phd studentship


Univ. of Cambridge




United Kingdom:GB




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We invite applications for a 3-year funded PhD studentship starting in October 2019 under the supervision of Dr Enrico Crema, as part of the ERC-funded project "ENCOUNTER: Demography, Cultural change, and the Diffusion of Rice and Millet during the Jomon-Yayoi transition in prehistoric Japan"

The ENCOUNTER project seeks to investigate the transition from the Jomon to the Yayoi period, a major demic and cultural diffusion event that led the predominantly hunting, gathering, and fishing-based communities of the Japanese islands to adopt rice and millet farming during the 1st millennium BC. The reception to the new subsistence strategy and the associated cultural package was highly diverse and ultimately resulted into cultural, linguistic, and genetic clines that are still tangible today. The aim of the ENCOUNTER project is to determine why indigenous inhabitants responded so differently to the arrival of the new cultural package. It will examine the dynamics of this transition by synthesising one of the richest archaeological records available in the world and by employing a wide range of techniques, including but not limited to, organic residue analysis, summed probability distribution of radiocarbon dates, macro-evolutionary analysis of material culture, archaeobotanical analysis, computational and statistical modelling, and pollen-based reconstructions of vegetation cover.

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student to join the project. The selected student will be jointly supervised by the PI of the project (Dr Enrico Crema, University of Cambridge) and by Professor Akihiro Yoshida (University of Kagoshima, Japan), and will analyse pollen records to reconstruct vegetation and land-cover change in the Japanese archipelago during the Jomon and Yayoi periods and explore its relation to subsistence and demographic changes. The successful student will possess intellectual independence, have ability to work as part of a team and, and willing to spend part of their doctoral training at the University of Kagoshima under the supervision of Professor Yoshida.

Candidates must meet the requirement for a PhD application in archaeology (see details here: ), and have (or expect to obtain) a Master's degree in archaeology, geography, environmental sciences, or related fields, with specialisation in one or more of the following: computational modelling & GIS, pollen-based land-cover modelling, and archaebotany. Applicants with experience in pollen-based land-cover reconstruction are particularly encouraged to apply. Ideally, candidates will have knowledge of Japanese archaeology, however, we welcome students with interests in other areas that share the methodological scope of the project. In order to conduct the research, applicants will need relevant linguistic skills in Japanese or demonstrate a willingness to acquire such skills during the course of the PhD.

The studentship will provide a stipend covering maintenance and fee costs at the current Home rate. Non-EU students and those from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may be eligible for a stipend covering fees-only and are advised to apply for Cambridge scholarships in the application process.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for 3 years in the first instance.

Applications should be submitted for the PhD in Archaeology via the Applicant Portal ( In addition to the standard application materials, you must state that you are applying for the "ENCOUNTER-ERC Studentship" in your 'Statement of Research Interest' and upload a cover letter (no more than two pages) outlining your suitability for this project and what you will bring to the team. Dr Enrico Crema should be identified as your preferred supervisor. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted via email to arrange interviews in person or on the phone in early March.

Informal enquiries may be addressed to Dr Enrico Crema (Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!)

Please quote reference JC17400 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.


McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge



3 December 2018
Closing date

22 February 2019

Further Information ENCOUNTER PhD Studentship

1.    Project Title:
Demography, Cultural change, and the Diffusion of Rice and Millet during the Jomon-Yayoi transition in prehistoric Japan (ENCOUNTER)
 Further Particulars:
This PhD Studentship will be for 3 years, to participate in the ENCOUNTER ERC-funded project:
The ENCOUNTER project (4/2019~3/2024) aims to apply the latest computational and statistical techniques to create the first synthesis on the spread of rice and millet agriculture to Japan, a country with one of the world’s richest and best documented prehistoric archaeological records. In doing so, it will combine new and old lines of evidence from different disciplines, including organic chemistry, palynology and material culture studies to examine the role of climate, subsistence, demography and cultural factors in facilitating or hindering crop dispersal through time and space. The project will consider archaeological evidence on the Japanese islands before (ca. 16000 – 3000 BP), during (ca. 3000 – 2000 BP) and after (ca. 2000 – 1700 BP) the adoption of farming. It will seek to radically revise existing narratives regarding the spread of these globally important crops and provide a new interdisciplinary framework for examining the tempo and the mode of agricultural dispersals and the motivations for their adoption.  It will question the existing narrative that farming is an inevitable and immediate consequence of its availability, and instead, put new emphasis on the incumbent hunter-gatherer populations to understand their motivations and willingness to change subsistence strategies with respect to their environmental settings and cultural affinities.

The Department of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
The Department of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute ( supports archaeological research at Cambridge through the provision of facilities and funding. Archaeologists based in Cambridge work on all major periods of antiquity from deep prehistory to recent centuries, in most regions of the world, and across the full spectrum of humanities and scientific approaches. The largest community of academic staff (‘University Teaching Officers’, UTO) is in the Division of Archaeology (, but there are also UTO archaeologists in the Faculty of Classics (, the Institute of Continuing Education (, the McDonald Institute and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology ( The McDonald Institute currently hosts about 30 post-doctoral researchers, some of them holding independent fellowships (current post-holders are funded by the British Academy, the EU, the McDonald Institute, the Leverhulme Trust, and the Royal Society) and others are working on research projects directed by Cambridge academic staff for which funding has been received from research councils and charities (Arts and Humanities Research Council, the European Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wellcome Trust etc.).

The Department of Archaeology and the McDonald Institute are both on Cambridge University’s Downing Site in the town centre.

2.    Lead Supervisor:
Dr. Enrico Crema (Department of Archaeology, U.of Cambridge)

3.    PhD Advisory Team
Prof. Akihiro Yoshida (Faculty of Law, Economics, and Humanities; U. of Kagoshima)
Prof. David Coomes (Department of Plant Sciences; U. of Cambridge)
Prof. Ralph, Fyfe (School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences; U. of Plymouth)

4.    Faculty allied to Studentship
Department of Archaeology

5.    Importance of the area of research:
The Jomon culture of Japan refers to a tradition of complex hunter-gatherers that occupied the Japanese archipelago between ca. 16000 and 3000 years ago. These early prehistoric foragers had a sophisticated material culture, a highly diverse subsistence economy sustaining large communities and high population densities, as well as complex social structures resembling Neolithic groups in Europe, West Asia, and China.
Jomon communities were, however, highly diverse, with different regions often showing striking differences in cultural, economic, and social traits. One of the most remarkable examples of this variation is manifest in the striking differences in the population sizes and trajectories of Eastern and Western Japan. Eastern Japan was characterised by a larger population density and experienced a significant decline around 4500 years ago, Western Japan was instead characterised by a lower population density, but saw an increase around the same time. At ca 3000 BP, migrant groups from the Korean peninsula brought a new subsistence economy based on the cultivation of rice and millets, as well as an entirely new package of cultural traits. This diffusion process led to the demise of the Jomon culture, but rather than a regularly paced wave of advance, the spread of rice and millet farming led to different initial responses, with a significant delay in the uptake in Eastern Japan. As a result of this, the subsequent Yayoi period (ca 3000 -1700 BP) saw a high regional variation in demography again; this time with a higher population density in Western Japan rather than Eastern Japan.
This difference in the cultural, economic, and population trajectories between Eastern and Western Japan has long been tied to ecologic and climatic differences, in particular to the contrast between broadleaf deciduous forests in the East and broadleaf evergreen forests in the West. Yet, detailed reconstructions of the vegetation cover and land-use of the Japanese archipelago during the Jomon and Yayoi period are patchy and do not allow for a systematic assessment of their supposed relationship to differences in demography, subsistence, and culture. 

6.    PhD Project summary:
This PhD project will help reconstruct the human and ecological landscapes of prehistoric Japan during the Jomon and Yayoi period. It will do so by analysing pollen records to track long-terms expansions/contractions of evergreen and broadleaf forests and assess the anthropogenic impact of rice and millet cultivation.

7.    What the student will actually do?
The student will:
•    Collate and digitise existing pollen records within the temporal scope of the ENCOUNTER project (i.e. 16000-1700 BP). 
•    Employ biomisation and/or similar computational techniques to reconstruct the land-cover change in the Japanese archipelago at a sub-millennial resolution.
•    Assess the impact of rice/millet farming in the pollen record.
•    Work with other members of the ENCOUNTER project to determine the extent by which divergences in demographic trajectories and subsistence practices correlate to differences in land-cover.

8.    Training to be provided:
The student will be member of the Computational and Digital Archaeology Laboratory, which will provide training in the application of computational and statistical methods. Data-collection and additional training in biomisation techniques will be provided in Japan, under the supervision of Prof Akihiro Yoshida (U. of Kagoshima).

9.    Education and experience required:
The project is well suited for a student with excellent analytical and computational skills, with a strong background in either computational archaeology (GIS, modelling), archaeobotany, or quaternary sciences. Experience in pollen-based land-cover reconstructions is particularly desirable. Knowledge of Japanese archaeology/Japanese language are not essential but desired. The student will need to demonstrate a willingness to acquire linguistic in the Japanese language.   

10.    Relevant Publications:

Crema, E. R., Habu, J., Kobayashi, K., & Madella, M. (2016). Summed Probability Distribution of 14 C Dates Suggests Regional Divergences in the Population Dynamics of the Jomon Period in Eastern Japan. PLOS ONE, 11(4), e0154809. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154809

Crema, E. R., Bevan, A., & Shennan, S. (2017). Spatio-temporal approaches to archaeological radiocarbon dates. Journal of Archaeological Science, 87, 1–9.

Fyfe, R. M., Woodbridge, J., & Roberts, N. (2015). From forest to farmland: pollen-inferred land cover change across Europe using the pseudobiomization approach. Global Change Biology, 21(3),

Woodbridge, J., Fyfe, R. M., Roberts, N., Downey, S., Edinborough, K., & Shennan, S. (2014). The impact of the Neolithic agricultural transition in Britain: a comparison of pollen-based land-cover and archaeological 14C date-inferred population change. Journal of Archaeological Science, 51, 216–224.
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