PhD Fellowship in Archeometry

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    Université de Bordeaux / University of Bordeaux
    First Stage Researcher (R1)
    25/06/2022 01:00 - 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 alarge chronological period (from Prehistory to historical times), our research aims to identifythe 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 attentionpaid 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

In the last ten years, archaeometric approaches to the study of ancient painted walls were applied to both the supporting mortars and the paint layer. These studies were usually limited to a single or a group of close, contemporary edifices. The resulting data does not allow us to write a history of the evolution of the techniques used in ancient painting. The aim of this PhD project is to conduct research on a large corpus of painter plasters found in the ancient city of Poitiers (France) inorder to reach a global interpretation of the wall painting craftsmen techniques. About fifteen lots from old and recent excavations will be analyzed, most of which including multiple decorations. The planned research will entail a physico-chemical analysis of this material with a specialfocus on the pictorial layers. The first objective is to characterize the pigments, in order to investigate the supply and implementation strategies of the craftsmen, and the ways in which pigments were prepared, combined and applied (e.g., in fresco, with binders, mixed techniques). This will allow to reconstruct techniques and know-how. A methodological approach will be developed by combining different types of analysis and scales of investigation. Two research strategies will be implemented: a non-invasive one using portable instruments (XRF, hyperspectral imaging, Raman), intended to facilitate selection of micro-samples for the second phase. The second will consist in applying mass spectrometry to reach the precise characterization of the sample chemical composition (GC-MS, Py-GC-MS, MALDI). Pyrolysis coupled to GC-MS, applied to a very small amount of plaster (around 1-2 mg) will allow to identify a global fingerprint of the organic compounds present in the binder.

Pyrolysis (Py) is a rapid and efficient method that, when coupled with the diagnosis power of mass spectrometry (MS) and the separation capability of the gas chromatographic system (GC), considerably improves the identification of unknown compounds. This first step is essential because it allows the type of extractions to be adapted to the chemical nature of low molecular weight compounds (<1000 Da). Finally, the MALDI approach will offer an analysis of macromolecules (>1000 Da) such as polysaccharides, proteins and resins. The above analyses will identify the techniques and materials used. These results will be discussed in the light of what we know about the context of geopolitical stabilization and economic development of the early Roman Empire (1st - 3rd century AD). At a time in which Gallo-Roman decorative craftsmanship, initially strongly influenced by Italian models, was gradually acquiring originality, what changes can be observed in the choice of colors and pigments, and in their application?

This research will be carried out at Poitiers (France), where the collections are kept, and the Archéosciences Bordeaux laboratory (France). The project is developed in the framework of the Aquitania Ornata program (https://herma.labo.univ-poitiers.fr/programme-de-recherche-aquitaniaornata- formes-materiaux-et-techniques-du-decor-parietal-en-aquitaine-romaine/) whose goal is to contribute to a wider reflection on the parietal decoration in Roman Aquitaine. Results will be published in international peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Archaeometry, Journal of Archaeological Science, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports) and presented at national and international conferences (e.g., GMPCA, ISA).

Adequacy of the PhD project with the objectives of the GRP

The thesis is in line with the aims of the GPR “Human Past” because of its interdisciplinary characters, at the border between archaeometry, archaeology and history. It addresses topics related to Action 1 of WP5, which concerns the production, conservation, digital restoration and perception of past colors. It seeks to investigate these issues by applying state-of-the art techniques in order to characterize pigment and binder compositions and the way compounds were prepared, applied and perceived. The ultimate aim is to identify, document, and explain tipping points in Gallo-Roman decorative traditions, which is known for gradually acquiring its autonomy from Italian models and techniques in the second half of the 1st century BC

More Information

Selection process

The candidates will submit their application, consisting of a letter of motivation (2 pages max., specifically focusing on the profile required for this position) and a CV (including a list of publications, if applicable), to the supervisors mentioned in the position description, and toRomane Gracia (romane.gracia@u-bordeaux.fr), Francesco d'Errico (francesco.derrico@ubordeaux.fr) and Adeline Le Cabec (adeline.le-cabec@u-bordeaux.fr), before the 06/25/2022.

Offer Requirements


The candidate must:

- Master’s degree in Archaeometry or in Archaeology with some knowledge in chemistry and physics or a master’s degree in Chemistry with a demonstrated interest for the antiquity period

- Knowledge of ancient archaeology and/or in physico-chemistry

- Operational knowledge of drawing and image processing software

- Ability to work in a team, to develop original research within a larger program

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

EURAXESS offer ID: 796811


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