PhD Fellowships on Personal Ornaments 2017, University of Bordeaux, France

Publish Date: May 19, 2017

Deadline: Jun 02, 2017

PhD - Personal Ornaments | Université de Bordeaux

It has been shown that the analysis of prehistoric personal ornaments is key to document long distance circulation networks (Eriksen, 2002; Poveda, 2012; Rigaud and Gutiérrez-Zugasti, 2016), cultural diversity of past populations (Rigaud et al., 2015; Vanhaeren, 2010; Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2006) and their social structure (Rigaud et al., 2010; Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2001). However, most studies only focus on the technology and function of ornaments (i.e. manufacture processes, modes of suspension….) without developing a more global, integrated approach.

The personal ornaments from the Gravettian have been the subject of relatively few studies (c. 30-25 ka BP) (Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2006; White, 200) compared to those of the early and later Upper Palaeolithic (Bullinger and Thew, 2006; Gravel-Miguel, 2015; Poplin, 1983; Taborin, 1991). Such a lack of documentation is surprising when considering the wide Pan-European geographic spread of this cultural adaptation and the impressive amount of personal ornaments discovered in many Gravettian primary burials. While the archaeological literature demonstrates the richness of this record (Álvarez Fernández, 2007; d’Errico and Rigaud, 2011; Taborin, 2000), only three publications have attempted to study personal ornaments of this period to reach broad conclusions on Gravettian culture and social organisation. A recent study on beads associated with Gravettian primary burials has identified a north/south divide in the bead type associations and interpreted this pattern as the reflection of cultural diversity (d’Errico and Vanhaeren 2015). Two other studies are based on information collected from Gravettian skeletons buried with their personal ornaments (Vanhaeren and d’Errico, 2003; White, 1999). Data support the idea that Gravettian communities were socially diverse and that inherited social inequality may have been in some cases at work.


This PhD project promotes the application of similar approaches with the aim of documenting bead type association variability and characterizing the mechanisms responsible for such a diversity at the European, regional and individual scales. Collected data will provide crucial information on the cultural geography and social organization of the Gravettian communities. Ultimately, evolutionary processes involved in social and cultural diversification will be explored.

The project will also develop methods to compare personal ornaments and biological data in order to explore in tandem the biological and cultural diversity of the Gravettian populations. The feasibility of the project is guaranteed by the richness and diversity of the personal ornaments of this period, the supervisors’ expertise in this field of research, the existence of a personal ornament database available to the PhD student, and unpublished data dealing with several major Gravettian burials previously collected by one of the supervisors.

The bead database will be reassessed and complemented through the analysis of key archaeological assemblages. Biological information on primary burials and associated personal ornaments are available in the literature. Unpublished archaeological and biological data will be available through the development of new collaborations. The PACEA laboratory hosts a project granted by the National Agency for Research (GRAVETT'OS, directed by S. Vilotte) whose aim is, among others, to reevaluate and produce accurate anthropological data for the Gravettian.

International collaborations with a network of geneticists and population biologists working on the Upper Palaeolithic may allow the Phd student to explore the relationship between cultural and biological diversity of past populations on new grounds.

The pertinence of the statistical tools to process archaeological and biological data for exploring evolutionary mechanisms has already been demonstrated (Rigaud et al. PlosOne 2015, Rogers et al. PNAS 2008, Lycett PlosOne 2014). The cultural and biological diversity within and between human populations (Rzeszutek et al. 2012, Ross et al. 2013), mechanisms of convergence, blending, conservatism and the role of isolation by distance on the transfer of cultural traits over long distances (Smouse et al. 1986 , Huson and Bryant, 2006, Rigaud et al. 2015), will be tested.

The supervisors, assisted by an international pluridisciplinary PhD committee, will provide to the PhD student the archaeological background required to build the dataset and adapted statistics training.

Application Information


  • The preparation of the PhD entails three years research at the Bordeaux University, Pacea Laboratory under the supervision of Francesco d’Errico and Solange Rigaud.
  • As required by the University of Bordeaux, a pluridisciplinary committee will assist the supervisors and the PhD candidate during the three years research project.


  •  A 3-years full salary is mandated to conduct a PhD project at the University of Bordeaux.
  • To be eligible to the 3 years fellowship, candidates should apply to the graduate school “Sciences et Environnement” of the Bordeaux University
  • Two eligible candidates will be pre-selected by the supervisors. Each candidate will then be evaluated based on her/his CV, Master thesis ranking and be interviewed by the Doctoral School committee. The candidates should have obtained their Master degree and, ideally, be ranked within the 5 best students of their academic year.
  • If the Doctoral School committee does not identify an eligible candidate, the PhD project won’t be founded.
  • Candidates should submit their application to the Doctoral School before the 02/06/2017.
  • The names of the two candidates selected for the interview will be published online the 20/06/2017.
  • During the interview the candidates will be asked to present their CV and research project for 10 min and answer questions for 5 min. The interview, which can be in French or in English, will take place at Bordeaux the 4, 5 and 6th of July 2017. Candidates unable to physically attend the interview can present their project and answer questions through videoconference.
  • The list of the candidates awarded the fellowship will be published online the 7th of July 2017.
  • The PhD project will start between September and October 2017.
  • Please note that candidates have to contact the supervisors for the pre-selections before mid-May.
  • If you're interested please write to: and

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.


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