PhD funding Ancient Near Eastern networks

The below PhD funding opportunity will be of interest to archaeologists/historians with an interest in network analysis and the ancient near east.

ANEE is pleased to announce we are looking for doctoral candidates.
Application text below, link here:

The Centre of Excellence in “Ancient Near Eastern Empires” (ANEE) at the
University of Helsinki will run from 2018-2025 and is directed by Dr.
Saana Svärd. ANEE asks: How do changing imperial dynamics impact social
group identities and lifeways over a millennium? ANEE covers the
Neo-Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, Persian, Hellenistic, and early Roman /
Parthian Empires. ANEE engages with methodologically varied yet
integrated research on the long-term processes by which social group
identities and lifeways were negotiated. Taken together, the innovations
of ANEE are the integrated longue durée approach; and the methodological
innovativeness of each team (both separately and in collaboration).
There will be several recruitment calls for fixed term positions during
ANEE’s lifespan (doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, and
university researchers).

ANEE is now recruiting members for three teams which investigate
identity-building processes. Each team has a methodologically specific
approach yet collaborates on four work packages.

Applications are invited for DOCTORAL RESEARCHERS (1-3) for a fixed term
of up to 4 years, starting on or before 1 September 2018 to work in the
University of Helsinki. The successful candidates’ research projects
will focus on the goals of a team or teams. The applicant should
indicate to which team she/he is applying. The selected doctoral
candidates will need to apply for acceptance in the graduate school for
either the Faculty of Arts or Faculty of Theology in March 2018. Their
main duties will consist of PhD studies and writing of a dissertation.
As ANEE is deeply multidisciplinary, competence in more than one field
and/or proof of successful scientific collaboration will be considered
an advantage.

Team 1 “Digital Humanities Approaches” develops digital humanities
approaches (especially social network analysis and language technology),
using these to supplement the more traditional Assyriological
approaches. Team 1 is looking for applicants with a solid background in
Assyriology or a related field (within the chronological scope of ANEE) and/or skills in Digital Humanities that
can be put to use in relation to ANEE’s goals. Team 1 is led by Saana
Svärd (

Team 2 “Social Scientific Theory & Applications” tests and refines
theoretical models from the social sciences for ancient evidence,
integrating anthropological approaches to archaeology with sociological
readings of textual and archaeological evidence. Team 2 seeks students
with backgrounds in history of the Levant and/or the social sciences,
and especially with an interest in migration, forced labor, and/or elite
identities, and/or ancient historians of the Persian Empire with similar
profiles. Willingness to collaborate with other teams and multiple work
packages is desirable. Team 2 is led by Dr. Jason Silverman

Team 3 “Material Culture & Community Heritage” investigates the impact
of each empire on ancient local communities inhabiting the imperial
fringes and provides a sustainable future for this heritage. This it
does through an archaeological field survey program in the ancient
imperial fringe zone of southern Jordan and by developing a local
community outreach program there. Our work in Finland revolves around
promoting an understanding of Ancient Near Eastern heritage and
culture by developing a touring museum exhibition on the ancient Near
East. The team also aims to collaborate with the Finnish authorities to
further develop the policies and legislation regarding the trade in
illicit antiquities. Team 3 seeks doctoral candidates in ANE
archaeology, preferably with experience in GIS, remote sensing, and/or
satellite analysis. Team 3 is led by Dr. Antti Lahelma
(, who is also the vice-director of ANEE.

For more information on the three teams and the work packages, please

An appointee to the position of doctoral researcher must hold a Master’s
degree in a relevant field, and must subsequently be accepted as a
doctoral candidate in the graduate school in the Faculty of Arts and/or
Theology. The appointee must have the ability to conduct independent
scientific research. Teaching or teaching-related tasks will form 5 % of
the position. The candidate should have excellent analytical and
methodological skills, and be able to work both independently and
collaboratively as part of a multidisciplinary scientific community. The
successful candidates are expected to have excellent skills in written
and oral English. Skills in Finnish or Swedish are not required.
Relocation costs can be negotiated and ANEE will offer help and
information for the practicalities, if needed.

ANEE is functioning in the Faculty of Arts (Teams 1 and 3) and in the
Faculty of Theology (Team 2), located in the City Centre Campus. The
city of Helsinki is the capital city of Finland, with a population of
ca. 600 000. It has been consistently ranked amongst the top cities in
the world for quality of living. Founded in 1640, the University of
Helsinki is an international academic community of 40,000 students and
staff members. It operates on four campuses in Helsinki and at 15
other locations.

The salary for the position will be based on level 2 of the demands
level chart for teaching and research personnel in the salary system of
Finnish universities. In addition, the appointee will be paid a salary
component based on personal performance. The salary is EUR 2,186-2,873
per month, depending on the appointee’s qualifications and experience.
The position will be filled with a 4 months trial period.

Applications should consist of the following English-language documents:
(1) CV including a possible list of publications (max. 3 pages)
(2) Contact information for two referees
(3) A research statement (max. 2000 words) consisting of
i) a brief description of previous experience, such as MA thesis
ii) a proposal for the PhD project that the applicant wants to conduct
in ANEE (including suggested dates for the project)
iii) a brief description of the plans for scientific cooperation
within ANEE, preferably specifying relevant team and work packages.

Further information on the position may be obtained from the team
leaders (see above) or the director Saana Svärd (

Please submit your application, together with the required attachments,
through the University of Helsinki Recruitment System via the link Apply
for job. Applicants who are employees of the University of Helsinki are
requested to send their application via the SAP HR portal. Deadline for
applications is 31 January 2018.

If you need assistance with the University’s electronic recruitment
system or SAP HR portal, please contact

Apply at latest 31.01.2018

Ap­ply link:


PhD position in Network Analysis for ERC project PALEODEM

The following PhD opportunity will be of interest to readers of this blog.

Deadline: 21 January 2018

More info:

The Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES), invites applications for a 3-year PhD student position in Network Analysis within the scope of the project PALEODEM, Late Glacial and Postglacial Population History and Cultural Transmission in Iberia (c.15,000-8000 cal BP) – ERC Consolidator Grant Grant 2015 Ref. 683018 (PI: Javier Fernández-López de Pablo).

The PALEODEM research project aims to investigate changes on human demography and cultural transmission processes from the Late Magdalenian to the Late Mesolithic in the Iberian Peninsula, using a novel multi-scale methodological approach.

The PhD student will collect relational data, construct and analyse networks from them and model cultural dynamics on such networks. We look for an enthusiastic PhD student with a Prehistoric archaeology background, experience in network analysis and computational modelling and knowledge about database management.

Two lectureships and PhD positions in Aarhus

csm_urbnetlogo__dgf_incl__large_56c2dc7c6aThe centre for urban network evolutions at Aarhus in Denmark is recruiting two assistant professors and a number of PhDs. They very much welcome applications from people with network science experience or interests. Urbnet is a big and multi-disciplinary team with some very impressive excavations and research projects. They are very keen on scholars who wish to collaborate with others in the context of their centre. I can definitely recommend applying for one of the posts!

Deadlines in March and April.

More details on their website or below:

UrbNet is recruiting a number of employees over the coming years for a variety of positions. Whenever we have open calls, they will be displayed here.

PhD scholarship: The comparative archaeology and history of early urban networks

PhD project focusing on the economic and social development of urban networks in Antiquity and the Middle Ages in a comparative perspective. The work should involve “High Definition” comparative analyses of materials, assemblages and/or textual sources, aiming to characterise the evolution and dynamics of urban sites and networks.

Read more and apply:

Deadline: 15 March 2017

PhD scholarship: The flow of archaeological materials

PhD project focusing on the flow of archaeological materials, and how these may contribute to chart the evolution and dynamics of urban networks in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Materials may include glass, metals, ceramics or organic materials.

Read more and apply:

Deadline: 15 March 2017

PhD scholarship: Contextual analysis of urban archaeological contexts

PhD project focusing on contextual analysis of archaeological contexts from relevant urban sites of Antiquity and/or the Middle Ages and how these may contribute to map out the evolution, dynamics and connectivity of urban sites and networks. The work should involve “High Definition” analyses of assemblages in contexts such as workshops, housing, markets, streets etc., aiming to characterise the nature and scale of activities and the pace of events and processes. Themes could include: the impact of catastrophic events, slow changing urban environments (including the impact of climatic change), changing urban structure over time.

Read more and apply:

Deadline: 15 March 2017

Studentermedhjælpere til forskningsprojekt Keramik i Kontekst 893388

Institut for Kultur og Samfund, Klassisk Arkæologi søger tre studentermedhjælpere med tiltrædelse hurtigst muligt.

Studentermedhjælperne skal hjælpe Professor Rubina Raja i de kollektive forskningsprojekter Keramik i Kontekst med:

– Indsamling af litteratur
– Let redigering af manuskripter
– Hjælp til udgravningsmaterialer, herunder tegning
– Ad hoc administrative opgaver
– Praktisk hjælp af forskellig art.

Læs mere og ansøg:

Deadline: 17.03.2017

Studentermedhjælpere til forskningsprojekt Palmyra Portræt 893393

Institut for Kultur og Samfund, Klassisk Arkæologi søger to studentermedhjælpere med tiltrædelse hurtigst muligt.

Studentermedhjælperne skal hjælpe Professor Rubina Raja i de kollektive forskningsprojekter Palmyra Portræt Projektet med:

– Indsamling af litteratur
– Let redigering af manuskripter
– Organisering af workshops og konferencer samt udgravningsrelaterede aktiviteter
– Arbejde med Palmyra Portræt Projektets database
– Ad hoc administrative opgaver
– Praktisk hjælp af forskellig art.

– Praktisk sans 
– Evnen til at arbejde selvstændigt, struktureret og effektivt
– Pålidelighed i forhold til arbejdstider og dage

Læs mere og ansøg:

Deadline: 17.03.2017

Assistant Professorships in the Archaeology of Urban Networks and Exchange 889217

The Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), School of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, invites applications for one or two assistant professorships, focusing on core themes within the centre’s agenda for research on urban societies in the past.

The call is for full-time, three-year positions, starting on 1 June 2017 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Place of employment: Moesgaard, Moesgaard Allé 20, 8270 Højbjerg, Denmark.

The positions
The positions represent an opportunity for eminent young researchers to set the agenda for research into the historical archaeology and/or archaeoscience of urban societies and networks from the Hellenistic Period to the Middle Ages, and to participate in one of Europe’s most groundbreaking archaeological research initiatives of this decade.

We are looking to include researchers and their projects in the centre’s work, which integrates questions and problems relating to the humanities and concerning urban development and networks.

The Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet) explores the archaeology and history of urban societies and their networks from the Ancient Mediterranean to medieval Northern Europe and to the Indian Ocean World. We are an interdisciplinary research initiative which integrates new methods from the natural sciences with context-cultural studies rooted in the humanities. Approaching urbanism as a network dynamic, we aim to develop a high-definition archaeology to determine how urban networks catalysed societal and environmental expansions and crises in the past.

The centre’s work ranges from Northern Europe over the Levant to the East Coast of Africa. It involves empirical material from a number of existing excavation projects as well as material which has already been excavated, and concerns both theoretical and methodological issues. UrbNet strives to embrace and connect the archaeological research clusters at Aarhus University with new and advanced analytical techniques in geoscience and physics for dating and characterising archaeological sites; and creates a research environment for cross-fertilising approaches from the humanities and sciences. The centre is based at Aarhus University, School of Culture and Society, and is funded as a Centre of Excellence by the Danish National Research Foundation.

Please consult the following link:

Read more and apply (deadline: 18 April 2017)

Madness part 2: processes of emerging inter-visibility

The second post in the madness series, describing the run-up to my PhD submission! Last time I wrote about why visibility networks might be an interesting method in archaeology. There was a hidden agenda in that post however: I am not just interested in visualising a visibility network, that has been done before by many archaeologists. My main interest is in understanding the decisions that went into the establishment of lines of sight. That is, the processes that led to the visibility network I study. This might sound rather ambitious, since many factors influenced the selection of the settlement locations I study in my PhD, and visibility networks are merely one factor derived from our limited knowledge of past settlement patterns. However, I argue it is necessary to understand such processes. Mainly because when archaeologists formulate assumptions about how lines of sight affected past human behaviour, these assumptions imply a sequence of events rather than a static state. Therefore, a method is needed that allows one to test the assumed processes, and I have some ideas on how to go about this 🙂

Visibility network between  Iron Age and Roman settlement in Southern Spain
Visibility network between Iron Age and Roman settlements in Southern Spain

Network representations of archaeological data are often used as static snapshots conflating an ever-changing dynamic past. By performing an exploratory network analysis we get an idea of their structure during a given period of time. Such an approach can be considered a type of exploratory data analysis. However, archaeologists use these data networks as representations of past phenomena. It is these past phenomena that archaeologists are ultimately interested in understanding, and most of past phenomena were not static but involved change through time. It is entirely plausible that at an earlier or later stage in time a given network would have had a different structure.

A commonly used technique for archaeologists to overcome this problem is to formulate theoretical assumptions about how the emergence or disappearance of a relationship between pairs of nodes in their data networks affected the change of past networks over time (from here-on referred to as dependence assumptions). Such dependence assumptions are frequently accompanied by (explicitly formulated or implied) expectations of the kinds of network patterns they give rise to. In other words, archaeologists frequently make theoretical statements about dynamic processes that cause change in past phenomena, and how these are represented in networks of archaeological data. Nevertheless, we rarely evaluate whether processes guided by our dependence assumptions can actually give rise to the networks we study, nor do we consider the effect multiple dependence assumptions can have on each other in such processes. Instead, archaeological network analysts have relied on the identification of the expected patterns in an observed network’s static structure when discussing the social processes that caused a network to change from one state to another.

The study of visibility networks in archaeology serves as a particularly good example of this problem. Archaeologists have used visibility networks as a method for studying the role particular visibility network patterns could have in structuring past human behaviour, for example through communication networks using fire or smoke signalling, or the visual control settlements exercise over surrounding settlements. Formulating dependence assumptions for visibility networks implies a sequence of events where new lines of sight will be established as a reaction to pre-existing lines of sight. For example, if we observe that a settlement is positioned in a visually prominent location from where many other settlements can be seen then we might formulate the hypothesis that this location was intentionally selected to enhance communication with or visual control over neighbouring settlements. A further example: if an effective signalling network was considered during settlement location selection then settlement locations inter-visible with other settlements would have been preferred. However, archaeological network analysts have so far studied these processes exclusively through an analysis of static network representations. By pointing out the patterns of interest, an exploratory network analysis can only take us so far to evaluate our dependence assumptions, leaving hypotheses surrounding the intentional creation of visibility patterns untested. A good example of this is Tilley’s (1994) study of a network of inter-visibility between barrows on Cranborne Chase, in which an observed network pattern is interpreted as the intentionally established outcome of an untested process: “One explanation for this pattern might be that sites that were particularly important in the prehistoric landscape and highly visible ‘attracted’ other barrows through time, and sites built later elsewhere were deliberately sited so as to be intervisible with one or more other barrows. In this manner the construction of barrows on Cranborne Chase gradually created a series of visual pathways and nodal points in the landscape” (Tilley 1994, 159).

Very few visibility studies have explored hypotheses about such processes explicitly (see Swanson 2003 for a notable exception). In my case study, however, the decisions to establish certain patterns of visibility among urban settlements are the focus of attention. Most crucially, I will try to evaluate to what degree this changed through time. The approach taken here is experimental. It will initially focus exclusively on the patterns of inter-visibility between settlements, exploring their observed structure as a static snapshot, and then addressing the following hypothetical question: if the visibility patterning that we have observed was the only reason for selecting the locations of sites, what then would be the process that is most likely to have led to the observed patterning? This question will be evaluated through a statistical approach that models the creation of visibility patterns in abstract space (i.e. by simulating the creation of points and lines without taking the landscape’s topography into account as a constraint). Finally, the results of this exploratory network analysis and statistical simulation approach will be re-contextualised within a wider archaeological discussion to shed light on aspects of the changing interactions between urban settlements in the study area through time, as reflected through visibility patterns.

Next time I will introduce the archaeology of this study area and show you some actual results 🙂

As always, I very much welcome your comments. They are very valuable to me in these last stages of my PhD.

Swanson, S. (2003). Documenting prehistoric communication networks: A case study in the Paquimé polity. American antiquity, 68(4), 753–767.

Madness part 1: visibility networks

ALL_SEEING_EYEI recently wrote I would keep you posted on my two months of madness in the run up to completing my PhD. Turns out I have very little time to write blog posts now … who would have guessed?!? But just to get things started, here is the first one. Let’s talk about the networks we can create using our eyes, let’s talk about visibility networks! I want to encourage everyone to comment and discuss these posts, I would really benefit from your input as I wrap up this four-year long struggle with the PhD beast.

One of my PhD’s case studies is on visibility networks. What are those, you ask? Well, they don’t really exist. That is to say, they are useful abstractions of possible past social phenomena. I use networks to represent whether past individuals standing on one point in a landscape, like a settlement, could see some other point in the landscape I am interested in, such as another settlement. This figure shows you how such a network could be created: an individual with a certain height standing on site A can see site B which is positioned somewhere else in a landscape, only if the view is not obstructed by hills or mountains. You can then represent this individual and the point he/she observes as points (or nodes in network terminology) and the line of sight from the observer to the observed point as a directed line (or arc in network terminology). Do this for tens or hundreds of observation locations and a complex network of lines of sight emerges.


Many people have asked me why this is useful. What do visibility networks add to existing approaches to studying past landscapes and settlement patterns, such as viewsheds in GIS for example? I like to believe I have a pretty good answer to this. Sometimes archaeologists are interested in understanding a past phenomenon that concerns the potential interactions between two entities, in which cases networks offer the best representation and analysis technique. To give an example, if we are interested in studying a past communication network that used fire or smoke signals to share information from one settlement to another (Like in Disney’s Mulan or in The Lord of the Rings), then evaluating the visibility of an entire landscape is overkill. All you need are the points and the lines. We do not have to analyse whether every square meter of a landscape was visible, but just that one point of interest. So selecting the best conceptualisation and abstraction of the past phenomenon you are interested in understanding can save you quite a lot of computing time. And it allows you to focus on representing and exploring your hypothesis, and not get distracted by other questions (if focus is what you want of course).

Mulan by Walt Disney
Mulan by Walt Disney

Moreover, we can do so much more once we have abstracted and represented our information about such a past communication system as a network. We can use network analysis techniques to determine the structure of this network, to compare it to other communication networks, to evaluate how efficient it was at sharing information, which settlements were key in sharing or blocking information, and so on. All of this offers a fresh new look on our data and provides results that can feed into our archaeological discussions and imaginations. Of course, the numbers a network analysis spits out are never the final word. They should always be re-contextualised in a wider archaeological research context rather than being taken at face value, or as an extra piece of  “primary information”.

I am definitely not the first archaeologist to have come up with the idea of visibility networks. Although it is not a very common topic, it has been done every once in a while in the past four decades, as you can see from the bibliogrpahy below this post. Many archaeologists focused their efforts on understanding signalling networks as described above (e.g. Shemming and Briggs, Swanson, Ruestes Bitrià). Another common phenomenon is the study of visual control, a popular topic in the study of Iron Age Spain (e.g. Grau Mira). There we see large fortified settlements on hilltops often called oppida, surrounded by smaller rural settlements. The oppida are often inter-visible with the rural settlements, whilst the rural settlements are less commonly inter-visible with one another. Archaeologists have suggested that this allowed for the oppida to visually control the smaller settlements, that it tells us something about social interactions between these communities, and possibly even about settlement hierarchies.

In following blog posts I will be giving you some more information about my efforts to explore such hypotheses of visual communication and control in Iron Age and Roman Southern Spain. Stay tuned!

Any thoughts or comments? Don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Archaeological studies of visibility networks:

Grau Mira, I. (2005). Romanization in Eastern Spain: a GIS approach to Late Iberian Iron Age landscape. In J.-F. Berger, F. Bertoncello, F. Braemer, D. Gourguen, & M. Gazenbeek (Eds.), Temps et espaces de l’homme en société, analyses et modèles spatiaux en archéologie. XXVième rencontres internatioales d’archéologie et d’histoire d’Antibes (pp. 325–334). Antibes: Éditions APDCA.

Grau Mira, I. (2004). La construcción del paisaje ibérico: aproximación SIG al territorio protohistórico de la Marina Alta. SAGVNTVN (P.L.A.V.), 36, 61–75.

Grau Mira, I. (2003). Settlement Dynamics and Social Organization in Eastern Iberia during the Iron Age (Eighth-Second Centuries BC). Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 22(3), 261–279. doi:10.1111/1468-0092.00187

Ruestes Bitrià, C. (2008). A Multi-technique GIS Visibility Analysis for Studying Visual Control of an Iron Age Landscape. Internet Archaeology, 23,

Shemming, J., & Briggs, K. (2013). Anglo-saxon communication networks. [accessed 4-10-2013]

Swanson, S. (2003). Documenting prehistoric communication networks: A case study in the Paquimé polity. American antiquity, 68(4), 753–767.

Two months of insanity

Lindroth_The_Absent-minded_ProfessorIt’s finally there: the last two months of my PhD. Ever since I started almost four years ago everyone I talked to with a Dr. in front of their name told me the same thing, that the last few months are the hardest. It sounded as if when you finally decided to finish the damn thing off it starts putting up a fight. This usually finishes in the valiant PhD student winning the battle but loosing part of their sanity and most of their short-term memory in the process. My short-term memory is long gone (this is the main reasons why I claim to show promise for a career as an absentminded academic), but I have held on to my sanity. So far.

As I am working my way through my PhD in the coming two months I will document my struggle and loss of sanity on this blog, hoping it will end in victory. You can expect blog posts about all of the case studies I worked on in the last few years. In particular citation networks and visibility networks. But I will also share some of the conclusions I drew from working with network methods as an archaeologists, the challenges archaeologists are faced with, how we could confront these challenges, and my efforts to make a small contribution towards this. So stay tuned, and above all, please don’t hesitate to comment and provide me with your feedback on my work. I can use it now more than ever! 🙂

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