Postdoctoral Research Associate in Ancient Human Genomics
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Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Ancient Human Genomics. The successful candidate will join a team of researchers led by Dr. Eva Fernandez-Dominguez at Durham University to work in the Leverhulme Research Project “What’s in a house?: exploring the kinship structure of the world’s first houses” (RPG-2019-362).
The research team will comprise the PI Dr Eva Fernandez Dominguez at Durham University and the Co-I Dr. Jessica Pearson at Liverpool University and two postdoctoral research associates: one based at Durham University and specialised in human ancient DNA (this post) and one based at the University of Liverpool specialised in human bioarchaeology and stable strontium and oxygen isotope analysis. The post-holder will be based in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University and will work closely with Dr. Eva Fernandez-Dominguez and the research team in Liverpool.
Overview of the Project
Around 12,000 years ago in the Middle East, humans started cultivating cereals and domesticating animals and adopted a sedentary lifestyle. In the archaeological record, this process is recognised by the appearance of the first permanent house structures and an increase in the settlement size.
This economic change and the resulting human aggregation brought a profound social reorganisation to human groups. This required coping with the stress of living year-round in more cramped spaces in highly populated villages and learning how to regulate the transmission and use of the land. Traditionally, archaeologists and anthropologists have tried to reconstruct the character of these social changes by looking at the architecture of the first houses and archaeological sites and at the funerary customs of these first farming societies. The Neolithic house seems to have played a central role in the social structure of these groups. It provided space for the living, but also for the dead, who were buried under household floors. In some instances, these houses were rebuilt in the exact same position, and a sequence of burials spanning different generations of house occupation have been found in several archaeological sites. Who was living in the house is still a matter of debate, and while some scholars maintain that its composition was mainly based on kin ties others maintain that the house had a more social function, hosting unrelated individuals that cooperated in joint work activities. Changes in house architecture have been related to changes in the composition of its members. For example, the small circular huts found during the Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) (ca. 9,600-8,500 BCE) have been attributed to individual or couples’ residences. On the other hand, the more spacious and often multi-roomed square houses characteristic of the subsequent PPNB period (ca. 8,500-6,400 BCE) are thought to have hosted nuclear or extended families.
However, not all the burials during these periods are found under house floors. In some archaeological sites, an aggregation of certain skeletal elements such as crania, have been found under the floor of non-domestic structures attributed to “public buildings”. The meaning and significance of these “unusual burials” and their relationship to the house inhabitants is unknown, but a ritual meaning or a “foreign” origin have been speculated as possible reasons for their existence.