Offre de thèse : Environmental DNA and archaeology (Utrecht)

 

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We are seeking a PhD candidate as part of the NWA project “Constructing the limes: Employing citizen science to understand borders and border systems from the Roman period until today”. C-Limes is a large interdisciplinary project studying the border of the Roman Empire, and more specifically the so-called Lower German Limes. The project not only investigates how the border functioned in antiquity and its impact on human mobility and the import of goods, but it also studies how the limes has become cultural heritage, influenced our contemporary views on borders and was mobilized in identity politics since the early modern period. The project is unique in its kind due to its strong attention for citizen science and close collaboration with societal partners. In a work package called ‘Limes People’, state-of-the-art methods from archaeological science are employed to study the mobility of people and goods across and beyond the Limes borderscape. Analysis of ancient DNA of pathogens, plants and animals preserved in sediments, and isotopic studies and DNA research of human remains will be used to critically evaluate and map cultural interaction during the Roman period in North-western Europe. The analysis of DNA from environmental and sedimentary samples (also known as ancient eDNA or sedaDNA) in archaeology has rapidly developed over the past decade. DNA of plants, animals, humans, and bacteria is well-preserved in certain archaeological contexts. New sampling techniques and bioinformatic methods allow us to sequence that DNA. Although the technique is still in development and its full potential unknown, recent studies indicate it could replace and automate many time consuming bioarchaeological techniques (e.g. microbotanic techniques). This project will develop sampling techniques and sequencing protocols for eDNA in Dutch archaeological contexts. The data produced will be used to reconstruct the introduction and spread of crops, animals, and diseases across the limes borderscape. As such, we attempt to use eDNA data to explain sudden population collapses in the late 2nd and 3rd century, but also the introduction and spread of new food resources.

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