PhD candidates

PhD candidates

Published Deadline Location
13 Apr 10 May Leiden

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PhD candidates in the NWO-funded project The Talking Dead. Reconstructing the transmission of information in Corded Ware and Bell Beaker Societies during the 3rd Millennium BC. (NWO-VIDI) – Leiden

Job description

We are looking for two PhD candidates to join our international research team. The two positions are part of the 5-year research program, funded by NWO, entitled “The Talking Dead. Reconstructing the transmission of information in Corded Ware and Bell Beaker Societies during the 3rd Millennium BC.” (NWO-VIDI), led by Dr. Quentin Bourgeois (principal investigator).

5000 years ago a distinct burial tradition appeared across the entire European continent, remaining in vogue for a thousand years. This persistent idea on the right way of burial emerges during arguably one of the most transformative periods in European prehistory. Recent a DNA-analyses have demonstrated the presence of major demographic shifts, dramatically transforming the European gene pool. Current explanatory models – such as large-scale migrations or specific marriage patterns – are only valid for specific times and places and do not tackle the heart of the matter. Essentially we see the persistent sharing of information on distinct burial practices by communities across Europe. Investigating how information on such practices was exchanged will allow us to research a fundamental question: how long-term persistent cultural traits emerge out of short-term collective behaviour.

Both positions will research the transmission of information on burial practices across a 1500 year time-frame in Europe. Using network analysis we will investigate how and what type of information was transmitted through space and time, and as such reconstruct networks of information from 5000 years ago. The PhD candidates will focus on different research areas: 

  • PhD project 1 will focus on the western part of the Corded Ware distribution and the northern Bell Beaker groups. In this region two distinct situations will be studied. Firstly, on the continent Trichterbecher-societies and other regional groups transition to Corded Ware groups, and later to (or even co-exist with) Bell Beaker groups. Secondly, on the British Isles, there was no preceding Corded Ware, but instead Bell Beaker groups appeared from 2500 BC onwards. The histories in both regions are very different, but how this articulates in changes in burial practices in both regions is unknown. Geographically this research area will cover roughly the modern-day countries of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.
  • PhD project 2 will investigate the transition in an area roughly corresponding to the eastern half of the Corded Ware distribution. The situation is different compared to the western part as Corded Ware societies persisted for a longer time and Bell Beaker groups are generally absent in this area. The second project will also explore potential contacts with Yamnaya-groups on the steppe. Geographically this research area will roughly cover the modern-day countries of Poland, Belarus, Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Key responsibilities

  • Studying long-term changes in burial practices from ca. 3500 until 2000 BCE;
  • Assisting in compiling a database of burial practices, together with the PI, data analyst, and several student assistants;
  • Assisting in developing new network analytical tools, in particular dynamic network models;
  • Working closely with the other team members who are involved in other research areas, in order to explore long term changes in the transmission of information across the European continent;
  • Cooperating with the Heritage Quest/Erfgoed Gezocht project, participating in occasional workshops with volunteers and students;
  • Communicating findings to a wider public by means of social media;
  • Completing a PhD thesis within four years (1.0 FTE).


Leiden University


  • A completed (or will be completed prior to the start date) Research Master, MSc or MA degree in Archaeology, preferably in European prehistory with excellent grades;
  • Knowledge of and a strong interest in funerary traditions in the 3rd Millennium BC;
  • Preferably a knowledge of network analysis, or a willingness to learn;
  • Possess solid training in research methods (both quantitative and qualitative skills are a plus) and willingness and interest to develop these skills further during the PhD;
  • Excellent command of the English language;
  • Knowledge of relevant languages (depending on the research area), or a willingness to learn;
  • Well-developed research skills;
  • Excellent social skills in order to be able to work in a closely-knit team.

Conditions of employment

We offer a PhD position for 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), leading to the successful completion of a PhD thesis. Initially you will receive a one-year contract, with extension for the following 3 years on condition of a positive evaluation.  Salary range from € 2,395.- in the first year to € 3,061.- gross per month in the last year (pay scale P, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Our Individual Choices Model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break.

All our PhD students are embedded in the Leiden University Graduate School of Archaeology.

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Leiden University

The future of the past begins in Leiden. The Faculty of Archaeology is internationally leading in its research, and is home to a broad array of specializations and notable for the strong connection it fosters between teaching and research. Home to over 500 students in the multidisciplinary world of Archaeology, the faculty and its researchers from all areas of the archaeological field determine the future of archaeological research.


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences; Language and culture
  • University graduate
  • 21-172



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