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Postdoc researcher: Neandertal Legacy

Vacancy number
Function type
Academic staff
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
23 June 2020
Closing date
14 July 2020

One day left to apply

The Department of World Archaeology of the Faculty of Archaeology is looking for a

Postdoc researcher: Neandertal Legacy
Contacts and interactions circa 45,000 years ago in Italy

Project description
Hypotheses of cultural interaction between late Neandertals and early Homo Sapiens in Europe have been raised on the basis of assemblages from a handful of sites, all located in France. The few available lines of evidence suggest both unbalanced, and asymmetrical interactions. Neandertals seem to have benefited from the cultural adaptations of early modern humans but apparently not from their biological make-up. On the other hand, and to the contrary, early modern humans seem to have picked up some gene variants from Neandertals but do not seem to have profited significantly from Neandertal knowledge or skills, with the possible exception of one artefact type (lissoir). Several options can explain this unbalanced and asymmetrical exchange of genes and culture. Given the framework used in our paleolithic archaeology until recently, it is possible that research has been biased toward identifying acculturation of Neandertals, and less of early modern humans. The small amount of evidence for interaction, as well as the unbalanced and asymmetrical character of disputed interactions may simply be a consequence of research history rather than reflecting a prehistoric reality.

The post-doc will concentrate on 1. analysis of lithic artefacts found in layers generally attributed to late Neandertals (Mousterian assemblages) with a special focus on reconstructing the manufacturing procedures and  and techniques, and 2. comparison with assemblages attributed to early modern humans (Uluzzian, Protoaurignacian, Early Aurignacian). The comparison will be done in collaboration with Prof. A-M. Ronchitelli from Siena University and her team who are currently conducting hands-on analysis of early Upper Paleolithic sites. The post-doc will write at least two scientific papers, submit them to international peer-reviewed journals and lead the publication process until publication arise. This post-doc position is embedded in the VICI project Neandertal Legacy led by Marie Soressi.

Key responsibilities

  • Conducting research on the lithic technology and the knapping procedures used doing the late Middle Paleolithic in Italy;
  • Comparing Late Middle Paleolithic technologies and procedures in Italy with the ones documented in the Late Middle Paleolithic, the transitional industries and the older phases of the Aurignacian in Italy and in France;
  • Writing 2 peer-reviewed articles for publication in peer-reviewed journals;
  • Collaborating with other project members by 1. actively and openly sharing data and interpretations, 2. providing feed-back for other team members, 3. and using feed-back from other team members.
  • Act as a connecting point between Italian colleagues and the project in coordination with the PI of the project, Marie Soressi;
  • Contribute live chatting, live streaming of research activities in Italian for the public in Italy but also possibly in French and in English;
  • Engage with the public in Italy by giving public conference(s) conveying some aspects of the research.
  • Help with the organization of the experience exhibition organized by the project in Italy by contacting Italian museums in collaboration with the PI and by helping with translation of text from English or French to Italian.

Selection criteria

  • The candidate must have previous hands-on experience with the analysis of blade and bladelet production in the west-European late Middle Paleolithic assemblages.;
  • PhD degree in archaeology preferably in late Middle Paleolithic lithic technology of western Europe;
  • One or more relevant publications (journal articles, book chapters);
  • Excellent knowledge of how to reconstruct lithic chaine operatoire;
  • Fluent in Italian with a high level of English. A good level of French would be a plus;
  • Proven ability to work both independently and as part of a team;
  • Proven ability to work in an international and highly competitive environment.
  • Pre-existing contact with Italian colleagues from Sienna university would be a plus.

Our organisation
The Faculty of Archaeology is an international faculty in the multidisciplinary world of Archaeology and is home to 500 students. The Faculty is remarkable for its global diversity and the strong connection it fosters between teaching and research. It is here that researchers from all areas of the field work to determine the future of archaeological research: the future of the past begins in Leiden.

Terms and conditions
The successful applicant will receive a 3 years’ contract at 0.8 FTE. The salary depending on qualifications and experience, the gross monthly salary is between € 3.123,- and € 4.274,- (scale 10 in accordance with the collective salary agreement of the Association of Dutch Universities) and for a full working week. Leiden University also offers and annual holiday premium of 8% and an end-of-year premium of 8.3%.

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

A more extensive project description is available upon request from Professor Marie Soressi, email m.a.soressi@arch.leidenuniv.nl.

Applications should be submitted no later than 14 July 2020 via an email to Josephine Say, j.a.say@arch.leidenuniv.nl. Please quote the vacancy number in your application. All requested documents should be sent in PDF format. Applications should be submitted in English and include a:

  • Cover letter;
  • Statement of purpose, which states the ways in which your experience and knowledge would aid the project team in achieving their overall goals;
  • Explains what you will contribute to this project overall and how you would develop the outline of your position above;
  • Curriculum vitae with a list of publications;
  • Copy of PhD thesis or publication.

Interviews on Skype are envisaged for July 2020. The intended start date is 1 September 2020.

This schedule is subject to adjustment given the ongoing COVID 19 crisis.


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