PhD Fellowship in Biological Anthropology

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    Université de Bordeaux / University of Bordeaux
    AnthropologyPhysical anthropology
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    01/05/2022 23:00 - Europe/London
    France › Talence


The GPR ‘Human Past’: our group and our research

The GPR (Grand Programme de Recherche) ‘Human Past’ is an interdisciplinary research project supported by the University of Bordeaux's Initiative d’Excellence. ‘Human Past’ gathers ~110 researchers from 3 laboratories (PACEA, AUSONIUS, and Archéosciences Bordeaux) affiliated with the University of Bordeaux (UB) and the University of Bordeaux Montaigne (UBM). Our expertise combines Biological Anthropology, Classical and Medieval Archaeology, Prehistory, Protohistory, History, Epigraphy, Archaeometry, Geochronology and Computer Science Applications to Cultural Heritage.

’Human Past’ aims to document, characterize and understand the tipping points that have induced major biological and cultural changes within past human populations. Spanning a large chronological period (from Prehistory to historical times), our research aims to identify the steps that enabled a primate originally adapted to African ecosystems to evolve into a species that occupies and impacts every ecosystem on the planet. Biological and social systems will be scrutinized at different scales from a multitude of perspectives with particular attention paid to phenotypic and genetic variability, cognition, technology, social organization, belief systems, and genetic and cultural adaptive strategies that drive human societies.

This position advertisement belongs to the first part of the funding scheme, planned for 4 years.

Project description

The medial epicondyle of the humerus is a particularly relevant anatomical area to reveal activities performed during the individual life-course and the sexual division of labor in past human groups. Numerous recent studies show a significant frequency of changes observed unilaterally, predominantly in men. These changes are probably associated with the throwing motion, but also with other activities such as the production and use of tools such as axes. However, the qualitative recording of changes in this area remains particularly subjective and prevents systematic comparisons on a large scale.

The PhD thesis (following a 'three papers' format) has three objectives:

- to define a method for quantifying the surface irregularities of the medial epicondyle of the humerus.

- to apply this method to a set of European collections from historical periods to identify lateralization, the frequency and the magnitude of the modifications according to sex, age-at death, environmental conditions and socio-economic contexts.

- to test this method on Neanderthal remains in order to consider possible sexual division of tasks in this fossil human group.


Adequacy of the PhD project with the objectives of the GPR

This PhD project is related to WP1: What mechanisms have affected genetic and phenotypic diversity in human and animal communities? and more precisely to Actions 2 and 3 of the WP: “Interpreting hominid and hominin biological diversity” and “Environmental and socio-cultural factors affecting genetic and phenotypic variation“, respectively.

For this application, team members aim to disentangle the impact of socio-cultural and environmental factors on phenotypic variation, focusing on the impact of physical activity, diet, environment, gender and social organization of prehistoric and historic hominin populations for which we can accurately identify influential factors. As part of this research we will analyze human remains from well-documented archaeological contexts in order to better understand variability in the evolutionary processes affecting prehistoric populations.

More Information

Selection process

The candidate will submit their application, consisting of a letter of motivation (2 pages max.) and a CV (including list of publications, if applicable), to the supervisors mentioned in the job description, and to Adrien Pourtier (adrien.pourtier@u-bordeaux.fr), Francesco D'Errico (francesco.derrico@u-bordeaux.fr) and Adeline Le Cabec (adeline.le-cabec@u-bordeaux.fr)

Additional comments

Some references:

Knüsel, C. J. (2011). Men take up arms for war: sex and status distinctions of humeral medial epicondylar avulsion fractures in the archaeological record. Breathing New Life into the Evidence of Death, 221-249.

Knüsel, C.J. 1992. Throwing and hominid evolution. Human Evolution 7(1): 1-7.

Villotte, S., & Knüsel, C. J. (2014). “I sing of arms and of a man…”: medial epicondylosis and the sexual division of labour in prehistoric Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science, 43, 168-174.

Dutour, O. (1986). Enthesopathies (lesions of muscular insertions) as indicators of the activities of Neolithic Saharan populations. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 71(2), 221-224.

Polet, C., Martiarena, M. L., Villotte, S., & Vercauteren, M. (2019). Throwing activities among Neolithic populations from the Meuse River Basin (Belgium, 4500–2500 BC) with a focus on adolescents. Childhood in the Past, 12(2), 81-95.

Offer Requirements


The candidate must hold a Master’s degree in Biological Anthropology. Suitable candidates should preferably have experience in the study of infra-cranial human remains and imaging techniques. Knowledge of human anatomy is required. Knowledge of gender studies is desirable.

Work location(s)
1 position(s) available at
Université de Bordeaux / University of Bordeaux
351 cours de la Libération

EURAXESS offer ID: 727876


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