PhD position: Biomolecular and archaeological science investigations into drug and stimulant use in ancient Central Eurasia
The Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) is offering a 3-year funded PhD position exploring early drug and stimulant use through biomolecular and archaeological science methods. We are looking for a flexible, ambitious and dynamic student interested in potentially drawing on a range of modern archaeological methods, including the analysis of residues on ceramics (wine vessels and incense burners), archaeobotanical remains and dental calculus by means of protein, lipid, and metabolite screenings.
The study will focus on Central Eurasia, where early evidence has been proposed for the use of alcohols, cannabis, ephedra, Hyoscyamus, poppy, and tea in ancient and medieval times. Historians working in South and Central Asia have discussed the prominence of references to drug use in ancient sources – for example, the Vedic texts mention haoma (soma in Sanskrit), a ritual tea. Classical sources emphasize the consumption of wine and burning of cannabis incense in Eurasia, and Sima Qian focuses on the large quantities of wine produced in Central Asia. There has been a long-standing and lively debate over the reliability of these sources, although few attempts have been made to archaeologically test the claims. Plants such as cannabis and ephedra grow wild across this broad region, and have been recovered from burial contexts. Modern scientific methods hold promise for reopening this intriguing debate in Eurasian history, and potentially, providing insights into some of the earliest significant global uses of the stimulants, narcotics, and hallucinogens that we are familiar with today.
The student will work under the supervision of several institutional staff in the newly formed laboratory complex at the institute, which houses facilities for archaeobotanical, microbotanical, stable isotopic, lipid, proteomic, and material culture studies. These wide-ranging research facilities and the collaborative nature of the research agenda at this institute provide graduate students a unique learning experience, laying a strong foundation for a future career. The position is available from March 2018, and the deadline for applications is January 22, 2018.
This PhD position will explore the use of ritual, medicinal, hallucinogenic, stimulatory and narcotic plants and fungi across Eurasia. The student is expected to: