhD project won’t be founded.

  • Candidates should submit their application to the Doctoral School before the 02/06/2017.

  • The names of the two candidates selected for the interview will be published online the 20/06/2017.

  • During the interview the candidates will be asked to present their CV and research project for 10 min and answer questions for 5 min. The interview, which can be in French or in English, will take place at Bordeaux the 4, 5 and 6th of July 2017. Candidates unable to physically attend the interview can present their project and answer questions through videoconference.

  • The list of the candidates awarded the fellowship will be published online the 7th of July 2017.

  • The PhD project will start between September and October 2017.

  • Please note that candidates have to contact the supervisors for the pre-selections before mid-May.

  • If you're interested please write to: and