PhD in Stone Age engravings and visual expressions

Stavanger, Norway
27 Nov 2022
End of advertisement period
22 Jan 2023
Contract Type
Full Time
Job description

The University of Stavanger invites applicants for a PhD Fellowship in engravings and visual expressions in the stone age at the Museum of Archaeology, Department of Collections. The position is vacant from 01.12.2022.

This is a trainee position that will give promising researchers an opportunity for academic development through a PhD education leading to a doctoral degree.

The hired candidate will be admitted to the PhD program in Social Sciences. The education includes relevant courses to about six months of study, a dissertation based on independent research, participation in national and international research environments, relevant academic communication, a trial lecture and public defense. Read more about the PhD education at UiS on our website.

The appointment is for three years with research duties exclusively.

Research topic

Engravings and visual expressions in the stone age

The Museum of Archaeology at UiS houses a unique collection of modified and ornated bone and stone artefacts dated to the Mesolithic and Neolithic period (c. 8000-2000 BC). The main objective of this PhD-project is to conduct a study of these portable art(efacts) and their surface modifications, with the intention of gaining more knowledge about their acquisition, curation, use, deposition and archaeological context. Through a systematic analysis of this assemblage, the ultimate goal of this project would be to reveal insights into important but hitherto understudied aspects of prehistoric lifeways in Norway, such as concepts of aesthetics, traditions of mark and art making, and/or iconography, identity, religion and abstract communication in general.

Due to the development of analytical techniques within areas such as digital microscopy, archaeometry and 3D recording, even the faintest surface modification, mark or engraving can today be analysed in unprecedented detail. The successful candidate should therefore use one or several types of digital, microscopic and/or archaeometric methods, preferably within a combined archaeological, experimental and/or traceological research framework.

Re-invigorating understudied assemblages from the archaeological collections is an important objective at the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger. The current collection encompasses various items, such as hatchets, pickaxes, axes, miniature hatchets, bone and slate arrows, sinkers, flutters, ornated with notches, lines, zig zags, nets and other abstract patterns. Occasionally figurative expressions also occur. Animal figurines and ornated Neolithic pottery make up other potential objects of study.

Basic documentation and new empirical information are needed for describing and mapping various aspects such as context, motifs, and artefact functionality. While some finds are from settlement sites and rock shelters, the majority of portable items are stray finds. An essential part of this project would therefore be to search archives and reports and systematically record and compile information that can reveal something about the broader archaeological context, in which these artefacts once were part of. The ornated artefacts are often made of raw materials prone to erosion, and the engravings may fade away over time. It is therefore both timely and critical to investigate these items, and the PhD-candidate is expected to include specimens from the AM-collection in their project. Items and materials from other geographical areas can also be included for comparison in a diachronic study if this can intelligently be aligned with the project s primary objectives.

Methodological and theoretical approaches

The PhD-position is strategically linked to the overarching theme Energy , a topic central to the University of Stavanger s 2030 long-term strategy. Within this theme, the Museum of Archaeology is specifically focusing on human creativity, skills, and knowledge and how this can be inferred from past technologies. A technological and/or biographic approach would therefore be welcomed. Various theoretical and methodological approaches can be employed, and some of these are described in the sections below. In their evaluation of the applicants, the committee will prioritize project proposals that narrow down the research topic (analytically, empirically, thematically, geographically, and temporally) in a clear and logical way.

One avenue of investigation could be a large-scale diachronic study following the development of expressional forms across the chronological Mesolithic-Neolithic border, for example through the study of various motifs across artefact types. Alternatively, a synchronous small-scale approach can be pursued, for example, in-depth traceological/functional analysis of certain/singular artefact types and/or raw material categories (stone, bone). It would also be possible to employ a traceological and/or experimental approach, to understand better how the artefacts were made or used, and the processes they have been through before, during and after their use and deposition.

In several cases, it remains to be verified whether marks and engravings were intentionally made and intended as decoration or were caused by the manufacturing process, for hafting purposes or for informational/numerical/ communicative storage. An essential focus of this PhD project would therefore be to gain a better understanding of which surface modifications represent intentional mark-making for communicative or aesthetic purposes, and which may be more related to functional or mechanical use. Some marks may be linked to the artefact production while others could have a taphonomic origin (such as damage during deposition, excavation and/or curation). It is therefore essential to investigate how the engravings were manufactured. Can we detect consecutive episodes of incision-making, indicative of long-time and repetitive use and/or the involvement of different artisans?

Another question that may be posed in this project would be how the marked or engraved artefacts were used. Were they commissioned for non-utilitarian purposes, such as amulets, or personal ornaments, or did they also serve as decorated hunting- and fishing tools? To address the issue of artefact function it would be natural to employ a combination of use-wear analysis (macro-wear, microwear), micro residue analysis and experimental and/or ethnographic archaeology.

A study of decorated objects can also be used to discuss a range of immaterial aspects of prehistoric life, and it may shed light on how abstract concepts such as art, religion, identity and social relationships materialized and were maintained and communicated physically. Previous studies have, for example, interpreted decorated artefacts as personal or group-based ornaments, as ceremonial objects used in rituals, as prestige items in gift exchange, or as symbols of power and social relationships or hierarchies.

This PhD project can also focus on the cognitive aspects involved in the manufacturing of abstract patterns. Contemporary rock art imagery from has been relatively well examined and digitally documented in Norway and a possible fruitful approach could be to study visual motifs across portable art and rock art, by compiling and comparing digitized images.

Finally, the production of ornated objects is often associated with animals. Bone and antler were routinely used in the Mesolithic and Neolithic as raw material and ornated items like arrows and sinker stones are associated with hunting and/or fishing. Thus, an approach focusing on human-animal relationships and/or subsistence strategies could include, but not be limited to, exploring the presence of formal trade/exchange networks, gendered or socially structured craftmanship, transmission of knowledge and apprenticeship, the use of objects in storytelling, rituals or in defining human-animal engagement.

Feasible methodological approaches may include:

  • Study the production sequences involved in manufacturing the engravings by the use of advanced stereomicroscope and micro-imaging and scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Acquire information of markings and engraving through 3D-scanning and RTI-photography, search for novel engravings/markings on objects where they are not visible to the naked eye, or faint due to erosion/degradation.
  • Functional/traceological studies (macro-wear, microwear) aiming to investigate how the artefacts were curated, repaired, reworked, and re-used, and to establish artefact life histories, undertake experiments to make baseline for microwear analysis.
  • Investigate artefact- and raw material provenance, through the use of ZOOMS (bone/antler artefacts) or elemental, molecular or textural studies for example through the use of spectroscopic techniques or petrographic methods (e.g., XRF, FTIR, RAMAN, XRD, micromorphology) (stone artefacts)
  • Contextualise the portable artefacts through archive-based studies and GIS-analysis/mapping
  • Utilization of micro-imaging and identify microscopic residues which can inform of aesthetic enhancement, functional use, the production process and/or taphonomy.
  • Digitize the ornaments and study the patterns/motifs across portable art and rock art, or across artefact types

For a candidate already familiar with digital and traceological methods, the Museum of Archaeology can provide access to analytical equipment such as basic stereoscopic and polarized light microscopes, advanced stereomicroscope with a wide zoom ratio (which stack images and can be used from macro to micro imaging and 3D imaging), portable 3D scanner, micro desktop scanner, RTI kit, portable XRF, FTIR Spectrometer, and a portable Raman Spectrometer. Various microscopic equipment can be accessed at other UiS faculties.

Support and assistance for sample and object preparation, micro residue analysis, XRF-analysis and macro-microscopic imaging can be provided by researchers in our conservation department. The candidate can be offered technical assistance and training in traceology through collaboration with one of our partner institutions.

Project proposal

As an applicant, you must prepare a preliminary project proposal for a doctoral project within the subject area, which explains the problem, relevance, theoretical and methodological approach. The preliminary project proposal is heavily weighted in the application assessment, and applications which do not have a project description attached will not be assessed. A project proposal template can be found here.

During the first three months of the employment period, the project proposal and progress plan will be further developed in cooperation with your supervisors and completed for the final plan for the PhD-project.

Qualification requirements

We are looking for applicants with a strong academic background who have completed a five-year NOKUT approved master's degree (3+2) within archaeology, preferably acquired recently; or possess corresponding qualifications that could provide a basis for successfully completing a doctorate.

To be eligible for admission to the doctoral programmes at the University of Stavanger both the grade for your master s thesis and the weighted average grade of your master s degree must individually be equivalent to or better than a B grade. If you finish your education (masters degree) in the autumn of 2022 you are also welcome to apply.

Applicants with an education from an institution with a different grade scale than A-F, and/or with other types of credits than sp/ECTS, must attach a confirmed conversion scale that shows how the grades can be compared with the Norwegian A-F scale and a Diploma Supplement or similar that explains the scope of the subject that are included in the education. You can use these conversion scales to calculate your points for admission.

    Emphasis is also placed on your:

    • motivation and potential for research within the field
    • professional and personal skills for completing the doctoral degree within the timeframe ability to work independently and in a team, be innovative and creative
    • ability to work structured and handle a heavy workload
    • having a good command of both oral and written English
    Requirements for competence in English

    A good proficiency in English is required for anyone attending the PhD program. International applicants must document this by taking one of the following tests with the following results:

    • TOEFL - Test of English as a Foreign Language, Internet-Based Test (IBT). Minimum result: 90 IELTS - International English Language Testing Service. Minimum result: 6.5
    • Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) og Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) from the University of Cambridge PTE Academic - Pearson Test of English Academic. Minimum result: 62

    The following applicants are exempt from the above requirements:

    • Applicants with one year of completed university studies in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA
    • Applicants with an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma
    • Applicants with a completed bachelor's and / or master's degrees taught in English in a EU/EEA country
    We offer
    • a PhD education in a large, exciting and socially important organisation
    • an ambitious work community which is developing rapidly. We strive to include employees at all levels in strategic decisions and promote an informal atmosphere with a flat organisational structure.
    • salary in accordance with the State Salary Scale, 17.515, code 1017, NOK 501 200 gross per year
    • development according to seniority in the position. From the salary, 2% is deducted as a contribution to the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund.
    • automatic membership in the Norwegian Public Service Pension Fund, which provides favourable insurance and retirement benefits favourable membership terms at a gym and at the SIS sports club at campus
    • employment with an Inclusive Workplace organisation which is committed to reducing sick leave, increasing the proportion of employees with reduced working capacity, and increasing the number of professionally active seniors
    • "Hjem-jobb-hjem" discounted public transport to and from work
    • as an employee in Norway, you will have access to an optimal health service, as well as good pensions, generous parental leave, and a competitive salary. Nursery places are guaranteed and reasonably priced
    • relocation programme
    • language courses: On this page you can see which language courses you may be entitled to (look up language courses under employment conditions)

    University of Stavanger values independence, involvement and innovation. Diversity is respected and considered a resource in our work and learning environment. Universal design characterises physical and digital learning environments, and we strive to provide reasonable adjustments for employees with disabilities.

    You are encouraged to apply regardless of gender, disability or cultural background.

    Contact information

    More information on the position (and project description) can be obtained from Associate professor and Head of research at the museum, Anja Mansrud, email:, tel: +47 41 68 21 38, or Head of Department Magnus Mathisen Haaland, email:, tel: +47 51 83 25 88

    Information about the appointment procedure can be obtained from HR Advisor Salla Andersen, email:, tel: +47 51 83 1976


    To apply for this position please follow the link "Apply for this job". Your application letter, relevant education and work experience as well as language skills must be registered here. In your application letter, you must state your research interests and motivation for the position.

    The following documents must be uploaded as attachments to your application:

    • project proposal, a project proposal template can be found here.
    • CV with a full summary of your education and experience, publications or other relevant research work
    • references, certificates/diplomas and other documentation that you consider relevant
    • Diploma Supplement or similar and a confirmed conversion scale if this is required
    • documentation on competence in English if this is required

    Applications are evaluated based on the information available in Jobbnorge at the application deadline. You should ensure that your application shows clearly how your skills and experience meet the criteria which are set out above and that you have attached the necessary documentation.

    The documentation must be available in either a Scandinavian language or in English. If the total size of the attachments exceeds 30 MB, they must be compressed before upload.

    Please note that information on applicants may be published even if the applicant has requested not to be included in the official list of applicants - see Section 25 of the Freedom of Information Act. If your request is not granted, you will be notified.

    UiS only considers applications and attachments registered in Jobbnorge.

    General information

    The engagement is to be made in accordance with the regulations in force concerning State Employees and Civil Servants, and the acts relating to Control of the Export of Strategic Goods, Services and Technology. Candidates who by assessment of the application and attachment are seen to conflict with the criteria in the latter law will be prohibited from recruitment to UiS.

    Employment as PhD Fellow is regulated in "Regulations concerning terms and conditions of employment for the posts of post-doctoral research fellow and research fellow, research assistant and resident".

    Your qualifications for the position, based on documentation registered in Jobbnorge, will be assessed by an internal expert committee.

    Based on the committee's statement, relevant applicants will be invited to an interview before any recommendations are made. References will also be obtained for relevant candidates. More about the hiring process on our website.

    The appointee will be based at the University of Stavanger, with the exception of a stay abroad at a relevant centre of research.

    It is a prerequisite that you have a residence which enables you to be present at/available to the academic community during ordinary working hours.

    The position has been announced in both Norwegian and English. In the case of differences of meaning between the texts, the Norwegian text takes precedence.

    UiS - challenge the well-known and explore the unknown

    The University of Stavanger (UiS) has about 12 000 students and 2 200 employees. The university has high ambitions. We strive to have an innovative and international profile, and be a driving force in knowledge development and in the process of societal change. Our common direction is driven by consideration for green and sustainable change and equitable social development, through new ways of managing natural resources and facilitating better cities and local communities. Energy, health and welfare, learning for life are our focus areas.

    In constant collaboration and dialogue with our surroundings, regionally, nationally and internationally, we enjoy an open and creative climate for education, research, innovation, dissemination and museum activities. Academic life at the University of Stavanger is organised into six faculties comprising various departments/schools and National Research Centres, as well as the Museum of Archaeology. We are a member of the European Consortium of Innovative Universities. The university is located in the most attractive region in the country with more than 300 000 inhabitants.

    The Stavanger region has a dynamic labour market and exciting cultural and leisure activities.

    Together with our staff and students we will challenge the well-known and explore the unknown.

    The museum has an academic staff with researchers in archeology, conservation, various natural sciences and more recent cultural history. The staff covers several fields within conservation, laboratories, photographic services, archives and scientific collections, management tasks under the Cultural Heritage Act, exhibition production, graphic design, school service and public involvment. The museum publishes two series of writings which are point-giving in CRIStin. The museum currently has a total of 80 permanent employees in four departments and in the museum administration.